Apple cider vinegar doesn't sound like much, and it doesn't look like much either. Vinegar is vinegar, right? In this case, wrong.
Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple cider in a two-step process. First, apple juice is fermented into alcohol, and then the alcohol is fermented into vinegar. Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains mother of vinegar, similar to the scoby found in kombucha.
This ingredient can be used the same way as other vinegars — it's great as a component of homemade salad dressings, for example. But some people get a bit more extreme than that, drinking it as a tonic or even taking it straight because of its purported health effects. Some of the claims of the ingredient's benefits are overblown, but there are still many reasons to bring a bottle of apple cider vinegar into your pantry. Here are 12 of them, from the top of your head to Fido's furry paws:
Hair: Apple cider vinegar isn't just good for your insides — it also makes a great rinse for your hair, adding extra body and shine. Put a cup of water and a 1/2 tablespoon of the vinegar in an old shampoo bottle, and pour through your hair after shampooing a few times a week. Some shampoos even include apple cider vinegar in the formula, like Live Clean's clarifying shampoo.
Skin: The vinegar can help to balance the pH of your skin — use a mixture of one part of the vinegar to two parts water as a toner.
Dandruff: Combining the first two benefits, give apple cider vinegar a try if you're plagued by dandruff. Mix equal parts vinegar and water, and spritz it on your hair and scalp. Then wrap your head in a towel, leave it for 15 to 60 minutes, and rinse the vinegar out. Repeat a few times a week.
Sunburn: Skimped on the sunscreen? Now you know better for next time! But right now, you can ease the burn of sunburn with apple cider vinegar. Pour a bath—not too hot!—and add a cup of vinegar, then soak for 10 minutes.
Acetic Acid: There's some research showing that acetic acid — found in apple cider vinegar — can help with weight loss when taken on a daily and sustained basis. And it's been anecdotally promoted for weight loss for years. It's not a silver bullet, but drinking some apple cider vinegar mixed with water is recommended by some as a weight-loss tonic.
Go Alkaline: Remember how we told you that apple cider vinegar can help balance the chemistry of your skin? It might be able to do the same for your insides. Some believe that an acidic body environment is bad for your health, and that apple cider vinegar can help you achieve a more alkaline state. Another possible benefit of adding it to your diet where you can!
Heartburn: Feeling that telltale tightness in your chest? Give apple cider vinegar a try for heartburn. Some believe that a teaspoon of the vinegar, followed by a bottle of water, down the gullet can give you some relief.
Fleas: Your four-legged family members can benefit from apple cider vinegar as well. If you've got a problem with fleas, try a spray of one part vinegar and one part water to send them packing.
Cleaning: Just as you can clean with plain white vinegar, you can get your place sparking with apple cider vinegar too. Make an all-purpose cleaner with the vinegar — one part vinegar to two parts water, and perhaps a few drops of tea tree oil for antibacterial qualities — and get that fall cleaning done.
Diabetes: This one needs more research, but there is some preliminary evidence that apple cider vinegar can be healthy for diabetics — studies have shown that vinegar may lower blood sugar levels. However, vinegar has chromium, which can affect insulin levels, so anyone thinking of taking apple cider vinegar in an attempt to help manage their disease should definitely speak with their physician beforehand.
Potassium: Even if you don't believe it's a cure-all, adding apple cider vinegar to your diet seems harmless enough. However, if you have low potassium levels, you should speak with your doctor before consuming it in large quantities, as it could effect levels of that nutrient.
Detox: Some believe that apple cider vinegar has natural detoxifying effects — the evidence is mostly anecdotal right now, but it's believed that consuming it throughout the day is good for your kidneys.