Vinegar has been used for thousands of years to beat infection, treat illness, preserve food…the list goes on. The traditional, 2-step fermentation process to produce vinegar mixes fermentable carbohydrates, in the case of apple cider vinegar (ACV), apples, with yeast. The yeast then converts the simple sugars to ethanol and during the 2nd step of the process, acetic acid bacteria (acetobacter) are added which along with the oxygen in the air, convert the ethanol into acetic acid.
This process should take around 1 month which allows for the formation of the mother, a gelatinous substance made of yeast and bacteria that you can see floating around the bottle when you buy it from your health food store. It is thought the mother provides many health benefits. If you buy a bottle without the mother inside its likely the fermentation process has been accelerated and the ACV won’t have much if any, of the probiotic properties the mother bottle does.
So what are the benefits of ACV?
There are not a huge amount of studies to back up the health benefits of ACV however this does not mean that the health claims aren’t valid. The use of ACV may be beneficial for some. The question is, why would it be used for thousands of years if it had no benefits?
The most obvious benefit of a fermented drink would of course be its antimicrobial activity. ACV may be a viable alternative to antibiotics in some cases but do always check with your doctor. Antibiotics can cause so much disruption to our gut bacteria so if there’s a more natural way of rebalancing the gut, it’s worth exploring. A recent study has shown that ACV can have antimicrobial effects of common pathogenic bacteria and yeasts such as E.coli, S.aureas and C.albicans. ACV can also break down biofilms which are produced by bacteria to protect themselves and develop antibiotic resistance. More on growing good bacteria here.
ACV has shown to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin which makes it beneficial to those with diabetes/insulin resistance. It is thought to delay gastric emptying which helps you feel fuller for longer which may reduce how much you eat and therefore may help with weight loss. Those with diabetes type 1 do need to be careful if drinking ACV because they already have delayed gastric emptying which could make it difficult for those injecting insulin to predict when blood sugar will rise. Always consult your doctor if diabetic when taking ACV as it may lower blood sugar too much. More on blood sugar here and here.
In studies done on rats, the acetic acid in ACV has shown to improve biomarkers of cardiovascular health. A high level of fats and cholesterol in the blood and high blood pressure were all reduced after consumption of ACV. Those taking potassium lowering drugs for blood pressure or for any other reason, should avoid consuming ACV because potassium levels could become dangerously low. More on cholesterol here, blood pressure here and fats here.
What else is ACV used for?
Diluted ACV can be used to help digest food. Especially protein. It is a natural alternative to supplemental digestive enzymes. If you are eating steak or another heavy meat in the evening ACV can help with the digestion process. Start with diluting a teaspoon in a half pint glass and build it up gradually to a tablespoon and drink 15 minutes before eating, don’t drink it undiluted because the acids will damage the oesophagus and/or take the tooth enamel off your teeth. Always make sure it’s diluted and drink it through a straw.
ACV can be used to clean the pesticides and germs off of produce. By adding lemon juice this increases its effectiveness.
ACV can also be used as a non-toxic cleaner and pretty much cleans all surfaces. Just add ½ cup to 1 cup of water for cleaning and pour some in the toilet and leave overnight as a fruity equivalent to bleach.
The acidity of ACV helps to decrease the pH of hair making it shiny and healthy-looking and it can reduce fungal dandruff, rinse it through your hair after shampooing.
Diluted in 2 parts water ACV can be used as natural, toxin-free, cheaper alternative to toner. Always dilute and spot test on skin before applying to your face, there have been cases of burnt skin when people have followed instructions online from unreliable sources.
How to get ACV into your eating regime
ACV can be mixed with herbs, spices and healthy oils to make a salad dressing, with herbs as a marinade, or with fruit and sparkling elderflower and left in the fridge to make a probiotic drink. When consuming ACV, ensure you shake up the bottle before use so that the mother is well dispersed throughout the liquid.