Apple cider vinegar is an ingredient that has been used medicinally and therapeutically for centuries. In fact, Hippocrates (you know, the father of medicine), would recommend a mixture of vinegar and honey to his patients to treat a cough. It was also traditionally used for wound healing, cleaning and sanitizing, and food preservation.
ACV is made from apple juice and is fermented to hard apple cider. It’s then fermented a second time to become apple cider vinegar. In large volumes, it is known to contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, organic acids (acetic acid and citric acid), and polyphenolic compounds (micronutrients known for their role in preventing disease).
It’s effective for pretty much anything—your skin, hair, house, and even your pets can benefit from a little raw, organic, unfiltered, and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Here are some of our favorite ways to use ACV and why:
1. It’s good for your gut.
The fermentation process that yields apple cider vinegar encourages the growth and proliferation of good-for-your-gut microbes. Consuming probiotic-rich fermented foods has been shown to improve digestion, boost the immune system, and even positively affect mental health. Most of the probiotics in apple cider vinegar are in the cloudy “mother” strands you’ll find floating in it, so be sure to purchase ACV that still has the mother intact.
Beyond being full of probiotics, ACV’s many other properties are beneficial for gut health. As functional medicine practitioner Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, explains, “ACV has also been shown to have antiviral and anti-yeast and antifungal benefits, all helpful in supporting microbiome and overall immune balance.”
2. It may help control blood sugar.
ACV may help combat that spike-then-crash blood sugar roller coaster you can feel after a carb-heavy meal. In one small study, supplementing a high glycemic meal (think a bagel and juice) with ACV reduced post-meal blood sugar levels by about half in healthy patients. In a similar study by the same authors, participants with diabetes or insulin resistance saw blood-sugar-balancing benefits from ACV as well.
So before digging into your starchy faves like pasta, potatoes, and pretzels, try sipping on a little ACV.Article continues below
3. It can aid in weight loss.
Probably one of the most well-known of ACV’s benefits is its role in weight loss. While there have not been many studies directly on ACV and weight maintenance, there have been studies on its components, like acetic acid. In a study of obese Japanese adults, it was found that subjects who consumed acetic acid for 12 weeks experienced significant weight loss and declines in abdominal fat, waist circumference, and triglycerides compared to those who consumed a placebo.
Researchers believe it works by suppressing appetite. Acetic acid has been shown to delay gastric emptying, meaning you feel fuller for longer. This is probably why ACV consumption has also been weakly associated with lower total energy consumption throughout the day.
While further research is needed, you can safely include ACV as part of a nourishing weight management routine. Try adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 ounces of water and sipping this concoction throughout the day.
4. It’s a DIY nontoxic cleaner.
ACV has antibacterial properties, so you can use it to clean everything from your kitchen counter to the bathtub. Just mix ½ cup ACV with 1 cup water, and get cleaning. Use this solution to clean microwaves, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses, and mirrors. It can also be used in dishwashers as a substitute for dish detergent.
ACV will even clean your toilets and leave your bathroom smelling like apples. Just pour it into the toilet and allow it to sit overnight.
By using ACV in lieu of other products, you can decrease the use of harsh chemicals in your home and daily life.
5. You can use it to wash produce.
Even if your produce is organic, there can still be pesticides on it. ACV is a great way to wash those off and eliminate any germs from your fresh fruits and veggies. Research has shown that ACV reduces the number of Salmonella bacteria on fresh salad vegetables. To boost the bacteria-fighting powers, mix in lemon juice, as this combination was found to be especially effective.
6. It can make your hair shine.
Normal shampoo is alkaline, which can throw off your hair’s pH, causing brittle, dry strands. ACV’s acidity makes it the perfect post-shampoo rinse to help restore pH balance, boosting hair body and shine.
Try recycling an old shampoo bottle, then filling it with ½ tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing.
Added bonus: ACV may help get rid of flaky dandruff. Due to its antifungal properties, it can work against some of the common causes of dandruff, like a buildup of oil or a yeastlike fungus called malassezia.
7. It can act as a skin toner.
The acidity and anti-inflammatory nature of ACV make it a great addition to your skin care routine. Dilute it with two parts water, and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball to replace your current toner. You can do this at night after washing and in the morning before you apply your moisturizer. The acidity helps slough away dead skin cells while soothing irritation.
It is important to note that due to its acidic nature, apple cider vinegar alone may cause skin irritation. Always dilute ACV before using topically.
8. It can remove stains from teeth.
Try mixing two parts ACV and one part baking soda for a natural tooth-whitening paste. Rub teeth directly with the apple cider vinegar paste, and rinse with water. The results won’t be immediate, but done a few times a week, this should help to remove stains and whiten teeth. You can also gargle with ACV for a similar effect. Added bonus: Gargling ACV will relieve bad breath. Its antibacterial properties can kill stinky breath bacteria.
It’s worth noting that, due to its acidity, there is some concern that consuming ACV can contribute to tooth enamel decay, just as soda and fruit juices do. So we advise caution with this method and don’t recommend doing it long term.Article continues below
9. It can repel fleas from your pets.
While ACV won’t necessarily rid your pet of a flea problem, it can help prevent one. Fleas apparently do not like the smell or taste of vinegar, so ACV can be a good natural repellent.
Try spraying one part vinegar and one part water on your pet’s fur and rubbing it in generously. Saturate the entire coat, and continue every day for a few days to a week
What exactly is “the mother” in ACV?
When ACV is made using a slow fermentation process, there is a buildup of yeast and bacteria. This buildup, called the mother, is commonly thought to contain most of the beneficial ingredients (enzymes and proteins). The mother makes it look slightly cloudy and may even show up in strands or sediment in the finished product.
When buying, you always want to purchase one with the mother still intact, as that is the part of the vinegar that retains many of the beneficial ingredients. Make sure you shake it well to disperse the mother before you use it.
How to add ACV to your diet.
Elevate your salad by substituting your usual balsamic for ACV. Just mix it with healthy oils, herbs, and spices. This is a great way to sneak in some extra health benefits. You can also buy premade dressings that use ACV as one of the main ingredients.
Try creating your own tonic by mixing ACV with fruit and something sweet. Let it sit for a few days in the fridge. Pop in a few fresh berries for added color and flavor for a fun probiotic drink!
Another creative way to incorporate ACV into your diet is to use it as a tenderizer when you are cooking meat or poultry. Mix it with herbs and spices to create your own marinade recipe.Article continues below
Having a party? Try adding ACV to your spiked cider or bloody mary mix recipes.
Still not sure about the taste? You can also get ACV in capsule form and take it that way. Warning: The capsules will still smell like apple cider vinegar.
Is ACV safe?
It’s time to have the talk. The ACV safety talk. In general, consuming it in small amounts is considered safe. However, many doctors suggest that you don’t consume more than 8 ounces per day because it has been linked to low potassium levels, which can cause muscle cramps or weakness and if it gets extreme can be dangerous. Also, if you have diabetes, talk to your doctor because it can lower blood glucose levels. If you have any type of chronic health condition, it is wise to consult your doctor before deciding to supplement with it. It is also recommended that you don’t drink it straight as it is very acidic and can therefore harm your esophagus and possibly contribute to tooth decay. (It also tastes pretty terrible that way, TBH.)