apple cider vinegar
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What Is Vinegar?

It's made when bacteria feed on sugars and alcohol in fruit juices, wine, honey, and similar liquids. The result is an acetic acid solution that may have other nutrients, too. Apple cider vinegar starts with juice made from apples. There doesn't seem to be anything special about its health benefits, compared with other types of vinegar. Perhaps the milder flavor and smell have helped boost its reputation.

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man standing on scale
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Lose Weight

In one study, overweight people who drank 1 or 2 ounces of vinegar (diluted with other liquid) lost weight at a slightly faster rate. And they lost belly fat. But there's no evidence that lots of vinegar will help you drop lots of pounds, or do it quickly.

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person performing glucose test
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Lower Blood Sugar

Vinegar can help someone with diabetes control the amount of glucose in their blood after a meal as well as their A1c, a measure of "average" blood sugar for the past few months. It won't cure diabetes or take the place of prescribed medications. But a couple of teaspoons in water or food at mealtime can help, as long as you don't have kidney disease. High blood sugar over time can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.

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insulin shot
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Insulin Control

Vinegar can also help keep insulin levels lower after you eat. Your cells need this hormone to take glucose from your blood to use for energy. But too much insulin released too often can make your body less sensitive to it -- a condition called insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes or make it worse.

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man mixing salad
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Fighting Germs

Apple cider vinegar -- any vinegar, really -- will kill some germs because of the acetic acid in it. It works best in your food -- to clean up bacteria lingering on your salad leaves, for example. It's not very good at disinfecting a cut or wound. And because it's an acid, there's a chance it could chemically burn delicate skin.

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It's long been suggested -- for different reasons -- as a rinse to tame a flaking scalp. But there's no evidence to confirm that vinegar kills yeast bacteria or fungus, or that it removes shampoo residue or product buildup, or that it makes your scalp more acidic (or why you'd even want that). Stick to products made to treat dandruff, and follow the instructions. If the problem doesn't clear up, see a dermatologist.

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lice closeup
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Some people say vinegar is a good way to get rid of these little critters and their eggs. Science says otherwise. Even when tested against other home remedies -- rubbing alcohol, olive oil, mayonnaise, melted butter, petroleum jelly -- vinegar came in last. 

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jellyfish warning sign on beach
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Jellyfish Sting

Yep! Tuck a bottle of vinegar into your beach bag. It stops the work of the special jellyfish cells (nematocysts) that deliver the venom -- the stuff that makes a sting hurt.

When you get home, dunk the wound in hot water. That stops the venom itself from working. 

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woman brushing teeth
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Whiten Teeth

Vinegar may brighten your teeth, but it also wears away their enamel -- the thin, hard, outer layer of protection. In fact, wait for at least 30 minutes after you eat or drink diluted vinegar to brush your teeth. If your teeth are discolored, look for whitening toothpaste or products approved by the American Dental Association, or talk to your dentist.

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mother of apple cider vinegar in bowl
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Healthy Gut

That murky, thicker liquid that collects at the bottom of some vinegars, called the "mother," is made up of the fermenting bacteria and their harmless waste. Most brands warm vinegar to kill the bacteria before packaging, but mother can develop once air hits the product. Some say the mother gives vinegar more health benefits because the live bacteria act as "probiotics," but there's no scientific evidence yet.

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hemorrhoid cream
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Is a little apple cider vinegar just the ticket for those painful, itchy bumps on your behind? Doctors say no. Even if it feels good in the short term, it can burn your skin and end up making your symptoms worse. Sitz baths and medication are better choices. See your doctor if you can't soothe the burning.

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fruit on a table
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Protect Your Cells

Polyphenols are chemical compounds in fruits, vegetables, wine, coffee, and chocolate. They're antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage linked to cancer and other disease. There's no reason to think the polyphenols in apple cider vinegar can't be just as helpful, but we need more studies to be sure.

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blood pressure check
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Blood Pressure

Scientists know that vinegar will do wonders for your blood pressure -- if you're a rat. Unfortunately, they're not so sure that the same holds true for humans. It's possible, but there's just no evidence to back it up yet. Keep an eye out for more research. 

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white bread
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Curb Your Appetite

When vinegar was served with white bread for breakfast, people said they were more satisfied afterward. But when vinegar was served with cream of wheat, made from a more complex grain that takes longer to digest, it made less of a difference, and the fuller feeling didn't last very long. Stay tuned on this one.

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doctor checking ear
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Ear Infection

Though some studies show that diluted vinegar (2%) may help with ear infections, the solution can also irritate swollen skin in the area. It could also damage specialized hairs of the cochlea, a part of the ear that helps you pick up sounds. Don't try it.

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measuring spoons
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More Is Not Better

Usually, 1-2 tablespoons a day is plenty to drink. There's little evidence that more can help, and too much can cause stomach problems, wear away your teeth, and lower potassium levels. It can also affect the way some drugs work, including water pills (diuretics), laxatives, and medicines for heart disease and diabetes. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking vinegar.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/30/2021 Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 30, 2021


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Popular Science: "Making Vinegar at Home."

The Whole U, University of Washington: "Beyond the Hype: Apple Cider Vinegar as an Alternative Therapy."

Journal of Bioinformatics and Sequence Analysis: "Vinegar Intake Reduces Body Weight, Body Fat Mass, And Serum Triglyceride Levels in Obese Japanese Subjects."

Harvard Health Publications: "Taking aim at belly fat."

Science Driven Nutrition: "Is Apple Cider Vinegar A Miracle Food?"

Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice: "Vinegar consumption can attenuate postprandial glucose and insulin responses; a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials," "Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus."

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Examination of the Antiglycemic Properties of Vinegar in Healthy Adults."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance -- What is insulin?"

Medscape General Medicine: "Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect."

Pediatric Dermatology: "Chemical Burn Caused by Topical Vinegar Application in a Newborn Infant."

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar."

Rose, V. Apple Cider Vinegar: History and Folklore -- Composition -- Medical Research -- Medicinal, Cosmetic, and Household Uses --Commercial and Home Production, iUniverse Incorporated, 2006.

American Academy of Dermatology: "Dandruff: How to treat."

Journal of Pediatric Nursing: "Home remedies to control head lice: assessment of home remedies to control the human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae)."

UpToDate: "Jellyfish stings."

Mouth Healthy: "Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction."

Mayo Clinic: "When and how often should you brush your teeth?"

Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials: "7 Best and Worst Home Remedies for Your Hemorrhoids."

UT Southwestern Medical Center: "5 foods containing potentially heart-healthy polyphenols."

European Journal of Nutrition: "Vinegar decreases blood pressure by down-regulating AT1R expression via the AMPK/PGC-1α/PPARγ pathway in spontaneously hypertensive rats."

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects."

FASEB Journal: "Effects of apple cider vinegar on postprandial blood glucose and satiety."

Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 30, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.