For years, possibly even thousands, vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar has been claimed to have medicinal value. The verdict is still out on whether research can back up these claims, but for those of you willing to give alternative and natural methods a try, apple cider vinegar may be a great way to address some health issues.
I first heard about the benefits of apple cider vinegar for people with yeast infections or other fungal conditions such as Candida. According to Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, this vinegar can help promote healthy microflora in the gut, balancing the inner ecosystem. She also states that it can aid in digestion and stop sugar cravings, both of which are symptoms for those with an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut.
Apple cider vinegar has also been said to help with skin problems (such as acne), detoxify the body by cleaning the kidneys, cure allergies, help with upper respiratory infections, ease arthritis and stiff joints, eliminate acid reflux among others. Even though many of these claims are not backed by research, there have been some studies done related to diabetes, high cholesterol, blood pressure, cancer and weight loss.
The most promising researched health benefits relate to type 2 diabetes. Two studies often cited include the 2004 study published in Diabetes Care (American Diabetes Association) and a 2007 study cited on WebMD, both of which showed that apple cider vinegar lowers blood sugar levels.
Limited further studies done on rats, which doesn’t always equate to humans, have concluded that apple cider vinegar may lower cholesterol, potentially kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, and possibly lower blood pressure. One human-based study done in 2005 showed that apple cider vinegar could also support weight loss by helping one feel satiated sooner. As most agree, these are all preliminary studies, some of which have mixed results, and none of which are conclusive.
It’s important to point out that there are also studies that have produced negative results with excessive consumption of apple cider vinegar such as an increased risk of bladder cancer and damage to the esophagus. For this reason, it’s important to dilute apple cider vinegar with water if taking it as a tonic.
If you do choose to use apple cider vinegar for it’s potential medicinal benefits, the only vinegar you should be buying is one that is unpasteurized, raw (or cold-pressed) and organic. This is not the clean vinegar you find in everyday supermarkets. Instead this is a murky vinegar in which you see a cobweb like substance called the "mother".  This vinegar is a twice-fermented product in which the sugars are broken down to first produce a cider and secondly a vinegar. Other varieties of "clean" apple or apple cider vinegar are often pasteurized, filtered, refined or distilled and don’t contain the nutritional properties.
So what are these nutritional properties that make apple cider vinegar beneficial? This is a tough question for many to answer as the quantity of nutrients it contains (vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, pectin, amino acids, enzymes, etc.) shouldn’t be nearly enough to make much of a difference. However, some experts say that the acetic acid is highly beneficial for two reasons. One is that it helps restore your body’s pH, making it more alkaline and therefore less susceptible to disease. The other is that it could help with nutrient absorption, allowing you to get more from the foods you eat in close proximity to the vinegar. There also may be unidentified phytochemicals that contribute to its surprising health benefits.
Beyond internal human use, apple cider vinegar also makes a great cleaning agent and disinfectant for household use and/or removing pesticides from vegetables. It is also said to be a great beauty aid when used on the hair, skin and teeth. Many people also use it with their pets to reduce fleas when applied to the coat and also given in a diluted form internally.
As with all natural remedies, it’s important to really do your homework and even speak to your doctor when using it as a tonic for serious health conditions. However, enjoying a bit of apple cider vinegar on your salads as a dressing is a great way to enjoy the benefits without any potential risk.
 Gates, D. (2007, April 5). Apple cider vinegar: the amazing health benefits of this economical “old timers home remedy”._ _Retrieved from http://bodyecology.com/articles/apple_cider_vinegar.php#.UDusEdCUcbo  Tohi, W. (2012, May 3).Ten ways to use apple cider vinegar in DIY remedies. Retrieved from
 care.diabetesjournals.org “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high- carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.” Johnston, C. et. al. Diabetes Care, January 2004: vol. 27 no. 1 281-282 http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/1/281.full
 Webmd.com (No date). Apple cider vinegar. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/apple-cider-vinegar
 Mercola, J. (2009, June 2). What the research really says about apple cider vinegar._ _Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/02/Apple-Cider-Vinegar-Hype.aspx#_edn2
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.