Vinegar has so many uses and medicinal properties, it’s arguably one of the most underrated natural substances. There are countless resources about all the amazing benefits that Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has for multiple physical ailments, cleaning and DIY purposes. ACV is a cheap and effective multi-purpose cleaner, you can add it to your water, tea and salad dressings for a refreshing zing. Read below to capitalize on its multiple health benefits.
Why All The Fuss Over Apple Cider Vinegar?
The word vinegar translates to vin aigre, which is french for “sour wine.” The medicinal uses of vinegar date way back to when it was discovered in 5000 BC by a courtier in Babylonia. Doctors during the 18th century used it as a multi purpose treatment for ailments like edema, stomach ache and even for managing diabetes (1). Columbus had barrels of apple cider vinegar on his ships to prevent scurvy. Apple cider vinegar was used during the civil war to disinfect wounds and Japanese Samurais drank it for strength and power. Hippocrates used vinegar to treat seventeen different conditions (2) ranging from ulcers to fractures. Apple Cider Vinegar is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Its various enzymes help with digestion and 1 tbs equals just 3 calories.
ACV combined with 2 parts water makes an effective natural disinfectant solution for all surfaces (3). It’s amazingly affordable compared to commercial natural cleaning products and the smell is really pleasant. You can add a few drops of thieves’ oil and have a great antibacterial spray for countertops, bathroom, kitchen and carpet deodorizer.
2. Hair rinse
There’s a new hair craze on the rise and it relies on the simple method of using baking soda as a shampoo and ACV as a conditioning hair rinse. Instead of spending loads on junk free shampoos and conditioners, “no poo“ (short for shampoo, not the other stuff), this haircare method works really well and makes your hair super soft. Thanks to the pH balancing effects that ACV has, anecdotal reports claim it can add shine, softness and break down buildup from other hair products.
3. Dandruff and Thinning Hair
The high acidity and powerful enzymes in ACV kill the bacteria responsible for dandruff, hair loss and bottle bacilli. ACV stimulates your hair’s natural oils, helping them secrete more effectively for a healthy and moisturized scalp. Saturate the scalp with ACV and let it sit for a few hours if you can, use the same treatment for thinning hair and itchy scalp (4).
image by Ginny, via Flickr
ACV is a great remedy for repelling fleas from your dog’s skin. It’s totally safe to use so you don’t have to worry about your pet getting sick if he or she starts licking the wet fur afterwards. It works on pets the same way that it works on humans, reestablishing the proper acid mantle of the skin to repel microbes and other pests. You can also add Apple Cider Vinegar to your pet’s food to keep a healthy pH balance in their gut and to prevent allergies, deter parasites, ringworm, ticks, fungus and other microbes from invading. A 50 lb. dog should stick to about 2 tsp per day with food. If you want to use ACV externally you could mix it 50:50 with water and put it in a spray bottle, saturating your dog’s coat once daily (5).
5. Skin Toner
Most skin care products are on the alkaline side of the pH scale. Some people try everything for their skin problems, but nothing seems to work. Here’s the issue: most products are harming the acid mantle, a protective layer on our skin. ACV is great because its acidity is closer to the natural pH of our skin, which keeps the acid mantle intact to do its job, protecting against germs and foreign bacteria that can cause skin problems. If you want to try ACV as a toner, just combine one part ACV with two to three parts water, you’ll want to add more water for very sensitive skin. Apply this concoction to your face after cleansing and allow it to absorb into your skin.
In a world filled with so many toxins, we should all be taking precautionary measures by incorporating protective foods into our diets. The unique acids in ACV bind to toxins and allow us to release them more effectively. You can also utilize the medicine of ACV by adding a cup to a hot bath with some epsom salts, to kickstart your lymphatic system into releasing toxins (6).
7. Allergies and Congestion
Not only does ACV help break up mucous, it also has a natural anti-histamine effect. Whether your suffering from seasonal allergies, environmental or pet related, ACV can lessen the sneezy, wheezy, uncomfortable symptoms (7).
If you aren’t familiar with candida overgrowth, consider yourself lucky. Candida is a parasitic bacteria, causing yeast overgrowth leading to low energy, poor digestion, yeast infections, canker sores and other uncomfortable symptoms. Candida overgrowth occurs often when a person has a poor diet, high in refined sugar and carbohydrates and it can take over when your gut flora are compromised by antibiotic use or birth control. ACV is an effective tool in the kit of someone trying to rid themselves of draining candida. (You can also use lemon water as a possible solution when treating Candida. Lemon water works by helping promote better digestion and an acid/alkaline balance, allowing healthy bacteria to once again thrive in the gut (8).)
Vinegar has also been used for centuries as a cure for foot fungus and is great for killing molds. Since yeast is a fungus, it makes sense that ACV would help in keep the parasite at bay, even though to date there hasn’t been any specific analysis of ACV directly as a candida-killer.
9. Reduces Heart Burn and Acid Reflux
One of the most common health complaints people have is heart burn. It’s a symptom of the SAD (Standard American Diet) lifestyle because acid reflux only occurs when we’re depleted in hydrochloric acid (HcL). HcL production is low in people who have sub optimal gut flora, meaning the aren’t eating enough cultured/fermented foods and have likely taken some sort of antibiotic in the past which has killed off the natural beneficial bacteria. Stomach acid is the first line of defense against microbes, but when the stomach pH isn’t low enough, pathogens may grow around the esophageal sphincter and paralyze the muscle, allowing food to relax back up the esophagus (9). Taking a Tbs of raw ACV with each meal ensures that the stomach acid will be acidic enough to do it’s job in making sure to kill off harmful microbes and start the process of digestion (10).
10. Effective in Treating High Cholesterol
There has yet to be a study done on effects of ACV on humans with high cholesterol but a study in 2006 found rats fed ACV for 19 days had drastic reduction in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (11). There’s also an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid present in ACV which has been found to LDL cholesterol particles from becoming oxidized
11. Antiglycemic Effect
Plenty of human studies have been done on the effect vinegar has on insulin response and blood glucose levels after a meal (13). I think it’s important that everyone understands what insulin is and does in our bodies. Insulin plays a critical role in the way our bodies use food. The primary function is decreasing the concentration of glucose (sugar) in your blood stream. Every time you eat, your body begins to break down the food into glucose, which goes into your blood stream. Your pancreas reacts to the surge in glucose by releasing insulin which cleans the the sugar from your blood. A portion of the glucose runs through the liver, where it’s converted to glycogen to be used by your muscles. Then insulin converts any left over glucose into fatty acids stored in the form of fat cells as an energy source later. Our bodies crave sugar, and so much of what we buy in the grocery store has added sugar as a result. Many are developing a resistance to insulin which means that your body has has so much insulin secreted that it starts to ignore it and the sugar stays in the blood stream, which is not a good thing. This can develop into diabetes and permanent health damages. Vinegar also suppresses the appetite and increases a feeling of satiety. (14) ACV may also lower the glycemic response to starchy carbohydrates (15). With diabetes as prevalent as it is today it’s comforting to know that something as simple as vinegar may be an effective treatment.
Cancer is devastating and debilitating. Almost all of us have loved ones who have been affected by this heinous disease. There’s so much research in the realm of cancer prevention, a healthy diet and lifestyle are of the utmost importance. The acetic acid present in ACV has been found in a number of cell and animal studies to have anti-tumor properties (16). We are in to way claiming that apple cider vinegar is a cure for cancer or tumors, but ongoing research and testing is a step in the right direction. The amazing thing is that we can incorporate disease-preventing foods like this one easily into our daily regime, there are no harmful side effects, and no risk of overdose, so why not?
13. Improves Digestion
Apple cider vinegar in its raw form is an excellent digestive tonic. It’s rich in living enzymes that help to break food down to its bare components, making it far easier to assimilate. As I mentioned before, it’s an important source of acid that enables the first step of digestion to work effectively. Stirring up those digestive juices helps immensely with the rest of the digestive processes. The acetic acid present in ACV has also been shown to help with mineral absorption, enabling us to get the most out of the foods we eat (17).
14. Prevents Muscle Fatigue After Exercise
Muscle fatigue can often be a symptom of mineral and electrolyte depletion. To make sure the body has ample electrolyte stores, take a tbs of ACV with water before a workout. When our PH is naturally in balance, it creates an environment where elimination of excess lactic acid in the muscles easily occurs, this stasis also plays a crucial role in oxygenating our bodies during exercise
15. Bad Breath
Halitosis: it’s embarrassing and can be a sign of a deeper problem, but one remedy for bad breath is, you guessed it, ACV. A folk remedy that many people claim has merit is to gargle with 1/2 tbs raw ACV diluted in water for 30 seconds, twice per day (19). Some say it helps whiten teeth and remove stains.
16. Body Odor
ACV helps control excessive body odour by regulating the pH of the skin, something most commercial deodorants and perfumes can’t claim (20). For foot odour as well as fungal problems, even just a 10 minute soak once a week can keep bad smells in check. To use ACV as a deodorant simply wipe each armpit with a soaked cotton ball daily.
17. Preserving Food
Vinegar as a preservative dates back to 5000 B.C. People soon recognized this magical substance could allow them to store food for longer periods. The same rules apply today. Saving some of the bounty when our favorite foods are in season is a great way to eat organic local food all year long. Instead of making pickles with white vinegar, try using ACV, it gives them a great flavor as well as the added health benefits (21).
18. Weight Loss
A huge problem those of us trying to lose weight face is those ups and downs when blood sugars spike and drop too drastically. The blood sugar roller coaster causes us to crave “high energy” foods like refined carbohydrates, to give a short term boost but a long term plummet. ACV has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels, helping to curb cravings and kick extra calories out. ACV has become an overnight sensation in the weight loss industry, they even make it in pill form, though most of the experts say it’s better to just drink the real unpasteurized stuff. ACV can also help with weight loss by increasing satiety after a meal, always a good feeling. A study done on obese individuals who consumed 15mL or 30mL of vinegar per day for 12-weeks, showed a reduction in body fat mass and serum triglycerides (22).
19. Prevents Bladder stones and UTI
If you’ve ever had kidney stones, or known someone who has, they are extremely painful, and totally preventable. Stones typically form when a person’s urine is very acidic and concentrated, crystals form out of uric acid, calcium oxalate and struvite and have to be passed through the urinary tract. ACV works by alkalizing the urine, decreasing the likelihood that this ailment would ever occur, and it’s been said that it can even break down the kidney stones (23). It makes sense since ACV is such a powerful substance when it comes to helping the body absorb minerals.
20. Balanced pH
Dr. Theodore Baroody, in his book “Alkalize or Die,” claims ACV has an alkalizing effect on the blood and urine. Even though ACV is an acidic food, its structure changes to alkaline through the digestive processes. The idea of eating a diet high in alkaline foods is that disease thrives in an acidic environment (24). Foods like refined sugar, carbohydrates and meat create an acidic environment in our bodies. It’s interesting to note that the pH of a food in its pre-digested state is very different from the chemical processes it will undergo in our bodies. Thus foods like ACV and lemon water are surprisingly alkaline forming.
Said to be the mineral of youth, potassium is an essential mineral in maintaining the soft tissues of the body, keeping everything flexible and resilient (25, 26). Deficiencies in potassium can cause an array of health problems. Nobel Scientist Dr.Alexis Carrel “was able to keep the cells of an embryo chicken heart alive and healthy for 35 years by daily monitoring it’s complete nutrition, cleansing and elimination. A chicken’s average lifespan is 7 years! Apple Cider Vinegar was given to the chicken embryo daily for it’s full quota of potassium.” Pretty impressive, seeing as Dr.Carrel did this study in 1912, proving that proper nutrition and cleansing can adjust lifespan quite drastically.
22. Corns, Callouses and Warts
Dr. Scholl was a believer in keeping feet healthy by soaking them in warm water with 1/3 cup of ACV for 20 minutes and rubbing with a pumice stone. This treatment for chronic foot ailments helps to correct the pH of the feet and make it impossible for fungus and warts to imbed themselves within the skin (27). For warts, instead of rubbing with a pumice stone after a soak, simply saturate a cotton ball, apply it to the affected areas and cover overnight.
23. Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
ACV can soothe the irritation caused by these poisonous plants. Combine 50:50 ACV AND water in a spray bottle and add a few ice cubes (28). This cooling spray helps to draw the toxins out of the skin and provide relief from the sting.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away and I think the same goes for a bit of apple cider vinegar a day. There’s no reason not to incorporate this healing food into your daily regimen. For those who follow our paleo diet plan, this product is approved with the diet as well. Remember that prevention is the best treatment for any disease. Although there could certainly be more research done on the potential for using ACV as a medicine, the research that has been done is promising. We can see that it holds great potential in treating diabetes and high cholesterol, in particular. On a holistic level, this amazing whole food is good for every organ system.
image credit: Mark Mckeown, via Flickr
by Chantelle Zakariasen, from Roots and Sprouts