Apple cider vinegar has in recent years been suggested as a virtual panacea for mankind’s ills.
With a long history of usage as a home remedy, the vinegar is one of the most commonly-touted substances in the world of natural health: an ancient ‘superfood’ whose appeal is enhanced by wellness gurus, the influence of whom is compounded by massive social media platforms.
But what can apple cider vinegar do for skin, hair and those wishing to lose weight? In this article, we aim to outline the key benefits.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made when crushed apples and yeast interact to ferment fruit sugars and turn them into alcohol; afterwards bacteria is added to the solution, further fermenting the alcohol and transforming it into acetic acid.
The mysterious ‘mother’ is frequently mentioned when apple cider vinegar is brought up. The mother is simply a reference to the complex culture of beneficial bacteria inherent in the very process of making apple cider vinegar.
It is this mother which is deemed to be associated with the countless health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Unrefined, unfiltered, ‘raw’ apple cider vinegar is the type to look out for, as it still contains the coveted mother culture. This particular ACV mightn’t look as appetising (it’s murky, while the refined, non-mother vinegar has a clear appearance) but it is the one known for its healthful properties.
The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Skin
Speaking of therapeutic properties, one of the most commonly cited is for skin. Apple cider vinegar is employed in countless skin and beauty remedies, and is often diluted with water: it can cause a burning sensation if used undiluted, so most favour a 50:50 mix.
Topical application of apple cider vinegar offers a convenient, cheap and entirely natural alternative to synthetic skin creams or moisturisers. As well as keeping the skin fresh and supple, apple cider vinegar’s key skin benefits are outlined below
• Helps combat acne and blemishes
There are many reported accounts of individuals alleviating acne not with drugstore cleansers but with apple cider vinegar. The popularity of the treatment has rocketed in recent years, after actress Scarlett Johansson discussed using an apple cider vinegar face wash in her skincare routine.
It is thought that the vinegar’s antibacterial and antifungal properties are what make it so beneficial for those with acne, skin infections and outbreaks. ACV also works to remove excess oil from the skin and balance skin pH levels.
• Minimises wrinkles and age spots
There are more anti-ageing creams available on the market than we care to count, but apple cider vinegar is a great, 100% chemical-free alternative.
For age spots, it is usually recommended to apply undiluted, directly to the spots themselves, and repeat several times each day for at least 30 days. However, some have professed to achieve better results mixing the vinegar with fresh orange or onion juice rather than water.
• Draws toxins out of the skin
Adding a cupful of apple cider vinegar to a hot Epsom salt-infused bath may help flush toxins out of your body via the skin. The acids in apple cider vinegar can attach themselves to toxins and help the body eliminate them more efficiently.
• Cools sunburn
Yes, apple cider vinegar can even help cool the soreness of sunburn. Try adding around 200ml to a warm bath and soak in it for a quarter of an hour.
You can also use ACV as a salve: just mix 100ml with a litre of water and pour onto a towel to soak; then apply gently to areas of sun damage.
Of course, it should be remembered that what we ingest impacts the appearance of our skin; so as well as experimenting with topical application for specific complaints, you should consume apple cider vinegar to aid general detoxification.
A tablespoon in water once or twice a day should do the trick. Just don’t consume undiluted: straight vinegar, as with other acids, can damage the lining of the oesophagus and lead to ulcerations.
When applying ACV to the skin, you can blend with water, honey, natural juice or even a pinch of baking soda, to minimise irritation. Experiment to find out what works for you, or do a little digging online to read personal testimonies.
You simply do not need synthetic products to restore a youthful, clean glow to your face.
What Does Apple Cider Vinegar Do for Hair?
As well as being used as a face wash, apple cider vinegar has been suggested as a means of treating damaged hair and enhancing shine. There are several reasons for this. One is that because apple cider vinegar is acidic, it can lower the pH of hair (which deviates towards alkalinity) and thereby reverse signs of dullness or brittleness.
Another reason apple cider vinegar is proposed for hair treatment is because its mild acids and enzymes can help control the bacteria which leads to irritation of the scalp.
Rinsing your scalp with apple cider vinegar mixed with water is a great way of keeping the bacteria which causes dandruff, itchiness and flakiness to a minimum.
As noted by Hair Loss Revolution, apple cider vinegar is also an effective natural treatment for hair loss and helps to stimulate better circulation of hair follicles. The better your circulation, the stronger the roots and the healthier – in theory at least – your hair.
The alpha-hydroxy acid content of the vinegar furthermore exfoliates both the scalp and hair, permitting the removal of dead skin cells and build-up which can accrue from sweat or regular haircare products.
To make an apple cider vinegar rinse for your hair, blend a cup of water with 2-4 tablespoons of raw ACV. After shampooing and rinsing, simply pour the blend over your scalp and allow it to soak into your hair. Massage into the scalp and, after a minute or two, rinse fully.
You might also want to consider adding a drop or two of lavender oil to the mix; like ACV it has antimicrobial properties, and a 2016 animal study showed it capable of increasing the number of hair follicles in female mice.
Is It Useful for Weight Loss?
A number of human studies bear out the claims that apple cider vinegar can help with weight loss, mainly by increasing satiety. In one study by Arizona State University’s Department of Nutrition, those who consumed ACV with meals ate on average 200-275 calories less per day.
The results dovetailed with data from the Lund University in Sweden, showing that consumption of 30ml of ACV not only improved blood sugar and insulin but prolonged the state of feeling full in healthy adults.
In a third study, published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, apple cider vinegar intake correlated with a reduction in body weight, body fat mass and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Participants taking 15ml of ACV per day enjoyed all these benefits, though those taking 30ml enjoyed greater reductions in subcutaneous fat.
“Energy intake, meal content and physical activity did not differ among the three groups throughout the test period. Therefore, vinegar intake was considered to decrease the BMI of obese subjects via a reduction in body fat mass, regardless of the type of adipose tissue,” noted the researchers.
You may choose to gulp a tablespoon before your main meal, although it is most commonly added to warm water and drunk. Raw honey makes an appealing natural sweetener for those who can’t abide the powerful (some say unpleasant) taste.
The important thing to remember is that you must take ACV consistently to enjoy the weight loss benefits: that means months rather than weeks. Still, there are so many advantages to incorporating apple cider vinegar into your wellness plan, and the majority of them will be noticeable before any reduction in fat.
What About Heart Disease Risk?
It may not be the most well-documented benefit, but apple cider vinegar can help to lower cholesterol thanks to the presence of pectin, a complex carbohydrate and soluble fibre found in apples.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, binds itself to pectin and is eliminated from the body as waste. The antioxidant chlorogenic acid also protects LDL cholesterol particles which hang around from becoming oxidised, a vital step in hampering the heart disease process.
Furthermore, mice studies have shown that the acetic acid in ACV is useful in reducing serum cholesterol and triglycerides, and as mentioned, human studies prove that drinking apple cider vinegar along with high-carb meals can increase the ‘fullness’ feeling and reduce the number of calories you eat for the rest of the day.
Given that body weight is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, this only strengthens the claims that ACV helps in this area.
Along with a good-quality fish oil, consuming apple cider vinegar is a recommended step towards protecting your heart.
It’s certainly not a panacea, but there is enough evidence to support the purported benefits of apple cider vinegar for skin, hair, digestion, diabetes, heartburn, weight loss and more.
Just remember to use raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Employ it as a flavouring in food, mix it with water, honey or even olive oil (such as in a healthy salad dressing) or apply topically to the skin where relevant.
Apple cider vinegar can help to lower cholesterol thanks to the presence of pectin, a complex carbohydrate and soluble fibre found in apples.