8 Touted Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (and What the Research Says)

This content originally appeared on Everyday Health. Republished with permission.

By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers — Medically reviewed by Justin Laube, MD

Flavorful and affordable, apple cider vinegar is found in virtually every supermarket nationwide for good reason: It adds a subtle and delicious tartness to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. But is apple cider vinegar (ACV) also a natural “elixir” with good-for-you benefits — as many alternative medicine aficionados and online articles claim?

Maybe. Although the number of studies in humans is small and more research is needed, some experts have noted that ACV may have some benefits.

“Apple cider vinegar is a great product to use for many health and skin benefits,” says Michael Shapiro, MD, medical director of Vanguard Dermatology and a clinical instructor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

As with any medical condition, consult a health professional for proper diagnosis, management, and guidance before trying an alternative treatment like ACV on your own for your health conditions. There can be risks and side effects from using apple cider vinegar, especially when it’s not properly diluted.

With those cautions in mind, here’s how this versatile remedy might aid your health.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Clear Up Your Skin

Expert opinion on the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar for skin care is mixed, and high-quality research on the subject is lacking. So it’s best to check with your dermatologist before working ACV into your skin-care routine.

Dr. Shapiro sees some potential benefits. “The acidity in vinegar can help clear skin and stop acne by drying out the blemishes and allowing for clear skin to take its place,” he says. “Apple cider vinegar can also help regulate the pH levels in your skin, which keeps it at optimum levels between being oily and dry.”

The right PH balance helps ensure that the outer layer of your skin, the acid mantle, is healthy.

To try apple cider vinegar for your skin, first wash the target skin area as you normally would, then gently pat a washcloth soaked in diluted ACV over your skin. It’s important to dilute the vinegar first, as it contains natural acids that may cause major irritation, even burns, if it is applied full strength to the skin, as a study reported. You may want to do a test patch first, especially if you have sensitive skin, by applying the diluted ACV on a small, less-visible area (such as behind your ear) and then waiting 24 hours to check for redness, irritation, or tenderness.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar May Boost Weight Loss

According to Harvard Health Publishing, ACV’s acetic acid has been shown to reduce the absorption of starches and slow digestion. But does this mean that ACV could help with weight loss?

Potentially, according to findings from one randomized clinical trial. Participants on a lower-calorie diet who drank 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of ACV diluted in water with lunch and dinner reported a decrease in appetite and lost 8.8 pounds over 12 weeks. Those who did not drink ACV lost only 5 pounds. (The vinegar drinkers also had decreased hip circumference and reduced triglycerides.)

Another small study found that the acetic acid in vinegar helped people who ate plain white bread at breakfast stay fuller longer than a control group. A review from 2022 found four of six short-term studies showed that vinegar suppressed appetite, although no long-term studies were able to reproduce these results.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Control Blood Sugar

A small study of adults with type 2 diabetes found that participants who downed 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar diluted in water with a bedtime protein snack (1 ounce of cheese) had lower blood sugar levels the next morning than those same participants did after they downed 2 tbsp of plain water with the same bedtime snack. And a randomized study published in 2023 found similar results, reporting that people with type 2 diabetes who took ACV over eight weeks had lower fasting blood glucose, A1C, and harmful cholesterol levels compared to a control group. 

4. Apple Cider Vinegar Could Chase Away Bad Breath

Because apple cider vinegar is acidic and contains minerals, it may work as a natural bacteria-fighting agent that targets bad breath, says Marc Lowenberg, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. “Mix a half tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste to brush on your teeth,” he says. The mixture is weak enough to remove bacteria while keeping tooth enamel intact, he says. “As a bonus, it can also help remove surface stains,” Lowenberg adds. (Note that high-quality published studies that demonstrate this benefit are lacking.)

5. Apple Cider Vinegar May Soothe Psoriasis Symptoms

If you’re plagued with psoriasis-related scaly patches, ACV may help relieve the irritating itching. “I recommend psoriasis sufferers use diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner and apply it directly to dry spots on the skin, using a cotton pad or sponge,” Shapiro says. If your hands or feet are a concern, he recommends soaking them in a bowl of diluted apple cider vinegar, although research about apple cider vinegar and psoriasis is limited.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar May Help Zap Toe Fungus

Apple cider vinegar has long been a popular home remedy for treating onychomycosis, aka toe fungus, a common condition that discolors and thickens the toenail, although there are no clinical studies to support ACV’s effectiveness for this. “Apple cider vinegar can be a natural and effective treatment for toe fungus,” Shapiro says. He advises treating toenail fungus at home with an apple cider vinegar footbath. “Since apple cider vinegar is acidic, it works to create an unfriendly environment for the fungus without being so strong as to damage the surrounding area of skin and nails,” he says. If you want to try this, it’s recommended to soak the affected toe in a 50:50 mix of ACV and warm water for 15 to 30 minutes, twice daily, for a few days at most. Finish by drying the area thoroughly.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar May Get Rid of Dandruff

Although published clinical research is lacking, Shapiro has also found apple cider vinegar to be helpful for some of his patients with dandruff and an itchy scalp. “It contains alpha hydroxy acids that work to exfoliate the top layers of the skin to expose the smoother, softer skin below,” Shapiro says. He recommends saturating your scalp with a mixture of one to four parts water and one part vinegar several times a week. Leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

8. Apple Cider Vinegar May Ease the Stinging Pain of Shingles

Unfortunately, there is no cure for shingles, a painful rash triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Although there isn’t strong clinical evidence, some report that apple cider vinegar may help reduce the pain from shingles. “Using apple cider vinegar externally helps promote blood circulation in the skin and can prevent bacteria and regulate pH levels,” Shapiro says. Both of these actions make apple cider vinegar a potential home remedy for shingles and other conditions that cause skin irritation, such as insect bites and hives. To try it, Shapiro advises pouring 1 cup of apple cider vinegar into a tub of cool bathwater and soaking for 10 minutes a day. Vinegar is also mentioned as a way to help with shingles blisters by diluting it with water and using it in a cold compress, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

Resources

Bunick CG et al. Chemical Burn From Topical Apple Cider Vinegar. Journal of the American Academy of DermatologyOctober 2012.
Shmerling RH. Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss: Does It Really Work? Harvard Health Publishing. June 15, 2023.
Khezri SS et al. Beneficial Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index and Lipid Profile in Overweight or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Functional Foods. April 2018.
Östman E et al. Vinegar Supplementation Lowers Glucose and Insulin Responses and Increases Satiety After a Bread Meal in Healthy Subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 1, 2005.
Hasan F et al. The Effects of Vinegar/Acetic Acid Intake on Appetite Measures and Energy Consumption: A Systematic Literature Review. Current Developments in Nutrition. June 2022.
White AM et al. Vinegar Ingestion at Bedtime Moderates Waking Glucose Concentrations in Adults With Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. November 2007.
Jafarirad S et al. The Improvement Effect of Apple Cider Vinegar as a Functional Food on Anthropometric Indices, Blood Glucose and Lipid Profile in Diabetic Patients: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Frontiers in Clinical Diabetes and Healthcare. November 13, 2023.
Oller B. Shingles. American Academy of Family Physicians. November 2023.

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