Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple cider, and is rich in acetic acid and numerous other antioxidants, enzymes and acids. It is cooling and soothing to the skin, has a low pH, and is rich in antimicrobial properties that have been recognised for centuries before germ theory was written and understanding of the role of microbes in disease was known.
Apple cider vinegar is an ancient tonic, brewed for centuries wherever apples are found, with records showing Hippocrates was using it as a health tonic in Greece as far back as 400BC. It’s a product whose reputed health benefits are near-legendary, with as many purported uses as there are varieties of apple.
It is still an extremely popular health product today, used not just in food and cooking or as a cleaning product but for a number of health and beauty applications as well. Here are a number of the most popular uses in the health arena for this multitasking wonder product.
1. An all-purpose general tonic
Apple cider vinegar is one of those health-promoting folk remedy tonics that people swear by for general health and wellbeing. Boasting numerous enzymes, acetic acid, antioxidants and more, it’s a favourite for health buffs as a daily cover-all, and may support general energy levels and overall wellbeing.
2. Assistance for sore throats
For those who suffer chronic sore throats, there is potential benefit from gargling with apple cider vinegar. Broadcasters swear by it for easing a lost voice, and the antimicrobial properties of acetic acid can potentially help balance the flora and support healthy microbes in the throat, supporting the body’s response to infection.
If you wish to use it in this way, it is worth noting that its strong acidity can potentially lead to tooth damage, and as such it is recommended that you dilute the vinegar with water and rinse with water after use.
3. Maintaining skin pH and healthy flora
With an acidity of around 3 on the pH scale, apple cider vinegar has potential use for skin infections and conditions where there is a need for lowering the skin acidity in order to inhibit the growth of microbes and make the environment inhospitable to them. This may apply to fungal or bacterial infections, to support the skin’s response and assist with healing. The vinegar can be applied to the skin diluted with water or neat, and dabbed on to the problem area with cotton wool or used as a soak throughout the day.
4. Improving digestive health
One of the best-known uses for apple cider vinegar is as a digestive tonic or aperitif, taken before a meal to support digestive secretions for proper digestion of food. Being a strong acid, and containing a number of enzymes that may assist with digestion of fats and proteins, it may be of use to those who suffer indigestion, digestive complaints, or simply after eating a particularly ‘heavy’ or large meal.
For those who follow the acid/alkaline theory of health, apple cider vinegar can play an excellent role as an alkalising tonic, raising the alkalinity of the body, despite its acidity. Like lemon juice, another acidic food that is popular for alkalising the body, apple cider vinegar forms an ‘alkaline ash’ when digested, which makes it a perfect food for those following the theory and supporting healthy pH balance of the body.
6. Probiotic support
Being a fermented food, raw apple cider vinegar may be rich in beneficial microbes known as probiotics, which are in turn known to support the health of virtually all systems of the body, but particularly the digestive and immune systems. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and beneficial enzymes, as these microbes ferment the sugars in the original product – the apple cider, in this case – turning it into an enzyme-rich vinegar product. As such, apple cider vinegar may have beneficial effects on the digestive and immune systems, supporting their function by increasing the levels of beneficial bacteria whilst simultaneously inhibiting pathogenic, harmful ones. This is particularly important for anybody who has taken antibiotics, who is taking regular medication, or who is particularly stressed – all conditions known to have damaging effects on the body’s microbiome.
It is worth noting here though that some commercial apple cider vinegar products have been pasteurised, which is a process designed to kill off any bacteria in the product. This applies to the probiotics as well as pathogens, so make sure the product you buy is raw and contains ‘the mother’ – the wispy brown strings of yeast you see floating in raw vinegar that indicate it is a live product rich in probiotic goodness.
Apple cider vinegar has long been touted as a hair-care wonder product, probably due to its acidity acting as a conditioning agent. Anecdotally it is supposed to add gloss to hair and help condition it, and is a crucial ingredient to many ‘no-poo’ haircare routines.
8. Haemorrhoid and vein helper
Apple cider vinegar is strongly astringent and very cooling, which has led to a reputation for supporting the itching and discomfort of varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are varicose veins in the anus, caused by poor venous function in the rectal area and particularly common during times of constipation (caused by straining when defecating), pregnancy (due to excess downwards pressure through the genitals combined with the hormone relaxin), and inactivity, leading to bulging and itching that can be extremely distressing for those experiencing them.
Holding a pad soaked in apple cider vinegar may bring some relief to the issue due to its tightening effect on the affected veins and skin, shrinking things temporarily and bringing a cooling, soothing sensation to the veins. The antimicrobial effect of the vinegar may also reduce the risk of infection and support the body’s healing process. It’s important that there are no tears in the skin.
9. Support for healthy blood sugar
Another well-known use for vinegar is in supporting people struggling with insulin resistance and who are prone to blood sugar imbalances. Vinegar has been shown not only to reduce the glycaemic index of numerous high-GI foods such as rice or white bread, but to support healthy blood sugar levels in people, too, on its own and after eating high-carb meals.
This means it may be a valuable addition to the diet for those concerned about their body’s ability to deal with sugar adequately.
10. Removing pesticides from produce
Apple cider vinegar is also an effective cleaner, and in a health context can be used to help remove pesticide residues from produce prior to eating. To use it in this manner, fill a sink with water, add 10% vinegar (i.e. one cup of vinegar to nine of water) and allow produce to soak for a few minutes before rinsing.