Have you ever heard of oxymel?
It’s described in literature as wine, first consumed in Ancient Greece. It was prescribed during the Renaissance and all the way up to Victorian times for conditions like pink eye; in the era’s medical textbooks it’s referred to by its Latin name, oxymellis.
Why is this obscure substance important?
Because it was made from honey and vinegar – the same mixture that an enormous number of people drink regularly today, because of its many supposed health benefits.
The combination of apple cider vinegar and honey is usually mixed with warm water and drunk on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning or before going to bed. It has been credited with everything from helping with weight loss to fighting cancer, it’s been a popular folk remedy for centuries, and you can’t search for phrases like “amazing cures” without coming across a recipe combining honey and apple cider vinegar.
The two ingredients can be used, along with olive oil and spices, to make a fabulous salad dressing. But can they really perform medical miracles when you drink them together?
Here’s a closer look at apple cider vinegar and honey. We’ll discuss them separately, and then see what (if anything) their marriage in a vinegar/honey drink can really do.
How Apple Cider Vinegar is Created
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has already been proven to have many health benefits closely linked to those claimed for the vinegar/honey combination.
ACV is created when apple juice is first fermented to turn it into alcohol. A “mother” bacteria solution (which includes protein and enzymes as well as “good” bacteria) is then added, to convert the alcohol into raw apple cider vinegar. The mother is usually removed before the vinegar is sold commercially, because it’s not visually appealing. However, the mother is really the healthiest component in raw ACV, and those who use the vinegar for medicinal purposes drink it with the mother still inside.
The main – and most important – byproduct of that entire process is acetic acid, which is not only responsible for the characteristically sour taste of all vinegars, but also contributes many of the health benefits attributed to apple cider vinegar.
Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
You already know that the keys to ACV’s benefits are the mother and the acetic acid. Here’s what they can do, either separately or working together.
Weight Loss, Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
Studies done in Japan (1) and Iran (2), and published in major journals, have each shown that participants regularly consuming apple cider vinegar lost more weight than control subjects, while also lowering their BMI (body mass index), amount of belly fat, and triglycerides. The weight loss wasn’t enormous, but it was significant.
There has also been preliminary animal research indicating that consuming ACV may be able to treat high cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides, while also decreasing “bad” cholesterol. (3) It’s believed those results are caused by the acetic acid in the vinegar.
And there is a lot of evidence that apple cider vinegar is an effective treatment for those with type-2 diabetes, and pre-diabetics with high blood sugar. There are a number of studies confirming it, including one from the University of Arizona showing that ACV before bed improves fasting blood sugar levels in the morning (4), and another documenting improvement in insulin sensitivity when consuming ACV during meals (5).
One other note: since apples are high in pectin which is an insoluble fiber, ACV is too. If you drink a glass of water containing two tablespoons of ACV before meals, you’ll feel full and eat less.
Many of the supposed benefits of apple cider vinegar have been “debunked” by academics. These have been confirmed.
Blood Pressure, Heart Disease and Cancer?
There are many claims that regularly drinking apple cider vinegar can lower blood pressure and by extension, reduce the risk of heart disease.
The lowered blood sugar we’ve already discussed is certainly one component in fighting heart disease. However, the results on blood pressure are less definitive. Chinese and Japanese (6) research has shown there’s a possibility that acetic acid does indeed lower blood pressure – but that was in rats. There has been no confirmation in any human testing.
Similarly, several animal or lab studies have shown that vinegar may have the power to shrink tumors or even kill cancerous cells, but again, there’s no evidence to that effect based on human subjects.
All of those reports are somewhat encouraging, but not exactly a reason to run to the health food store for some Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar.
Those who believe that a regular detox regime helps them cleanse their body may not have scientific evidence for its efficacy, but they swear by it.
One common recipe is to combine a cup of water (hot water helps everything mix well) with two tablespoons of ACV plus lemon juice, ginger, cayenne pepper and cinnamon (adding organic honey is optional). If you’re the detox type of person – enjoy it.
Other Health Claims for ACV, and Possible Drawbacks
One more benefit of ACV has been established, and it makes sense. Vinegar is commonly used to clean everything from wounds to toilets because it kills bacteria. It’s also a good way to kill bacteria like E. Coli that may be in food, so using ACV in salad dressing is one way to lessen the possibility of contracting food poisoning.
Additionally, the mother in ACV is essentially a probiotic, so it may be a good way to keep your gut flora healthy.
There are unsourced but popular beliefs that unfiltered apple cider vinegar can help treat conditions and illnesses like acid reflux and joint pain, because of the acetic acid and enzymes in ACV. None of those beliefs have been proven.
However, there may be some downsides to drinking apple cider vinegar. Some say they suffer heartburn from the acetic acid in ACV, and that acid has been shown to increase the risk of tooth decay because it can eat away at tooth enamel. Be on the lookout for both if you decide to give ACV a try.
Health Benefits of Honey
The health benefits of raw honey have been well documented, and are discussed in depth elsewhere on this website, Raw unfiltered honey that still contains propolis (bee glue) and bee pollen is a powerful weapon against many illnesses and disease ranging from asthma and diabetes, to blood pressure and heart disease. That’s because honey has strong antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, with some types of honey revered for their medical benefits.
Honey is just as good for less serious ailments, great for coughs and sore throats, and excellent for wound care. Some varieties of honey have greater health benefits than others, but it’s clearly a potent weapon against a number of medical issues.
Combining Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar
That’s a lot of good health news. Here’s the bad: there’s no evidence of any kind that there’s an additive effect to mixing honey and apple cider vinegar. In other words, whatever health benefits ACV or raw honey may have, you’ll experience those benefits whether you consume them separately or together.
Evidence is quite strong, though, that both honey and apple cider vinegar are worthwhile addition to any diet – and it’s easier to enjoy each of them, if you don’t have to drink them together before bed.