We at Urban Clinic have noticed the remarkable healing affects of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in certain instances. Have you ever taken ACV for heartburn and noticed it immediately dissipates the symptoms faster and better than anything else? We would rather take this natural remedy any day over aluminum-containing ant-acids. Some other reported benefits from ingesting ACV include cures for allergies, sinus infections, acne, high cholesterol, flu, bronchitis, chronic fatigue, candida, acid reflux, sore throats, rosacea, warts, contact dermatitis, arthritis, and gout. We wanted to look into some of these reported applications and see if there was any documented research to support the widely touted claims. Here’s what we found.
The Substance: Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is a natural, nontoxic, biodegradable substance and is said has disinfecting and cleaning properties. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar results from crushing fresh, organically grown apples and allowing them to mature in wooden barrels (different from the refined and distilled vinegars found in supermarkets). During this process, sugar in the apple cider is broken down by bacteria and yeast into alcohol and then into vinegar. When the vinegar matures, it contains a dark, cloudy, bacterial foam which becomes visible when the rich brownish liquid is held to the light. Because it is not pasteurized and there are two fermentation processes, enzymes, nutrients and minerals are retained that other vinegars in grocery stores may not have due to over-processing, over-heating, and filtration.
The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, is acetic acid. However vinegars also have other acids, vitamins, mineral salts, and amino acids. ACV contains minerals and trace elements such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chlorine, sodium, sulfur, copper, iron, silicon and fluorine.
ACV gained popularity as a remedy after the book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health, written by D.C. Jarvis, M.D., was published in 1958. Reported cures and health benefits include applications such as:
- Sinus infections
- Allergies in both humans and animals
- Sore throats
- Flu and Low immune system
- High cholesterol
- Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, warts, and contact dermatitis
- Constipation, diarrhea and other digestive disorders
- Arthritis and gout
- Bladder stones
- Urinary tract infections
- Fatigue / Low energy
- Age Spots
- Bad breath and body odor
- Insulin Resistance
- Preventing muscle fatigue after exercise
- Increasing metabolism and helping with weight loss
- Protection against food poisoning
The anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties reported in ACV likely come from the malic and acetic acid in the vinegar. If there’s one thing natural practitioners and medical scientists can agree on, it’s that ACV’s acetic acid content can increase the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. The acetic acid reacts with base or acid compounds in the body to form acetate, rendering them chemically bioavailable for the body’s utilization. Additionally, Apple Cider Vinegar can reduce the toxicity of certain compounds by converting the toxin into an acetate compound, which is less toxic. This could help reduce symptoms and risk levels of numerous ailments ranging from fatigue to the flue, and possibly even cancer, which is said to thrive in an acidic environment.
ACV may help decrease your risk by increasing calcium absorption, which is especially important for women. Dietary calcium is often difficult to obtain due to lactose intolerance and compounds in food that often inhibit calcium absorption.
High blood pressure, High cholesterol, heart disease
It has been reported that a daily dose of ACV in water can have a remarkable effect on high blood pressure in just a few weeks. Studies suggest that it may increase levels of nitric oxide, a compound in the body that relaxes blood vessels, or inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme from producing angiotensin II, a hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict or narrow.
The tasty aspect of vinegar makes it a suitable replacement for high sodium and high fat ingredients which could lower cholesterol and heart disease risk factors. A 2006 study in rats found that acetic acid significantly lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Human trials have not yet been conducted.
These data indicate that vinegar can significantly improve insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects. Acetic acid has been shown to suppress disaccharidase activity and to raise glucose-6-phosphate concentrations in skeletal muscle.
Type II Diabetes
In 2004 the American Diabetes Association published a study in the journal Diabetes Care that indicates that vinegar increased overall insulin sensitivity 34% in study participants who were insulin-resistant and 19% in those with type 2 diabetes. That means their bodies became more receptive to insulin, allowing the hormone to do its job of getting sugar out of the blood and into the cells. Blood sugar and blood insulin levels were lower than normal in the insulin-resistant participants, which is good news. Worth noting, the control group (did not have diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition but were given the vinegar solution) also experienced a reduction in insulin levels in the blood. These findings are important because in addition to the nerve damage caused by consistently elevated blood sugar levels, several chronic conditions, including heart disease, have been linked to excess insulin in the blood over prolonged periods of time.
Researchers at Arizona State University published a preliminary study in Diabetes Care, which examined people with type II diabetes and found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar at bedtime had a favorable impact on blood glucose levels the next day. Other studies have found that vinegar can lower the post-meal rise in glucose. The acetic acid in vinegar is thought to slow starch digestion and reduce the glcyemic index of starchy foods. A small 2005 study compared the effect of vinegar with white bread on blood glucose and insulin levels. Researchers found that taking vinegar with white bread results in lower post-meal blood glucose and insulin levels and higher levels of satiety. The American Diabetes Association quoted this 2005 study stating that “adding a little vinegar to the diet may help you feel full longer. It may also help control blood glucose and insulin levels.”
Obesity and Weight Loss
It has been claimed that ACV breaks down fat and is widely used for a metabolism boost and to lose weight. Some say that the pectin, enzymes, vitamins, or potassium may help with weight loss, but there is no reliable research proving that the contents of ACV can influence the body’s metabolic rate or make the body “burn fat” faster than it normally would.
ACV may affect satiety by lowering the glycemic index of carbohydrates eaten at a meal. The 2005 white bread study mentioned above indicates that ACV increases the feeling of being full and satisfied. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition stated that vinegar is effective at reducing the glycemic effect of food, an effect that makes people eat less and feel more satisfied. A 2007 confirms that ACV acts by reducing the gastric emptying rate, which makes sense why it would increase the feeling of being full and satisfied, which would facilitate a lower calorie intake and thus weight loss.
Vinegar is tasty and low in calories, serving as a great replacement for high fat ingredients. Compare the 30 calories in ½ cup with the nearly 800 calories in half a cup of mayonnaise, and you have huge calorie reduction potential with substituting it as an ingredient and condiment.
Cancer and other illness
Contrary to what you might think of vinegar, ACV is actually alkaline-forming in the body. When the human body digests nutrients, it undergoes a process called oxidation, which is similar to burning and the end result is either alkaline or acidic. If ACV was to be “burned”, what is left over becomes ash which has an alkaline pH when dissolved with water. It is widely thought by natural practitioners that cancer develops and thrives in an acidic environment. This is a controversial topic and many medical doctors claim there is a lack of scientific evidence proving this theory; however we found this study that demonstrated that an acidic intra-tumor environment may markedly perturb tumor cell proliferation and tumor growth.
Other illnesses such as gout and Candida (yeast) thrive in an acidic environment. ACV’s alkalizing effect may be helpful in keeping your pH alkaline and preventing these illnesses, which could in turn help to combat fatigue, cold and flu, and a weak immune system.
We know this one works, try it for yourself! Take 1 tablespoon with or without water or juice as soon as symptoms appear.
ACV can help to restore the scalp’s PH balance and kill microorganisms such as yeast and fungus. Try mixing equal parts ACV and water and spritzing onto the scalp, leave on for 15-30 minutes and repeat twice per week.
A typical application is one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water and the solution is applied directly onto the pimple. Caution should be used with applying any vinegar to the skin.
Studies show ACV having no effect on treating warts but we have read about and heard of several instances where ACV has successfully treated warts.
There is a scientific evidence and explanation for some of the widely touted ACV claims, particularly with respect to the digestion and metabolism of foods, which can be particularly helpful in combating obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. The acetic acid in ACV may also improve your body’s ability to absorb certain essential minerals locked in foods. Consider incorporating ACV into meals or drinking a mild tonic of vinegar and water just before or with meals.
How to take ACV
We recommend purchasing only natural Apple Cider Vinegar, with an ideal acidity (pH) level of 5 to 7. Always shake the bottle well before use to ensure enzymes and minerals are evenly distributed in the liquid. Dilute using 2 tbsp ACV per gallon of water or 2 tsp per 16 oz of water, and sip 1-2 glasses throughout the day to ensure an even alkalized intake. Make sure to use purified water. Add pinch of baking soda to neutralize acidity. If you drink a lot of water throughout the day, you could add just a splash of ACV to your glass each time.
If you don’t like the taste try adding a sweetener such as raw local honey, agave nectar, or stevia. Adding to fresh squeezed juice, lemon juice or lemon powder with a sweetener would make a much lighter tasting beverage that may be easier to sip. Sip through a straw to avoid acid from wearing down on tooth enamel.
We like Bragg’s organic raw natural Apple Cider Vinegar. But other varieties do exist – just make sure it’s raw and not pasteurized.
We would like to stress that some of the above mentioned claims for ACV cures have no scientific research behind them. The applications mentioned above may be effective but less effective compared to medical treatments. For example, vinegar has antibacterial properties and can act as a disinfectant but it doesn’t kill as many germs as common cleaners.
Drinking acidic substances or even lemon juices on a regular basis can deteriorate dental enamel, which can make your teeth yellow and make them more sensitive to heat and cold. To prevent this, dilute the vinegar with water or a pinch of baking soda to reduce the acidity level. Regular ingestion of ACV could also cause damage to the delicate lining of the digestive tract and it could possibly worsen problems with digestion and heartburn. Excessive consumption could damage the esophagus, stomach lining, and duodenum. Heavy ACV use could cause low potassium levels, lower bone density, and lower insulin levels. If you suffer from osteoporosis, low potassium levels, or diabetes consult your doctor before using ACV. Always seek professional medical treatment for medical conditions.
Possible Drug Interactions
Prolonged ACV consumption could lower potassium levels, which could increase the risk of toxicity of drugs such as Lanoxin (digoxin), insulin, laxatives and diuretics such as Lasix (furosemide). ACV may affect blood glucose and insulin levels, which could have an enhancing effect on people taking diabetes medications. Because ACV may lower blood pressure, it may also have an additive effect when combined with high blood pressure medications. Always seek professional medical advice for medical conditions.