- Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties|
- Lowering Blood Sugar Levels|
- Other Benefits|
- Treating a Sore Throat|
Herbal teas, with or without a teaspoon of honey. Chicken soup. A gargle made with a teaspoon of salt and warm water, or a similar one with baking soda. Lots and lots of vitamin C.
They’re all home remedies to treat sore throat symptoms, and they all work to varying degrees. So do natural approaches like licorice root and echinacea, also used for the throat pain caused by strep throat. Throat lozenges or over-the-counter pain relief meds like ibuprofen and aspirin can help, and drinking a glass of warm water and lemon juice can do a good job of loosening phlegm.
But there are other old-fashioned treatments that aren’t as effective – or can actually be harmful, which are still used by many people. For example, gargling with a mix of water and cayenne pepper, or eating chili peppers (which contain the capsaicin used for nerve pain), won’t do much except burn the throat.
Those are old-fashioned “prescriptions,” though. The latest sore throat remedy to sweep the Internet is more controversial: drinking (or gargling with) a mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm (or hot) water.
To be honest, it’s not all that new; people have been drinking ACV for quite a while because of its proven and suspected health benefits. The web, however, is able to take natural home remedies and turn them viral in a flash.
That’s what has happened with the use of apple cider vinegar for sore throat relief. Its popularity has figuratively gone from zero to 60 in just a few years.
Is it a smart thing to do? Let’s find out.
Why Apple Cider Vinegar Is Considered “Healthy”
An apple a day keeps the doctor away – or so they say. And apple juice is certainly a healthier beverage than soda or beer.
Apple cider vinegar goes one step further, because of how it’s created.
Yeast is added to crushed apples to start the process of fermentation. That creates alcohol. Special bacteria are then added to the alcohol to continue its fermentation. The final product is apple cider vinegar, with acetic acid as its primary ingredient.
The acidic nature of ACV is responsible for most of its health benefits. The rest are believed to reside in what’s known as the “mother,” a murky collection of beneficial bacteria, enzymes and proteins produced during fermentation. If you purchase pasteurized or distilled vinegar the mother will have been removed, along with its medicinal power. Raw apple cider vinegar still contains the mother, which makes it the best for your health.
Some benefits of ACV have been well-established by research. Others are either hinted at by the results of small studies, or a product of wishful thinking.
Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties
Apple cider vinegar has been shown effective against many bacteria that are becoming resistant to today’s normal treatments, including E. Coli, Candida albicans and many staph infections. (1) Researchers, faced with the increasing ineffectiveness of antibiotics, decided to examine the power of ACV; that’s partly because civilizations dating back to the ancient Babylonians used vinegar for healing, as did somewhat more recent medical practitioners as Hippocrates (of Hippocratic Oath fame). (2)
And it turned out that the Babylonians, Hippocrates and many other healers have been on target. Apple cider vinegar is indeed a powerful antimicrobial agent which can fight many difficult fungal, viral and bacterial infections.
Lowering Blood Sugar Levels
This is the benefit of ACV which has been researched – and proven – most extensively, although large-scale studies have been few and far between.
One of the primary causes of diabetes is known as insulin resistance. That means the body’s cells aren’t very responsive to insulin, so they don’t absorb enough glucose after a meal. In turn, that leads to high levels of blood sugar, and usually progresses to type 2 diabetes.
Research has shown that drinking a small amount of apple cider vinegar before meals can greatly increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels. (3) Other studies have shown that drinking ACV before bed (but not right before bed, because that can cause unwelcome side effects) lowers fasting blood sugar levels the following day. (4)
Does it also help with weight loss? The evidence isn’t strong at this point, even though the apple cider vinegar diet is a current fad. Some studies have shown somewhat-encouraging results, but the amount of lost weight was quite low. (5) One definite and observable benefit, though: drinking ACV before eating makes you feel fuller, so you eat less.
Other Purported Benefits of ACV
Research involving animals, or anecdotal evidence, have suggested a wide range of other possible health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar.
- Heart Health: Studies on animal subjects imply that drinking apple cider vinegar may be able to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Those, in addition to weight and blood glucose issues, are major risk factors for heart disease.
- Immune System Support: The antiviral and antibacterial properties of ACV, combined with probiotics believed to be in the mother in raw vinegar, may help maintain and boost the body’s immune system.
- Skin Care: Vinegar has been used for centuries as a topical treatment for wounds. Small studies suggest that apple cider vinegar also helps rebalance the skin’s pH, which could strengthen its protective barrier against infections and other problems. ACV’s antibacterial strength is also said to help fight diseases like acne and eczema, and even fight dandruff.
- Cancer Treatment: This one hasn’t been proven in any research studies, but there are a few which imply a possibility that vinegar may be able to slow the growth of cancer cells. Studies continue.
You’ve certainly noticed that we haven’t mentioned sore throats in this section. However, some of the properties of apple cider vinegar that have been mentioned are why the concept of using ACV for a sore throat continues to be so popular.
Apple Cider Vinegar for a Sore Throat
What causes sore throats? Unless you’ve been yelling at the kids all day, the culprits are usually bacteria and viruses. And the antiviral and antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar make it a natural candidate for treating a sore, hoarse throat. That’s particularly true if a virus is to blame, since antibiotics prescribed for the colds and flu which often accompany a sore throat don’t kill viruses. Proponents also claim that probiotics in the mother may help with immunity.
There are arguments against using ACV as a sore throat remedy, though. The acetic acid it contains could potentially irritate throats even more, and using too much could actually cause burns. Apple cider vinegar is also known to create risky drug interactions for patients taking medications for diabetes and high blood pressure.
What’s more important to understand: no reputable research has proven that ACV works to ease sore throat pain, let alone cure a strep throat. (The same goes for another recent craze, drinking or gargling with essential oils.)
Still want to give it a go? There are several recipes you can try.
- Gargle: Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of warm water, mix and gargle for 30-60 seconds twice a day.
- Drink: Combine a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon or two of honey with warm water. For maximum effect, drink this 30 minutes before a meal.
- Tea: Make a cup of tea (green or herbal tea is best) with boiling water. When it cools down somewhat, add a teaspoon of ACV and a teaspoon of lemon juice (good for phlegm, and also good for blunting the harsh taste of the vinegar), and drink as much as desired.
Again, there’s nothing that proves any of those recipes will actually work. But as long as they’re used in moderation and with care – as your mother might say – “they can’t hurt!”