As the interest in natural solutions to health challenges continues to expand, apple cider vinegar has experienced a renaissance. And claims about its health and beauty benefits are blowing up all over the internet.
If you’ve been around the natural health scene for a while, you know apple cider vinegar has a long history as a cure-all for digestive disorders, aches and pains, skin issues, candida, and pretty much anything that ails you.
It became particularly popular in the 20th century, thanks to a rather famous health crusader by the name of Paul C. Bragg—founder of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and other natural health products.
And while the term “cure-all” may be a bit extreme, apple cider vinegar has been studied and proven to live up to its reputation as a medicinal in a variety of ways.
In today’s article, we’ll look at the science behind apple cider vinegar’s health benefits on metabolism, blood sugar, heart disease, skin health and digestion plus some of its time-tested uses.
What Exactly is Apple Cider Vinegar Anyway?
Apple cider vinegar is a naturally fermented product that comes from raw apples.
There are basically two types of apple cider vinegar available: raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and pasteurized, filtered apple cider vinegar.
It is believed the raw, unfiltered vinegar is the most beneficial for health, as the natural fermentation process used to make it creates a wealth of gut-friendly bacteria and other nutrients.
Here’s how basic apple cider vinegar is made:
- Raw apples are either juiced or finely chopped, and placed in a clean, preferably glass, container. If chopped apples are used, water is added.
- A sweetener, like honey or sugar, is added as food for the natural cultures that will develop Or in some recipes, a culture and/or yeasts are added.
- The juice/mixture is left to ferment at room temperature for a few days to a few weeks. This allows time for the mixture to ferment and develop alcohol and carbonation (think hard cider).
- Once the mixture has turned to hard cider, it goes through a second 3-4 week fermentation in which acetic acid cultures will form and transform the mixture from hard cider to vinegar.
- Once it has turned to vinegar, it develops a gelatinous mound known as “the mother culture” (prized by apple cider vinegar enthusiasts for its healing powers), which is similar to a kombucha scoby.
You’ve probably heard if you leave wine long enough you’ll get vinegar, this is the same process that happens with apple juice and apple cider vinegar.
Now that you know how it’s made and where it comes from, let’s look at the areas in which apple cider vinegar lives up to its medicinal reputation.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shown to Positively Impact Metabolism and Blood Sugar Levels
Metabolic diseases like Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other blood sugar issues have reached epidemic levels.
And while these conditions can get complicated, apple cider vinegar has been shown to provide numerous health benefits to those with blood sugar issues, including:
- Creating greater insulin sensitivity in the presence of high-carb foods1
- Reducing fasting insulin rates in adults with well-controlled Type 2 diabetes2
- Anti-glycemic properties when ingested with meals rich in complex carbohydrates3
Even if you don’t suffer from a metabolic health issue, research has shown that nearly everyone can benefit from better blood sugar control.
Therefore, if you’re sitting down to a carb-heavy meal, it appears apple cider vinegar is a beneficial blood-sugar-balancing mealtime tonic.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shows Promise for Promoting Heart Health
While the human studies on the effects of apple cider vinegar and heart health are few, the animal studies conducted show great promise.
For example, an Iranian study showed supplementation with apple cider vinegar was shown to increase HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol) while reducing LDL levels (the “bad” cholesterol) in rats4.
Finally, it is well established that those with metabolic and blood sugar handling issues are at greater risk of succumbing to heart disease. Therefore, I suspect we will see more research on the apple-cider-vinegar-heart-health connection in the coming years.
Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help you Lose Weight
This may sound out-there, but research has shown apple cider vinegar, when taken daily, can help you lose weight.
For example, a 2009 double-blink placebo-controlled study showed subjects lost 2-4 pounds in 12 weeks while taking apple cider vinegar daily6.
There is also evidence that apple cider vinegar slows the rate in which food passes through your stomach, which can positively affect blood sugar and thus may help with weight loss 7.
Apple Cider Vinegar Has Antibacterial Components
Many types of vinegar, including apple cider, have been shown to have antibacterial properties, especially against food-borne bacteria like E. Coli8.
Which may explain why so many people swear by its multipurpose use as a household cleaner, tummy tonic and immune booster.
What else is it good for? 7 More Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar
In addition to the scientifically proven benefits, apple cider vinegar has been used as a home and beauty remedy for the following:
- As a facial toner and acne spot treatment—its natural anti-bacterial properties and acidic pH have earned apple cider vinegar a loyal following as a facial toner and acne spot treatment.
- For a toner, use 1 part ACV to 2 parts water, increase dilution as-needed for your skin type
- As a hair rinse—to improve hair’s shine and texture. Add 1-3 tablespoons ACV to a cup of water and use as a final rinse after shampooing.
- To calm skin irritations and rashes—such as poison ivy or eczema.
- Combine 1 part apple cider vinegar and 2-3 parts water to spray or wipe on the affected area, or add 1-2 cups to your bath as a soak
- As a digestive aid—millions swear by a mixture of raw apple cider vinegar and water to help bloating, heart burn, and to overall help ease digestion.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons in 1 cup of water, sweeten with raw honey (if desired) and enjoy hot or cold.
- While the science on exactly why this works is yet to be determined, I believe it’s due to the natural probiotics in raw apple cider vinegar coupled with it’s acidic action on the stomach which promotes digestion.
- For seasonal allergies—I’ve had several patients swear by their daily cups of apple cider vinegar tea for fighting seasonal allergies.
- Mix 1-2 tablespoons in 1 cup hot water, sweeten with raw honey and enjoy.
- To calm a cold—follow the directions above for seasonal allergies.
- To soothe a sunburn—add 1-2 cups apple cider vinegar to your bath, or dilute equal parts water and ACV and spray on affected area.
- To remove warts and fungus like athlete’s foot—it’s been long believed apple cider vinegar has anti-fungal properties. And while this is yet to be proven, this simple home remedy has stood the test of time.
- Soak a cotton ball in ACV and apply to the wart or affected area.
- For best results, secure with a bandage, cover with a sock and leave on overnight for several nights.
While all these uses are worth a try, my favorite way to get my apple cider vinegar is to use it on my salads and in my cooking.
Simply substitute apple cider vinegar for red wine or white vinegar in your favorite recipes and enjoy often.
Tips for Buying the Best Apple Cider Vinegar
As with all foods and natural remedies, choose the highest quality apple cider vinegar you can find.
That said, good quality doesn’t have to cost a fortune, look for: organic, raw apple cider vinegar with the mother in glass bottles.
A decent bottle shouldn’t cost more than $3.00-$5.00, and these days you find awesome brands at you local supermarket, natural foods store, or price club.
The good things in life are often the simplest and most affordable—enjoy your apple cider vinegar in good health!