The name “vinegar” comes from the French vin-aigre, meaning “sour wine.”
Basically, vinegar is produced when a certain type of bacteria, acetobacter, reacts with oxygen in a fermented liquid like wine or beer. This process creates acetic acid, of which vinegar is made. Apple cider vinegar comes from fermented apple cider. It’s a two-step process wherein yeast digests the sugars found in apples and converts them to alcohol and the acetobacter converts the alcohol into acetic acid. (1) The final product no longer has alcohol but does have the distinct sour taste of vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar has a long and colorful history of use. It may have been “discovered” as early as 5000 BC, although there’s no real way to verify this. At first, it seems to have been used mainly as a culinary ingredient, but its medicinal value began to be recognized somewhere around 3000-2000 BC.
It really came into its own around 400 BC when Hippocrates (often called the father of modern medicine) started prescribing vinegar for illnesses and as a preventative measure. He’s also credited with using it to clean and treat wounds.
Another famous proponent of apple cider vinegar was the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra (c. 50 BC) who drank it for good digestion and skin health. Soldiers of several different civilizations, including Greek and Roman soldiers as well Japanese samurais, drank apple cider vinegar as a tonic for strength, durability, and good digestion. They also carried it to
clean wounds on the battlefield.(1)
To this day, apple cider vinegar firmly remains a staple of what could be called folk medicine and is used as a natural tonic for many everyday ailments.
All apple cider vinegar is not the same, and there are a few things to look for when buying it to make sure you’ll actually be getting all its benefits.
Buying organic is always a good choice when possible but especially so if apples are involved. They are consistently on the “Dirty Dozen” list that keeps track of produce with the highest amount of pesticide residue and are frequently treated with a chemical called diphenylamine after harvest.(2)
Apple cider vinegar can be processed to remove the “mother,” a sediment made of enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and protein that forms as a result of the fermentation process. Raw and unfiltered vinegar keeps the mother along with its beneficial properties and is thought to have more powerful health benefits.
Helps Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
The ability of apple cider vinegar to help lower and regulate blood sugar levels is one of its most studied benefits. Lowering high blood sugar levels is especially important for those with diabetes but is also good for overall health in general.
A study published by the American Diabetes Association evaluated whether taking apple cider vinegar before a high carb meal would benefit the blood glucose levels of participants with insulin sensitivity, insulin resistance, or type 2 diabetes. It was found that the apple cider vinegar significantly reduced blood glucose levels compared to the
placebo.(3) Several other human and animal studies have confirmed these results.(4)
Of course, apple cider vinegar isn’t meant to replace any medication, but the best way to use it for blood sugar is to dilute 1-2 tablespoons in water and drink before a meal.
Helps Weight Loss
One of the more surprising confirmed benefits of apple cider vinegar is for weight loss. It won’t help the number on the scale go down all on its own but can be a much-needed aid on your weight loss journey.
Vinegar has been shown to promote a sense of fullness, which in turn will cause you to eat less and cut down on your overall calorie intake.(5)
Interestingly, at least one study has shown that consuming 15-30 mL (about 1-2 tablespoons) of vinegar a day can lead to a modest weight loss with no other lifestyle or diet changes. Not bad at all for a “folk remedy”! (6)
Take 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar a day (diluted in water) accompanied by healthy diet and lifestyle changes
Help Lower Cholesterol
High levels of bad LDL cholesterol put you at higher risk of heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Animal studies indicate that apple cider vinegar could help bring cholesterol to a healthy level.
Research has shown a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels after supplementation with vinegar.(7, 8)
Incorporate 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into your daily diet.
Promotes Skin Health
Apple cider vinegar has become a popular DIY skincare ingredient and with good reason. It is naturally antibacterial, partly from the acetic acid it contains, and can inhibit bacteria that cause acne and other skin issues.(9, 10)
Vinegar is also naturally acidic, which can help to balance the pH of your skin. Skin has a natural pH that averages around 4.7. This pH level is important for the beneficial microflora on your skin and for maintaining a healthy skin barrier and moisture level.
Soaps, cosmetics, and even alkaline water can cause the pH to rise with negative effects. Using apple cider vinegar as a toner helps bring skin pH back down.(11)
Vinegar can irritate your skin if applied straight, so dilute it in water to make a toner at a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 2-4 parts water
Boosts Gut Health & Digestion
Though not technically considered a probiotic, raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar is a prebiotic, something that feeds the good bacteria in your gut and intestines.(12)
It also contains enzymes and good bacteria that support gut health and may help your body digest better. The traditional way to use apple cider vinegar for digestion is taking it before a meal, but you can also incorporate it into salads and other foods for a digestive boost.
Take 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of vinegar before a meal (diluted) or use it to make salad dressing.
Adding apple cider vinegar to foot bath can help to fight fungus that causes toenail discoloration, athlete’s foot, and more. It has natural antifungal properties and has specifically shown action against Candida albicans (responsible for yeast infections).(9)
An added benefit is that the vinegar will also help freshen your feet and get rid of any unpleasant odor they may have!
Add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a warm footbath. You can also add other ingredients like Epsom salts and essential oils like lavender, tea tree, or peppermint.
Rinse for Shiny Hair
An apple cider vinegar hair rinse can make your hair shinier and bring some life to dull hair. If you’re a little wary of walking around smelling like vinegar, don’t worry. The scent usually dissipates quickly after your hair is dry. For best results, use the vinegar rinse consistently 1-2 times per week.
Dilute 2 tablespoons of vinegar with 1-2 cups of water, depending on how strong you want the rinse to be. Shampoo your hair as normal before pouring the vinegar rinse over your head. Work it into your scalp and the ends of your hair. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing, preferably with cool water.
Many people opt to get the benefits of apple cider vinegar for skin by using it as a toner or wash on their face. You can give all of your skin a boost by adding it to a bath to balance your skin’s pH and gently cleanse it. The antimicrobial properties of vinegar will be at work as you soak to support the natural protective barrier and health of your skin.
Add 1-2 cups of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a normal sized bathtub. Fill with warm or cool water, depending on your preference. You can also add ingredients like bentonite clay, Dead Sea salt, or Epsom salt to help your body and skin detox while you bathe.
Sore Throat Gargle
Gargling with apple cider vinegar is an old trick to soothe a sore throat. The acidity and antibacterial properties of it are likely responsible for this effect, although the acid level of undiluted vinegar can burn your throat instead of helping.
Dilute a teaspoon or two of vinegar in warm water and use it as a throat gargle. You can also try making a mixture of vinegar and warm water and drink it as needed.
Apple cider vinegar is a great choice for an all-natural household cleaner with its antibacterial properties which can cut through sticky messes. Dilute it to make a simple all-purpose cleaner, add it to dish water for enhanced cleaning, make a room spray for odors and bacteria in the air, or use it to clean dentures.
For a simple household cleaner, mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar with 2 cups of water.
Fruit and Veggie Wash
Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables is a real problem. If you can’t buy all organic food, washing your produce before eating it can cut down on the chemicals present on the surface.
Using apple cider vinegar can help with getting rid of pesticide residue and may also help neutralize harmful bacteria, like Salmonella, that can be present on fresh produce.(13)
Add a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to water used for washing fruits and veggies. Keep in mind this won’t help with pesticides beneath the skin of your produce.
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2. Environmental Working Group. (2019, March 20). Apples
Doused With Chemical After Harvest. EWG. https://www.ewg.
3. Johnston, C.S., Kim, C.M., & Buller, A.J. (2004). Vinegar Improves
Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects
With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care.
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NOTE: This post was originally published on our blog in 2022