If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then apple cider vinegar should cure whatever it is that ails you. But are the health claims for apple cider vinegar (ACV) supported by research? If so, what’s the best way to incorporate it into our health regimen?
Due to the presence of the yeast and bacteria that ferment apple juice into vinegar (also called the “mother”), ACV does have some probiotic benefit. It also offers the same B vitamins and polyphenols you’d find in pressed apple juice.
There are a few studies that show ACV might help in blood sugar and weight control. In a controlled study, AVC reduced blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. This means that it may have an effect on helping to control diabetes as part of an overall management plan.
In another study, ACV promoted modest weight loss in a group of test subjects who also reduced calories and exercised. Those drinking ACV lost almost 4 pounds more than a control group on the same diet and exercise regimen.
Most other health claims for ACV are simply not supported by research. For example, claims that ACV can reduce blood pressure are based on a very small study with rodents, not people. Nor is there any solid evidence that ACV will cure cancer.
Vinegar actually poses a few health drawbacks in certain circumstances. The acetic acid in ACV can erode your tooth enamel. If you’d like to avoid this, it can help to rinse your mouth with water after using or drinking ACV. Also, the acids in vinegar may hurt those with chronic kidney disease, as processing the extra acid is hard on kidney function.
ACV and Skin Health
The acetic acid in vinegar is a natural antibacterial and antifungal agent. It is also a natural astringent. When diluted, it may help balance the skin’s pH levels. This is why some people claim that it’s a cure all for skin conditions.
However, ACV is very harsh and can be drying. ACV can have a pH level between 2-3, which is highly acidic. Although the skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic too, undiluted vinegar is much more so, and thus can sting or cause a chemical burn, breaking down the skin’s natural protective barrier. For that reason, ACV is definitely not recommended for those with rosacea.
Vinegar has been a long-loved remedy for sunburn pain. However, it’s better to pour just small cupful into a tub of cool bathwater rather than apply it straight to sunburned skin. After the bath, follow up with a healing moisturizer like aloe or a lotion made for sensitive skin. Never put ACV or any other vinegar directly on other types of burns, as this could cause both severe pain and even tissue damage.
ACV is also anti-inflammatory. This may be why some eczema patients have found relief from using ACV topically, although there is no data showing evidence that it can cure or treat eczema. However, if you are experiencing active lesions, even diluted ACV may be too strong
If you want to try it and your skin can tolerate it, diluted ACV on a cotton ball can be a naturally refreshing and cleansing rinse or skin toner. But be sure to dilute 1 part ACV with 3 or more parts water. Like any and every skin treatment, start by dabbing on a small patch of skin first, ideally not on your face, to see if your skin can tolerate it.
Apple cider vinegar is a natural remedy many swear by for both internal and external applications, but if you have a chronic skin condition like acne, eczema, TSW, or psoriasis, tread carefully and slowly in case it may be too harsh for you. If you do try it, dilute it!
ACV is a perfect example of how natural remedies can work, but can also have side effects and contraindications just like pharmaceuticals because natural medicines are powerful.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.