14 Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar (and Mistakes to Avoid)

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Apple cider vinegar is a kitchen ingredient with a multitude of uses, from home remedy to DIY fruit fly trap. It is made from apple cider that is fermented with yeast and bacteria.

While emerging research suggests that apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) may offer certain benefits, it’s touted as a solution for everything from pimples to a sore throat. Some remedies might help, but others can be harmful if used incorrectly.

Here are the top uses and benefits of apple cider vinegar and common mistakes to avoid.

1. Help Control Blood Sugar and Prevent Diabetes

Acetic acid, the main component of all types of vinegar, appears to block enzymes that help you digest starch, resulting in a smaller blood sugar response after starchy meals such as pasta or bread. A study published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2010, for instance, found that adding vinegar to a high-starch meal helps to decrease fluctuations in blood sugar after the meal.

Although you can add a splash of apple cider vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, vinaigrettes, and sauces, be sure to consult your doctor if you’re considering using it in larger amounts for diabetes. There haven’t been the clinical trials needed to confirm that it’s effective and you could be putting yourself at risk if you delay or avoid treatment.

If you take diabetes medication, vinegar could cause unwanted effects, like low blood sugar or potassium.

Also, you shouldn’t use apple cider vinegar if you have gastroparesis, as it can further slow gastric emptying.

2. Aid in Weight Loss

If you’re trying to lose weight, apple cider vinegar is sometimes said to help. While preliminary research suggests that vinegar may increase fat oxidation, a study found that the effect appears to be very modest (one to two pounds total weight loss in 12 weeks).

People tend to consume greater than normal amounts of apple cider vinegar when using it for weight loss, with some even taking it in tablet form. There’s a risk that pills can injure the gastrointestinal tract. According to one report, for instance, a woman had an ACV tablet lodged in her throat for 30 minutes and developed pain and tenderness in the throat area and difficulty swallowing that lasted for six months.

3. Get Rid of Dandruff

For pesky dandruff, some people find that lightly spritzing an apple cider vinegar and water solution onto the scalp (and leaving it for 15 minutes before rinsing) helps with persistent flakes, itchiness, and irritation. It’s typically used once or twice a week.

Vinegar’s acetic acid may alter the scalp’s pH, making it harder for yeast (one of the main contributors to dandruff) to grow.

Just don’t get apple cider vinegar in your eyes or ears. Use eye protection if needed, and use it in very small amounts. If you have color-treated hair, consult your color technician as it may alter your color.

4. Stop Itchy Bug Bites and Stings

If you have mosquito bites, poison ivy, or jellyfish stings, a weak apple cider vinegar solution dabbed onto bites and stings may help.

5. Freshen Hair in Between Washings

If you’re between hair washings or are active, spritzing some apple cider vinegar solution on your roots may help control the oil. Experts recommend adding five drops of apple cider vinegar to five ounces of water in a spray bottle and spritzing your roots several times, one or two times a week.

Be careful not to get it on your face, eyes, or ears. If your hair is color-treated, it’s a good idea to consult your colorist before using it.

Although apple cider vinegar is sometimes recommended as a hair rinse to remove shampoo build-up and clarify dull hair, the solution has to very dilute because it is harder to prevent it from getting in your face, eyes, and delicate skin area when washing it out at home.

6. Relieve Minor Sunburns

While the more common recommendation for a mild sunburn is a cool water compress or bath, aloe gel, or moisturizer, some people swear by apple cider vinegar. It can be added to a cool bath or mixed with cool water and lightly spritzed on affected areas (avoiding the face) to relieve pain and discomfort.

Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be applied at full strength or in strong concentrations to the skin, as the acidity can further injure skin. It also shouldn’t be used for more serious burns, so be sure to consult your health care provider for help in determining the severity of your sunburn.

7. Clear Acne and Pimples

Apple cider vinegar may help to dry out pimples when a solution is dabbed onto pimples. It should be diluted before applying it to the face as it can cause skin injury or chemical burns if it’s not dilute enough.

Although apple cider vinegar is suggested as a skin toner, it isn’t recommended because the acetic acid concentration in ACV varies widely.

8. Soothe a Sore Throat

A time-honored throat elixir, apple cider vinegar drinks and gargles are said to alleviate the pain of a sore throat. Although there are many different recipes and protocols, a basic drink recipe calls for a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of honey, and a small pinch of cayenne pepper stirred in a cup of warm water.

Although some proponents claim that apple cider vinegar has germ-fighting properties and capsaicin in hot peppers alleviates pain, there hasn’t been any research on apple cider vinegar’s ability to fight sore throats.

Some sources recommend a stronger solution or even taking apple cider vinegar by the spoonful, however the acidity may cause mouth and throat irritation or chemical burns.

While most sore throats are minor, if you have other symptoms or are concerned, you should contact your health care provider.

9. Ease Heartburn and Indigestion

Apple cider vinegar is said to ease some types of heartburn, acid reflux, and digestive conditions like constipation or diarrhea. For heartburn, apple cider vinegar is thought to work because it is acidic, and too little stomach acid is believed to cause heartburn in some people.

Still, the more widely used heartburn diet involves reducing acidic foods, so it's a good idea to speak with your health care provider before trying it.

While some sources recommend taking it by the spoonful, apple cider vinegar's acidity may result in mouth, throat, or esophageal irritation or burns. A more moderate guideline would be to have an amount you would normally eat in a meal (typically one teaspoon or less) diluted in one cup of water or taken in food.

10. Cure Hiccups

To stop hiccups, proponents suggest eating one teaspoon of sugar with several drops of apple cider vinegar added to the sugar. The sugar’s grainy texture and the vinegar’s sour taste may trigger nerves in the throat and mouth responsible for controlling the hiccup reflex.

If hiccups are a regular occurrence for you, be sure to see your doctor. You don’t want to regularly rely on added sugar in your diet to get rid of hiccups. Also, hiccups can be a sign of an underlying condition, like GERD or a hiatal hernia.

11. Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple cider, and fruit flies are attracted to the smell of ripe, fermented food. To trap fruit flies, put some apple cider vinegar in a small, shallow dish, add a drop of dish soap, and set it out on the counter near your fruit bowl, garbage can, or sink. The fruit flies will fly to the vinegar and the dish soap breaks the surface tension, trapping them.

Be sure to label the dish and keep the solution out of the reach or children or pets.

12. Stamp Out Foot Odor

To help keep smelly feet under control, try using apple cider vinegar, which proponents claim may help to balance the skin’s pH and fight the bacteria that causes foot odor. Typically, a bit of apple cider vinegar is mixed into water. Baby wipes, cotton balls or pads, small towels, or cotton rags can be dipped into the solution, wrung out, and used to wipe the bottom of the feet. Wipes can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Although a vinegar scent will be noticeable, it should dissipate when the vinegar solution is dried. Avoid wearing shoes made from materials that could be damaged by the acidity (like leather).

13. Swap Out Your Deodorant

An apple cider vinegar solution may help to neutralize odor-causing armpit bacteria. Typically, cotton pads, towelettes, or cotton rags are lightly spritzed with a very weak solution and swiped in the armpits. Any vinegar smell should dissipate as it dries.

It's a good idea to test it in a smaller area first and to avoid using it if you're wearing delicate fibers, like silk.

14. Clean Countertops and Other Home Surfaces

Although an apple cider vinegar solution is sometimes suggested for cleaning kitchen and bathroom countertops, mirrors, windows, toilets, and showers, white distilled vinegar is the more popular choice and is less expensive.

If you’re using any type of vinegar solution at home, don’t mix it with commercial cleaners as it can produce harmful chemicals when combined. Also, vinegar shouldn’t be used on certain surfaces, like marble, wood, or some types of grout. If you’re not sure of whether it’s safe to use, consult the manufacturer (or avoid using it altogether).

Types of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is available filtered or unfiltered. Filtered apple cider is a clear light brown color. Unfiltered and unpasteurized ACV (such as Bragg's apple cider vinegar) has a dark, cloudy sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Known as "mother of vinegar" or simply "the mother," this sediment consists mainly of acetic acid bacteria. 

Apple cider vinegar is also available in tablet form. A 2005 study, however, compared eight brands of apple cider vinegar supplements and found that the ingredients didn't correspond to the ingredients listed on the label. What's more, chemical analysis of the samples led researchers to question whether any of the products were actually apple cider vinegar or simply acetic acid.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Although most suggested uses involve diluting apple cider vinegar before applying it to body, the safety of different vinegar-to-water ratios isn't known. A 1:10 ratio has been suggested when applying it directly to skin, however, it should be weaker (or avoided entirely) on weak or delicate skin.

Although a teaspoon to a tablespoon mixed into 8 ounces of water is often suggested as a reasonable amount for internal use, the safety of various doses isn’t known. 

You can try to use it highly diluted, but the amount of acetic acid in commercial apple cider vinegar varies (unlike white vinegar, which is 5 percent acetic acid) making it impossible to be sure of the true strength.

Side Effects and Safety

Apple cider vinegar is a popular household ingredient, which may lead you to believe that it's completely safe. While there may be no cause for alarm if you are generally healthy, there are some potential effects to be aware of, particularly if the concentration is too strong or is in contact with your body for too long.

Apple cider vinegar, for instance, may cause chemical burns. There have been case reports of chemical burns after apple cider vinegar was used for warts and a skin condition known as molluscum contagiosum.

Although apple cider vinegar is widely touted as a home remedy to whiten teeth or freshen breath, exposing your teeth to the acidity may erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities.

When taken internally, ACV may result in decreased potassium levels, hypoglycemia, throat irritation, and allergic reactions. It is an acid (a pH less than 7 is an acid, and many apple cider vinegars have a pH of 2 to 3) and can cause burns and injury to the digestive tract (including the throat, esophagus, and stomach), especially when taken undiluted or in large amounts.

A case report linked excessive apple cider vinegar consumption with low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia) and low bone mineral density.

Apple cider vinegar may interact with certain medications, including laxatives, diuretics, blood thinners, and heart disease and diabetes medications.

If you’re considering using apple cider vinegar for any health purpose, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to see if it’s right for you, rather than self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard treatment. People with certain conditions (such as ulcers, hiatal hernia, Barrett’s esophagus, or low potassium) may need to avoid apple cider vinegar entirely.

Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be used as a nasal spray, sinus wash, or in a neti pot, and it shouldn’t be added to eye drops. Vinegar won't help in the treatment of lice.

A Word From Verywell

A splash of apple cider vinegar can brighten many dishes (not just salads) and add wonderful flavor to your cooking.

There are many anecdotal uses and some preliminary evidence suggesting that it may help certain conditions. While you might find that you benefit from its properties, large-scale clinical trials are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment.

If you’re still considering trying it, be sure to speak with your health care provider first and remember to only use it in small, highly diluted amounts.

Sources:

Hlebowicz J, Darwiche G, Björgell O, Almér LO. Effect of apple cider vinegar on delayed gastric emptying in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2007 Dec 20;7:46.

Hill LL, Woodruff LH, Foote JC, Barreto-Alcoba M. Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Jul;105(7):1141-4.

Johnston CS, Steplewska I, Long CA, Harris LN, Ryals RH. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(1):74-9. 

Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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