If ever an unlikely liquid was having a moment, it would be apple cider vinegar. Long overlooked and having spent time gathering dust at the back of our food cupboards, the acidic potion of fermented apple juice has become a coveted wellness essential, and it's got nothing to do with flavouring food...
In recent years, the internet has been rife with bold claims about the vinegar, promising it can aid anything from weight loss and skincare to blood sugar and cholesterol – its potential health benefits are virtually unrivalled.
The vinegar has even amassed a huge celebrity fanbase, with A-listers such as Heidi Klum, Scarlett Johansson, Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Aniston (to name a few), all self-confessed ACV lovers.
But in a world of information overload, what are the actual benefits of apple cider vinegar, and have they been proven?
Benefits of apple cider vinegar on skin
Apple cider vinegar has a high PH, and can therefore cleanse the skin of bacteria, soften the stratum corneum (protective cell layers of skin), reduce infections and smooth pores.
'Apple cider vinegar has been proven to have many benefits to the skin and can help with a number of additional ailments,' explains Dr Ross Perry, medical director of CosmedicsUK to Prima.co.uk.
'Most commonly it can be used to treat acne prone skin by dabbing on a little at night, leaving for 30 mins and rinsing off. Raw apple cider vinegar balances the natural pH of the skin to help clear excess oil. However, it isn’t for everyone and those with super sensitive skin may want to avoid as it can cause irritation.'
Acne aside, Dr Perry explains that ACV contains alpha hydroxy acids which help remove dead skin cells and dirt and debris built up over the day.
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'The vinegar can therefore be used as a cleanser or toner as it unclogs the pores and helps to prevent breakouts,' he continues. 'Apple cider vinegar can also help by creating a protective layer to avoid our skin drying out. This is particularly beneficial in winter when our skin tends to be drier because of the elements such as cold weather and central heating.'
For those who've accidentally had a little too much sun, a capful of the vinegar can actually soothe the skin, as the team at Willy's Apple Cider reveals: 'Adding a capful of Willy’s Apple Cider to your bath will neutralise the burn. Soaking for a few minutes will help to restore your skins pH levels, cooling the skin.' A recent study found that apple cider vinegar can burn and irritate the skin, so make sure it's thoroughly mixed into the bath water.
Benefits of apple cider vinegar on hair
The idea of using vinegar on our hair might seem mad, but it turns out apple cider vinegar can actually boost hair health, being described by Joanne Dodds of Hairtrade.com as a 'wonder product for your hair'.
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'Using it as an after-shampoo rinse will leave your hair soft, shiny and smooth,' she tells Prima.co.uk. 'Simply add a quarter cup of water to a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar and work it into your scalp. Wrap a towel around your head and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before washing it off. Do this a couple of times a week for the best results.'
The fermented juice will also aid those suffering from dandruff, with the Willy's team explaining that, 'In the same way that changing the PH balance makes your hair shiny, spraying Willy’s ACV onto your scalp twice a week (1:1 mixed with water) will stop the scalp overproducing yeast, which is the cause of dandruff.'
While these claims regarding skin and hair do exist, it's important to bear in mind that there is no scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar can improve the quality of either. It is also important to never apply the vinegar directly to the skin or scalp without being heavily diluted as it can cause burns.
Benefits of apple cider vinegar on teeth
Despite being extremely acidic – and therefore synonymous with stripping the tooth's natural enamel – apple cider vinegar is actually one of the best all-natural teeth whiteners, according to Willy's. 'The acetic acid removes any build-up of plaque removing stubborn stains and brightening your smile,' the team explain.
'Create a gentle, none abrasive mouthwash by mixing a teaspoon of ACV with a glass of water and use as a rinse.'
Much like with hair and skin, these claims are not based on scientific evidence. As apple cider vinegar is extremely acidic, regular undiluted consumption can weaken the tooth enamel and damage the throat, so it is very important to heavily dilute the vinegar with water.
Other benefits of apple cider vinegar
One of the biggest claims surrounding apple cider vinegar is that it can speed up weight loss, suppressing appetite and aiding digestion, through its level of healthy bacteria.
A Japanese study on 144 people actually indicated that the liquid has an impressive impact on body fat and weight, with those who consumed two tablespoons a day losing an average of 1.7kg over a 12-week period – with no other dieting.
Lowering cholesterol and blood sugar
Surprisingly, studies have shown that a daily dose of apple cider vinegar can actually help reduce cholesterol levels, which in turn can decrease the chance of strokes, heart attacks and peripheral artery disease.
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In 2016, a study found that a diluted dose of the liquid twice a day can actually slash overall blood sugar levels by as much as 13 percent. The same study, conducted by Aston University and the Trust Me I'm a Doctor team found that the liquid also helps control blood sugar levels, reducing the amount of sugar in bloody by 36 percent over a 90-minute period. This means that if you consume the liquid before a carb-rich meal, less sugar will be absorbed.
Watch out for the 'Mother'
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If you, like us, are heading to your local shop ASAP to pick up a bottle of this seemingly wonder liquid, it is important to make sure it's the right sort – and has the 'mother'. 'Some vinegar’s contain a substance called the "Mother",' Spoon Guru’s expert nutritionist Charlotte Harrison tells Prima.co.uk.
'This is the substance which can sometimes be seen at the bottom of vinegar bottles. It is a protein which for centuries has been believe to contain health improving properties including healthy bacteria and acetic acid, therefore suggesting it can aid digestion and support a healthy immune system.'
How and how much
It's important to remember that apple cider vinegar is a very acidic liquid, and can potentially damage your internal organs if not ingested properly. It is best to spread your intake into two-three doses a day, diluting it with lots of water, tea or mixing it into olive oil as a salad dressing.
We may be getting ahead of ourselves, and okay, we know there's very little scientific evidence, but we think we've just found our new favourite liquid in the whole world!
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