Apple cider vinegar is a substance that has been around holistic, alternative and Paleo circles for quite some time now. It is a type of vinegar made from apple must or cider, and will usually be pale or moderately amber in color.
One important element to look for in apple cider vinegar is the “mother.” This is found in organic and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and has a cobweb-like look. This is similar to kombucha. The liquid from crushed apples have yeast and bacteria added, which causes fermentation to occur. The sugars then turn into alcohol. Next, acetobacter (bacteria) turns the alcohol into vinegar. Vinegar, in turn, contains a large amount of acetic acid.
One interesting description of the history of apple cider vinegar describes it as being used throughout the history of civilization. Allegedly dating back 10,000 years and used by Hippocrates, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Parisians, Columbus, Japanese and Americans, it is made out to be a “cure-all,” with uses from a condiment to a deodorant.
However, since this comes from a company selling apple cider vinegar, how much are we to believe? Other sources cite a similar albeit less grandiose story with additional details. They cite that Dr. D.C. Jarvis wrote a book in 1958, which claimed apple cider vinegar as a cure-all; that it could help destroy harmful bacteria in the digestive tract, and that it is also rich in potassium (it’s not). Of the two references, this is both a more recent, and more accurate, portrayal of the history of apple cider vinegar.
It should be noted, right off the bat, that there is not a definitive history available that I could find, and that many of the marketing claims don’t have much substantiation in the way of scientific backing. However, it is a very easy-to-make product, which may interest some readers who want to try it as a home remedy. Sometimes it is more beneficial to try slightly more “natural” products, rather than immediately resort to harsh, man-made products. Just exercise use with caution, as apple cider vinegar is a somewhat controversial substance.
Make Your Own
Many interested (and budget-conscious) readers will likely want to know how to make their own apple cider vinegar. A very simple, easy-to-follow process can be found on the blog “Learning And Yearning”.
The author’s recipe is below:
- 6 sweet apples (preferably organic; ours were low-spray)
- 2 T. raw apple cider vinegar with the mother
- 2 T. raw honey
- chlorine-free water to cover apples
- 2 qt. wide mouth glass jar
- cheesecloth, or coffee filter
Cut 6 apples into about 12 pieces each and place them in a 2 quart wide mouth glass jar. Add the raw honey, and the raw apple cider vinegar. Be sure to use a brand like this, which contains the mother. Cover the apples with chlorine-free water, and cover the jar with cheesecloth, or a coffee filter. A rubber band will help to hold the cover in place.
Now place this in a warm place for 2 weeks. The top of the refrigerator is generally a good place since the fridge throws heat. After 2 weeks, strain the liquid from the container into a glass canning jar. There should be almost a quart of liquid. Compost the apple solids or feed to your chickens. Cover the jar again with the cheesecloth or coffee filter and return to a warm spot. Check the liquid about once a week by tasting a small amount. You’ll know when it’s vinegar. A SCOBY may form on the top, which is great. You may use the SCOBY to make a new batch of vinegar. Stop the fermentation by covering your jar with a lid and placing it in the refrigerator.
If one was to perform an internet search for “apple cider vinegar,” uses will vary greatly. It seems to be almost a cure-all, a traditional remedy that can solve just about any problem. Often used in marinades, chutneys, and salad dressings, apple cider vinegar is claimed as being extremely versatile.
Here is a comprehensive list of its purported uses:
-Use as a detox to cleanse the kidneys
-Drink or supplement to prevent flu
-Reduces inflammation from arthritis
-Relieves sinus pressure and fights infection
-Aids weight loss by decreasing appetite and increasing fat burn
-Relieves allergies and asthma symptoms
-Balances the body’s pH level
-Reduces blood glucose level in diabetics
-Removes nail fungus
-Soothes bug bites and other minor skin irritations
-Taken with warm water and honey before bedtime, ACV may help with sleep issues
-Has anti-inflammatory properties
-Relieves pain from jellyfish stings
-Aids in relieving chest congestion
-Promotes bowel movements and eases constipation
-Can help stop hiccups
-Promotes sinus drainage
-Treats ear infections
-Promotes growth of healthy flora
-Helps control sugar cravings
-Helps cure strep throat
-Helps treat eczema
-Increases energy and boosts metabolism
-Relaxes sore muscles
-Lowers blood pressure
Now is there documented, scientific proof for all of those claims? Certainly not. I will leave it up to the reader to decide if it is worth their time to try apple cider vinegar for all of those ailments, and only cover a few of its more well-known purported uses.
There is simply not enough scientific evidence to support claims on using apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Acetic acid, a component of apple cider vinegar, has been sparingly studied for weight loss, with one study showing favorable outcomes. Acetic acid has also been studied to have beneficial impacts on serum cholesterol, at least in rats. But if you’re looking for a weight loss solution, it is best not to start here.
Organic and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar will contain a “mother,” which is a group of beneficial, living enzymes. When purchasing apple cider vinegar, it is important to make the distinction between an organic, unpasteurized source, and one that is not. If one is to look at a nutritional analysis of apple cider vinegar, however, it is not nearly as nutritionally dense as many proponents would have you believe.
Those that tout apple cider vinegar as a cure-all cite that is rich in: potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, pectin (soluble fiber) and amino acids. However, as pointed out by Gayle Povis Alleman, MS, RD, apple cider vinegar is actually very low in most of these. Calcium-wise, it is not nearly close to the 300 milligrams which are found in milk. This is important to note, as many will cite that it does have as much calcium as milk. With the RDA of milk being 1,000 milligrams, this is a potentially dangerous claim to the health of those who believe it. I’m not sure where Dr. Jarvis pulled his information from, but apple cider vinegar has very little potassium, as well.
Furthermore, apple cider vinegar contains no significant amounts of amino acids, no amount of fiber (it’s commonly claimed that it has pectin, a soluble type of fiber) or any vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, etc. The only mechanism of action seems to be acetic acid, which is responsible for the sour taste and intense smell. The pH changes that acetic acid causes, may be helpful. However, clearly the claims behind this product are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Does this mean that apple cider vinegar is useless? Not exactly. Apple cider vinegar may contain phytochemicals that we have yet to discover, and also can help in controlling blood sugar levels and may help increase calcium absorption. It is also an important substance to try when dealing with digestive issues, as noted below.
Possibly the best use for apple cider vinegar may be to help aid in cases of GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. As Chris Kresser points out, apple cider vinegar often can help relieve symptoms of GERD. It can also help relieve symptoms of heartburn. However, if you have been taking acid suppressing drugs for a long period of time, it may be better to take a HCL supplement, which will help with nutrient absorption. GERD sufferers should also avoid drinking water with meals, because it will interfere with the balance of stomach acid. Chris also goes on to state that vitamin B12, folic acid, calcium, iron and zinc may also be low in GERD sufferers, so that is something to look out for.
It should be noted that apple cider vinegar, while potentially beneficial, does not tend to work as well as HCL supplements. Problems with absorbing nutrients are nearly always present in cases of GERD, and can lead to many other problems. As is becoming increasingly apparent, apple cider vinegar may be beneficial in some cases, but it is clearly not the cure-all miracle substance that many have claimed it to be.
This concludes part one, of my piece on apple cider vinegar. Part two covers how to use apple cider vinegar, at what dosage, recipes and many other interesting tidbits!
Be sure to check out Apple Cider Vinegar: Part 2!