If you’ve spent any time at all on Pinterest, you’ve probably come across a handful of home remedies starring one little pantry staple: apple cider vinegar.
This pickling agent and unassuming addition to your banana bread also pulls double duty as a widely used home remedy. Blog posts abound, telling you how to make your own apple cider gummies and touting wellness benefits for everything from weight loss and cures for yeast infections.
Known as ACV to those in the know, apple cider vinegar is a low-cost ingredient that’s said to restore your body’s pH balance. It’s no panacea, but there is some truth to many of the internet claims (and some untruths as well that we’ll also dive into). In this post, we’ll walk you through what apple cider vinegar is, how it works within the body and a few popular home remedies you might have seen making the rounds online.
What is apple cider vinegar?
You’ve likely used an array of vinegars in your home — malt vinegar to douse your french fries, balsamic vinegar to spritz on your salad or distilled white vinegar to combat that relentless smell emanating from your garbage disposal. It’s safe to say vinegars are a handy household item, whether for cleaning or consuming.
But what are they, exactly? Essentially, vinegar is alcohol (ethanol) that’s been left out to mix with oxygen, creating a bacterial fermentation. Its original purpose was to pickle and preserve foods, but people have continually discovered new uses along the way. Each type of vinegar goes through its own unique process to give it its specific characteristics, but all have the same signature sourness that makes vinegar, vinegar.
Derived from the French phrase vin aigre, meaning sour wine, vinegar is basically acetic acid, a fermentation byproduct. Acetic acid is also known as ethanoic acid, ethylic acid, vinegar acid and methane carboxylic acid.
To make apple cider vinegar, specifically, cored and peeled apples are crushed into apple juice, then the apple sugars are converted into ethanol (this is fermented apple cider) with the help of added yeasts. The ethanol is then converted into acetic acid (this is the fermented vinegar) with the assistance of airborne bacteria, called acetobacter.
In addition to being a probiotic (a friendly bacteria in your intestine that promotes digestion), apple cider vinegar is full of B-vitamins and polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants).
What is ‘the mother’ in apple cider vinegar?
When it comes to apple cider vinegar, one type, in particular, is lauded more than others. That’s the version with “the mother,” because it contains the proponent that many say is responsible for most health benefits (though there’s no research to back this).
The mother refers to the cobweb-like combination of acetobacter and cellulose that may form naturally on the top of vinegar as it ferments, leading to its murky brown coloring. You can also purchase a mother to be added to vinegar. The mother is said to contain health-boosting natural proteins, healthy bacteria and acetic acid. On the other hand, crystal-clear vinegars have been filtered and pasteurized to remove the mother and most of its nutrients.
Home remedies using apple cider vinegar
Home remedies featuring apple cider vinegar are plentiful on the internet. It’s important to remember studies exploring its health benefits have mainly focused on reductions in blood sugar levels and weight loss, with those studies being relatively small, short-term and often using animals and not humans.
Before you try any for yourself, keep in mind no home remedy is a replacement for a prescription medication you’re currently taking. Home remedies should never be used to treat serious health conditions.
In most cases, the addition of small amounts of apple cider vinegar to your diet or wellness routine will not cause negative side effects, but be cognizant of changes to your body and consult your physician if conditions persist or worsen.
Apple cider vinegar for weight loss
Does apple cider vinegar help you lose weight? Weight loss graphics, advertisements and blog posts that are rampant online would have you believe it’s a resounding “yes!” It can be difficult to suss out the truth from snake oil when you’re inundated with this kind of information. And when claims involve a relatively inexpensive and extremely accessible pantry staple like apple cider vinegar (without recommending any kind of healthy lifestyle changes to accompany it), you’re right to be skeptical.
So, here’s the deal when it comes to apple cider vinegar and weight loss: Don’t cancel your gym membership. You might experience weight loss benefits from consuming 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day, but a tactic like this certainly won’t melt the fat off of you.
According to a study in the Journal of Functional Food, researchers concluded that apple cider vinegar affects weight by reducing your appetite. Researchers monitored a group of individuals who exercised and ate 250 calories less than their estimated daily requirement, but consumed 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar on top of that. Those individuals lost an average of 8.8 pounds over the 12-week study period. Participants who made the same changes but did not consume the vinegar lost only 5 pounds.
Heads up: Vinegar’s acidity could wreak havoc on your teeth enamel, so those drinking it often do so with a glass of water.
Apple cider vinegar as a facial toner
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar could lead to clearer skin, some researchers say. Used as a toner that deep-cleans your skin and rids your pores of oil and dirt, this DIY skincare solution could act as an antibacterial and antifungal and kill bacteria that lead to blemishes.
Recipes often call for 1 tablespoon vinegar to 2 cups water — never use undiluted vinegar as it can be abrasive to skin. Applied with a cotton ball and left on for five to 15 minutes before washing off, the toner likely won’t cure your acne completely, but it can be effective in drying out whiteheads.
Apple cider vinegar for sunburn relief
Next time you soak up too much sun and you’re considering an apple cider vinegar bath to help soothe your scorched skin, reconsider. While apple cider vinegar can provide some relief because of its antibacterial, cooling effect, the malic acid it contains could lead to chemical burns on your already damaged skin.
When it comes to this home remedy, leave the apple cider vinegar in your cupboards and take a cold shower, drink lots of water and reach for an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream instead.
Should you try apple cider vinegar home remedies?
Here’s the verdict: We encourage you to use your best judgment and steer clear of those remedies above that could make matters worse. While there’s little scientific evidence about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, anecdotal evidence often shows some improvement in health and wellness.
Before you dive into any DIY treatments, apple cider vinegar-related or otherwise, always do your homework to weigh the pros and cons and always keep your safety top of mind. And if you’re unsure, consult your doctor.
If you have questions about any of the topics we discussed here, talk to your INTEGRIS doctor about specific recommendations for you.
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