Apple Cider Vinegar
Over the centuries, vinegar has been used for many purposes: making pickles, killing weeds, cleaning coffee makers, polishing armor, and dressing salads. It's also an ancient folk remedy, touted to relieve just about any ailment you can think of.
In recent years, apple cider vinegar has been singled out as an especially helpful health tonic. So it's now sold in both the condiment and the health supplement aisles of your grocery store. While many of the folk medicine uses of vinegar are unproven (or were disproved), a few do have medical research backing them up. Some small studies have hinted that apple cider vinegar could help with several conditions, including diabetes and obesity.
So does consuming apple cider vinegar make sense for your health? Or is vinegar best used for cleaning stains and dyeing Easter eggs? Here's a rundown of the facts.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Vinegar is a product of fermentation. This is a process in which sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage of fermentation, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word comes from the French, meaning "sour wine." While vinegar can be made from all sorts of things -- like many fruits, vegetables, and grains -- apple cider vinegar comes from pulverized apples.
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.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Cure for Everything?
While long used as a folk remedy, apple cider vinegar became well known in the U.S. in the late 1950s, when it was promoted in the best-selling book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health by D. C. Jarvis. During the alternative medicine boom of recent years, apple cider vinegar and apple cider vinegar pills have become a popular dietary supplement.
Look on the back of a box of supplements -- or on the Internet or in the pages of any one of the many books on vinegar and health -- and you'll find some amazing claims. Apple cider vinegar is purported to treat numerous diseases, health conditions, and annoyances. To name a few, it's supposed to kill head lice, reverse aging, ease digestion, and wash toxins from the body.
Most of these claims have no evidence backing them up. Some -- like vinegar's supposed ability to treat lice or warts -- have been studied, and researchers turned up nothing to support their use. Other claims have been backed up by studies, but with a catch: vinegar may work, but not as well as other treatments. For instance, while vinegar is a disinfectant, it doesn't kill as many germs as common cleaners. And while vinegar does seem to help with jelly fish stings -- an old folk remedy -- hot water works better.