Vinegar is something you might not think much of – you put it on your chips with salt, and that’s all there is to it. Actually, though, vinegar isn’t only a secret ingredient used to liven up a variety of savoury dishes; it’s also healthy, versatile, and useful inside and outside the kitchen!
There are many different types of vinegar, made from fruits, rice, barley, and other foods that are high in sugar. Some of the more popular vinegar are rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white distilled vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and fruit vinegar. Depending on the type, vinegar all have different levels of acidity.
The one common theme amongst all vinegar is its beneficial properties and antioxidants. In fact, vinegar can help you out in almost every aspect of your life. From lowering blood glucose to reducing inflammation and heartburn, there are plenty of uses of the humble ingredient. Some of the biggest health benefits and hacks of vinegar include:
1. Eliminating heartburn
One study found that vinegar can be effective in reducing heartburn. It’s thought to be good at managing heartburn symptoms because it helps balance your stomach’s pH by neutralizing stomach acid.
Not all heartburn is caused by too much stomach acid; on some occasions, it is caused by not enough, and vinegar can help alleviate this problem. Vinegar might be an acid, but it becomes alkaline when it’s consumed.
Another benefit of vinegar is that because it increases the speed that your stomach digests food, it can reduce bloating. Keep in mind that might not work for everyone to control heartburn symptoms, as it depends on what’s causing the heartburn.
If it does work for you, using vinegar instead of over-the-counter medications could save you money, and reduce unwanted side effects.
2. Reducing blood glucose
Move over, sugar – it’s a spoonful of vinegar that’ll help keep glucose levels down. A scientist in America found that 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal—for example, as part of a vinaigrette salad dressing—will dramatically reduce the spike in blood concentrations of insulin and glucose that come after a meal. People with type 2 diabetes can experience excessive spikes that lead to complications, including heart disease, so being able to manage blood sugar is essential.
This research shows that effectively, vinegar could be a potential treatment to slow the progression of diabetes. One study found that vinegar increased insulin-stimulated glucose uptake, which essentially allowed insulin to do its job better and enhanced the metabolism of carbohydrates.
3. Assisting in weight loss
There’s no miracle cure to help you lose weight, but vinegar contributes as a healthy addition to your diet and can help you to reach your weight loss goals. One study found that acetic acid, the key component in all vinegar, helped mice ingesting a high-fat diet to develop less overall body fat.
Another study looked at the effect of acetic acid on humans and found that after 12 weeks, body weight, BMI, and waist circumference were significantly reduced in the patients who consumed the acid.
Because acetic acid is found in all vinegar, you’ll experience the benefits of the ingredient no matter what vinegar you consume.
4. Cleaning fresh fruit and veg
Organic produce is better for the environment, but it’s a lot dirtier when bought fresh, and it may be holding onto microorganisms that could make you ill. You can use diluted vinegar to clean fresh produce, which has proven to be much more effective than plain water, or even those expensive vegetable washes you can find in the produce department.
One study published found that using a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice to wash fruits and vegetables reduced Salmonella typhimurium, a bacterium that causes food poisoning, on fresh vegetables to undetectable levels. To get the maximum benefits from this wash, mix vinegar and lemon juice at an equal ratio and add it to a small spray bottle. Spray your fruits and vegetables, let it sit 15 minutes, then rinse with cold water.
5. Cleaning your home
Vinegar is one of the best natural cleaners, especially if you’re looking for non-chemical alternatives that are completely safe for your family. It doesn’t release harmful gasses into the air like many commercial products and can save you a fair bit of money because you can use the single formula to clean many areas of your home. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, vinegar can prevent bacterial food poisoning, making it a great cleaner for your countertops.
You can mix apple cider vinegar with several other ingredients to make it even more of a beneficial cleaning product. Lemon juice, alcohol, and, baking soda salt are all good options. You could also use equal parts of vinegar and water to make an effective surface cleaner.
6. Treating poison ivy rashes
If you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong side of poison ivy, you’ll know how frustratingly itchy the rash can be for days or even weeks. You’ll be able to find a number of over-the-counter treatments for poison ivy, but some of them are far too expensive for the short-term use you’ll need them for.
A less expensive option is to use vinegar as a natural home remedy. It works by quickly drying the rash and eliminating the itch.
To try this out yourself, gently dab a small amount of undiluted vinegar onto your rash with a Q-tip. Let it dry completely, then reapply a few minutes later.
The more vinegar you use, the faster your rash will heal. Keep in mind that vinegar can cause sores to burn, so keep it away from any open cuts.
7. Curing hiccups
If you’ve ever tried pure vinegar, you’ll know the taste has a startling effect on your mouth – a little bit like when you open a can of fizzy pop and take the first sip. This shock factor is what‘s behind vinegar’s proven ability to eliminate hiccups – so much so that anti-hiccup lollipops made out of vinegar are now a real product on sale in America.
Next time you have a relentless case of the hiccups, you know what to do – try a shot of vinegar and see if it does the trick.
8. Relieves sore throat
All vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, are thought to be an effective cure for sore throats. Bacteria can’t survive in high-acid environments, and when you gargle with apple cider vinegar, that’s exactly what you create in the back of your throat.
When swallowed, vinegar also creates an alkaline environment in the body, which can help kill off some bacteria and viruses that are responsible for sore throats.
To gargle vinegar for a sore throat, try starting with a quarter of a cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with a quarter of a cup of warm water. Gargle with this at least once an hour. You can also try mixing one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with one tablespoon of salt in a glass of warm water.
9. Soothes bug bites
We’ve already mentioned that vinegar can be an effective treatment for poison ivy rashes, and the same goes for bug bites. It can quickly relieve the itchiness from common bug bites, especially mosquito bites.
The reason for this is that it helps restore and balance your skin’s pH level. It can also act as a natural disinfectant if you've been scratching too much.
To use vinegar for bug bites, simply dab some of the vinegar straight onto your skin. If you need more relief, try soaking a washcloth in cold water and vinegar, and then applying it to the bite. You can also pour two cups into your bathwater and go for a long soak.
10. Restores healthy hair and scalp
The higher alkaline pH a shampoo has, the higher your scalp pH will be. If you use a high pH shampoo, your hair is more likely to suffer from issues like cuticle damage, frizz, and a dry, irritated scalp. The acidity in vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, counteracts alkaline pH, helping to improve your scalp’s health.
There are plenty of commercial products out there that can help you rebalance your scalp’s pH, but you can easily save cash and make your own natural vinegar wash instead. Use apple cider vinegar or vinegar of your choice, and a couple of tablespoons of the vinegar with water.
After shampooing and conditioning as normal, pour the mixture over your hair evenly, working it into your scalp. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before rinsing it out.
11. Soothes ear infections
As we already know, vinegar contains acetic acid, which is antibacterial. This means it kills bacteria, making it a possible natural solution for killing off any nasty microorganisms that have caused your ear to become infected. One study found that vinegar can also kill fungi, while another has shown apple cider vinegar, in particular, to be effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
You shouldn’t use vinegar to treat middle ear infections without going to see a doctor, but it should help to soothe your symptoms while you wait for your appointment. To use vinegar for an ear infection, mix equal parts vinegar with warm water and apply 5 to 10 drops in each affected ear.
Then cover your ear with a cotton ball or clean cloth and lie on your side to let the vinegar drops enter your ear. Stay like this for about 5 minutes, then repeat as often as you need in order to treat the ear infection.
12. Brightening and softening laundry
Vinegar is a great helper when you’re doing your laundry. A good helping of vinegar can effectively lighten and brighten fabrics—depending on the colour of your fabric—and helps to soften your fabrics and deodorize them. If you’re washing anything with a strong smell, vinegar is definitely going to help out.
After adding vinegar to your washing machine, put it in its usual setting, and leave your laundry to wash. When it’s finished, take your clothes and either hang them to dry or put them in the dryer.
You’ll notice a big difference in appearance and smell – and don’t worry, your clothes won’t come out smelling bitter!
Vinegar side effects
Vinegar has very few side effects to be aware of, but if you’re using it for health purposes, keep in mind that there is such thing as consuming too much at once. If you take in an excess of vinegar, it could delay the rate at which food leaves your stomach, and may also cause digestive side effects.
Vinegar has even been found to lower potassium levels and cause bone loss when taken excessively. Always stick to portioning recommendations to stay on the safe side.
Vinegar is an incredibly useful ingredient that does so much more than it’s given credit for. Just remember that vinegar should only ever be used to support treatment for an illness – so be sure to visit a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms.