Claims about the benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) have been around for centuries. Uses of vinegar are recorded as early as 1200 BC in China and 5000 BC with the Babylonians. It’s even mentioned in Biblical text; for example, after working hard gleaning barley in the fields, Ruth was invited by Boaz to eat bread and dip it in vinegar. (Ruth 2:14).
Using vinegar to treat lice, cure common illnesses, prevent infection, and manage diabetes, are not new ideas in our generation. Even Hippocrates, (c. 420 BC), the father of modern medicine, believed vinegar could be used to heal wounds and a variety of illnesses, including coughs and colds.
Early settlers in America were said to use ACV as a natural medicine, as a condiment, as a preserving liquid for fresh vegetables as well as for cleaning and a host of other household duties.
Today, ACV is touted for many of the same health benefits as claimed to be experienced via generations before us and more. But does it really work? Some of the medicinal uses of ACV have been supported by scientific evidence but many of these claims have not. However, the staggering amount of claims by users worldwide is hard to deny as proof of it’s potential benefits!
In this article – I will review all things apple cider vinegar! Answer your burning questions and of course offer the best, proven uses of ACV and give you my top product recommendations. Please feel free to leave a comment or question at the end of the article!
HOW IS APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (ACV) MADE?
Vinegar, which means “sour wine” in French, can be made from virtually any carbohydrate that can be fermented, including grapes, dates, coconut, potatoes, beets, and, of course, apples. This slow, fermenting process leaves it rich in bio-active components like acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, caffeic acid, and more. These compounds give ACV antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is specifically produced by crushing and fermenting apples. The sugars in the apples are first converted into ethanol, and the ethanol is further converted into acetic acid. ACV is normally diluted before being bottled to contain between 4% and 6% acetic acid (the FDA defines ACV as containing no less than 4% acetic acid).
Many commercial apple cider vinegar’s have been pasteurized, filtered, refined or distilled. Unfortunately, this extra processing destroys much of the healthy goodness and thus many of the apple cider vinegar benefits that were in the product in the first place.
When looking for quality apple cider vinegar for consumption – look for organic, unfiltered, non pasteurized and with “the mother”.
WHAT IS “THE MOTHER”?
During the fermentation process, yeast, acetic acid bacteria, pectin and cellulose from the apples form a stringy mass called “mother of vinegar” or “the mother”. “Mother” of vinegar contains small amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron as well as phenolic acids. “The Mother” is an amino acid-based substance found in unprocessed, unfiltered vinegar and indicates your vinegar is of the best quality. Most manufacturers pasteurize and filter their vinegar to prevent the mother from forming, but the “murky” kind is best, especially if you’re planning to consume it.
Many people attribute apple cider vinegar’s effects to the “mother.” There’s some truth to this since the mother counts as a probiotic (read my article on the benefits of probiotics!).
Aside from probiotics, ACV has a vitamin profile similar to apple juice. Hence, the sour drink is ripe with B-vitamins and polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants).
BENEFITS OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple cider vinegar has been touted and proven to not only be useful for cooking, but also useful for some health purposes, cleaning and garden care. In fact, a jug of ACV is easily one of the most economical and versatile solutions around!
1. Blood Sugar Control – Vinegar has shown some anti-glycemic effects and has a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels. It’s thought that the acetic acid in vinegar may lower blood sugar by preventing the complete digestion of complex carbohydrates.
2. Aid in Weight Loss – Vinegar may help you lose weight, as it appears to increase satiety and reduce the total amount of food consumed.
3. Can help relieve heartburn associated with low stomach acidity – Acid reflux can be a result of having too little acid in your stomach. You can easily improve the acid content of your stomach by taking one tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water daily.
4. Natural cleaning product – Vinegar is one of the best natural cleaning agents there is, and this is largely due to its antimicrobial properties.
One study found acetic acid to be lethal to even E. coli O157: 1 ounceH7, while other research has shown substances such as acetic acid, lemon juice, or a combination of lemon juice and vinegar to be effective against salmonella.
5. Healthier salad dressing alternative – Foods fermented with vinegar have a natural arsenal of antimicrobial organic acids, including acetic, lactic, ascorbic, citric, malic, propionic, succinic, and tartaric acids. Try it mixed with olive oil (or any vegetable oil of your choice), garlic, and mustard for a tasty, healthier salad dressing alternative!
6. Antioxidant – Studies have shown that vinegar carries a high amount of polyphenols relative to other foods, specifically antioxidant and antibacterial compounds such as polyphenols. This is good because polyphenols play an important role in preventing chronic disease.
7. Natural weed killer – Vinegar is very effective to control weeds in your garden. Howard Garrett, also known as The Dirt Doctor, shared his recipe for vinegar-based herbicide (this spray will injure any plant it touches, so use it only on those you want to remove):
⦁ 1 gallon of 10 percent (100 grain) vinega1-ounce
⦁ Add orange oil or d-limonene
⦁ Add 1 tablespoon molasses (optional – some say it doesn’t help)
⦁ 1 teaspoon liquid soap or another surfactant (such as Bio Wash)
⦁ Do not add water
8. Fruit and veggie rinse – Vinegar is one of the best natural agents for removing certain pesticides and bacteria from your fresh produce. Try a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water as a bath to briefly soak produce. Rinse thoroughly!
9. Astringent/skin toner – Diluted apple cider vinegar makes a simple facial toner and cleanser to help prevent acne breakouts. I like to mix mine in a homemade facial mask!
Once opened, an apple cider vinegar with at least 5% acidity does not need to be refrigerated and has a minimum shelf life of 3-5 years. Best to store the vinegar with the cap tightly closed and not in direct sunlight.
SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS
In general, apple cider vinegar is safe for healthy adults to consume – however, it is recommended to consult your physician first to ensure it is right for you before use. There are some things to take into consideration when taking and using apple cider vinegar, such as:
⦁ The acid in apple cider vinegar may erode your teeth enamel. Rinse well with water after consuming.
⦁ Anecdotally, acidic foods or liquids like vinegar may exacerbate acid reflux not associated with low stomach acid content.
⦁ If you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to process the excess acid that comes along with drinking apple cider vinegar.
⦁ Always be sure to dilute ACV before consuming! Typically, it’s recommended to take 1 tsp to 1 tbsp in 1.5 to 8 ounces of warm water, with a meal.
⦁ Applying undiluted vinegar to the skin or to wounds such as bruises or abrasions is not recommended as it may cause chemical burns.
⦁ Take care not to get apple cider vinegar in your eyes as it can cause irritations and redness and potentially, corneal injury.
⦁ Apple cider vinegar may increase the amount of time that food remains in the stomach; this may worsen gastroparesis and reduce glycemic control in people with type 1 diabetes.
⦁ Apple cider vinegar could theoretically interact with diuretics, laxatives, and medicines for diabetes and heart disease.
LIQUID VS. CAPSULES
Although the FDA has set basic standards for commercially produced apple cider vinegar, no U.S. government agency is responsible for routinely testing ACV. In addition, neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests ACV pills for quality prior to sale.
In the early 2000’s, the University of Arkansas conducted an analysis of ACV pills after a woman experienced severe pain and difficulty swallowing after an ACV pill became lodged in her throat for approximately 30 minutes. The ensuing analysis of eight ACV pills sold in the U.S. and online found the acetic acid content in the products was often incorrect and varied widely from 1.04% to 10.57%. Some products claimed to have acetic acid contents of up to 35%! Although, those products tested to have much less – it’s good to note that if a product actually had an acetic acid concentration of 20% or more, it would be considered a poison by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and must be designated with the word “poison”. Typically, however, they had much lower concentrations than the recommended dosage needed to experience the medicinal benefits of it.
Another troubling factor when it comes to ACV pills is that most pill products do not even indicate their acetic acid content, making it nearly impossible for a consumer to know what he or she is getting unless it has been evaluated by an independent third party tester.
In the end, the liquid varieties are much more trustworthy, safe and effective – however, I have included in this article a recommendation of a pill product that passed an independent third party testing via consumerlab.com if you just can’t stand the taste of ACV!
THE TAKE AWAY
Despite a lot of resources on the internet touting and validating ancient folklore about apple cider vinegar, there is little to no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar is beneficial for things such as treating nail fungus, head lice or warts. These notions have actually been scientifically de-bunked.
Some studies, usually involving rats, have suggested that apple cider vinegar may be an effective treatment for reducing high cholesterol levels – however, 3 double-blind randomized clinical trials with humans have shown that it does not.
To date, there are no conclusive findings surrounding its ability to shrink tumors and reduce cancer risk. The results of current studies say its worth doing more research, however.
Many people swear by apple cider vinegar’s ability to enhance immunity, cure a cold, and add shine to your hair. Although these claims have not been scientifically proven, that’s not to say it’s not worth trying! And that it hasn’t worked for those who swear by it.
While eating more fermented foods is your best chance of getting the benefits from certain acids and the probiotics in those foods and is ultimately better for you – using apple cider vinegar may be an easy alternative for some. Proven benefits of blood sugar control, antioxidant boosts and weight loss are worth giving this vinegar a shot!
Going for the liquid is the better option but there are pill forms as well. In addition, liquid ACV has some other natural benefits for those who prefer the natural route like me!
Personally, I take ACV capsules and use the liquid in my home made facial mask!
Check out my top recommendations below! And don’t forget to leave a comment :).
MY TOP RECOMMENDATIONS
Claimed acidity: 5% (contains a slightly higher percent via consumer lab analysis)
Additional Benefits: Kosher certified, NON-GMO, Organic and calorie free!
Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar is organically grown, processed and bottled in accordance with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990.
Consumerlab Approved! (Consumer lab is an independent third party tester – a leader in testing products to ensure quality. To see the full report – you have to pay a membership fee. Their reports are copyright protected. Go here to see the consumer lab quality testing guidelines.)
*Note: I recommend purchasing this product in a glass bottle as food or water contaminated with polyethylene or polypropylene in plastics is linked to health risks and potential health problems.
Product: Nutricost Apple Cider Vinegar
Claimed Acidity: No claim on label (Unable to divulge consumer lab analysis due to copyright laws – but it was the closest acidity content to liquid ACV of the products tested and approved!)
Nutricost ACV capsules are made in the USA in a GMP Compliant FDA Registered Facility
Additional Benefits: NON-GMO, gluten free, vegan friendly (veggie capsules) and calorie free!
*Consumerlab Approved! (Consumer lab is an independent third party tester – a leader in testing products to ensure quality. To see the full report – you have to pay a membership fee. There reports are copyright protected. Go here to see the consumer lab quality testing guidelines.)