ACV: From ancient remedy to social media sensation

Today’s TikTok users have embraced a seemingly new health craze: apple cider vinegar (ACV). But the truth is, this “fad” is anything but new.

The use of ACV as a home remedy goes back thousands of years. In 400 BC, Hippocrates prescribed it mixed with honey to treat coughs and colds, among other illnesses. It’s also been used in African and Chinese traditional medicine to stimulate circulation, aid in liver detoxification, purify blood, cleanse lymph nodes and improve immune system responses.

There are even a couple of newer uses for ACV that dovetail with some health ailments that have been on the rise in recent years…

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Ways in which ACV benefits health

Like all vinegar, ACV is made through fermentation. Manufacturers first add yeast to apple juice to break down the natural sugars, resulting in alcohol. Then, they add specific bacteria to convert the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives vinegar its pungent odor and taste and some of its health benefits.

Fruit vinegars like ACV also contain polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The bacteria used in making ACV appears as a cloudy, spongy or stringy mass known as the “mother.” Some manufacturers filter ACV to remove the mother, while others bottle the ACV with the mother and label the product accordingly. ACV with the mother is believed to have more health benefits than filtered ACV due to the probiotics, enzymes and nutrients the mother contains.

Here are some ailments that ACV is being used for nowadays….

Blood sugar

One of the most interesting hypotheses surrounding ACV is that it helps manage blood sugar levels. And this has proven true in studies in rats and limited studies in humans.

One study had people with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance drink one to two tablespoons of ACV or other types of vinegar mixed with water just before eating meals high in carbohydrates. Results showed these patients experienced less dramatic blood sugar spikes than those who did not consume vinegar before their meals.

Some research suggests that ACV may lower blood sugar spikes by slowing the movement of food through the digestive tract and interfering with certain enzymes that convert carbohydrates into simple sugars.

Weight loss

ACV’s ability to slow the digestive process is similar to the mechanism of action of the popular GLP-1 agonists now widely used for weight loss. But ACV is far cheaper and has fewer side effects than these drugs.

So, is there proof that ACV is effective at supporting weight loss?

One study of 155 adults in Japan found those who consumed two tablespoons of ACV in water every day for three months lost about four pounds. And a trial of 120 people ages 12 to 25 in Lebanon showed those who drank one tablespoon of ACV in water every morning for three months lost an impressive average of 15 pounds.

However, a study that monitored participants after they stopped taking ACV found that, on average, they regained most of the weight they lost within four weeks. Therefore, if you’re going to use ACV as a weight loss aid, you’ll likely need to continue taking it to keep the weight off.

Animal research has demonstrated the ability of acetic acid to reduce fat accumulation in certain tissues and to help increase the release of hormones that signal fullness. This further indicates ACV’s potential usefulness in weight management.

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Gut and digestive health

ACV with the mother has potential probiotic benefits for the gut microbiome and can help prevent unhealthy overgrowth of yeasts like Candida that can destroy the microbiome’s delicate balance.

Also, ACV is a great acid reflux preventative because the acetic acid it contains turns alkaline during digestion and reduces acid. The advice is to take two tablespoons of ACV in a glass of water 30 minutes before eating to normalize the stomach acid and prevent indigestion.

However, it doesn’t work on everyone and in some reports has worsened the condition.


ACV may also benefit acne-prone skin by balancing skin pH, exfoliation, reducing hyperpigmentation and stimulating circulation. But never use ACV straight. According to University of Nebraska Health, always dilute it and do a skin patch test before applying it to larger areas. It can make skin more sensitive to the sun, just like vitamin C extracts, so be sure to apply sunscreen.

Safe consumption of ACV

ACV can interact with certain medications, including some diuretics and drugs for diabetes and heart conditions. If you take any of these drugs, check with your doctor before adding ACV to your daily regimen. Also talk to your doctor if you have low potassium levels, since ACV can further reduce blood potassium.

One thing to always remember is to dilute ACV with water. Mix a tablespoon or two of ACV in a glass of water, and don’t ingest more than two to four tablespoons a day to protect the lining of your esophagus. Also, it’s probably a good idea to drink it with a straw, since even diluted, ACV could erode tooth enamel.

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1. Is Apple Cider Vinegar Really a Cure-All? — The New York Times

2. What Is the Mother in Apple Cider Vinegar? ACV Explained — MasterClass

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Myths & Facts — WVU Extension

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.