Drinking apple cider vinegar and honey has been touted as a cure-all for thousands of years. But the medicinal powers of this concoction — also called oxymel — are largely unknown, as there have been almost no scientific studies done on the mixture.
That said, apple cider vinegar and honey have been studied extensively individually. They both have several proven health benefits, when applied topically and when taken orally, which may or may not remain when they are mixed together into a syrup.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
The word vinegar derives from French and means "sour wine." All vinegars are a blend of water and acetic acid made through a two-step fermentation process. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its tart flavor.
When making apple cider vinegar, first yeast feeds on the sugars in crushed apples and turns them into alcohol. Next, acetobacter bacteria is introduced and turns the alcohol into acetic acid.
Some apple cider vinegar is sold with the "mother" still intact. The mother is the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. You might see hazy strands of this floating around inside the bottle. Look for the label "apple cider vinegar with mother."
Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
A small June 2015 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking vinegar before a meal not only increased muscle glucose uptake, it also decreased arterial plasma insulin and increased blood flow to muscles in individuals with impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes. This study shows that vinegar might be beneficial in improving insulin resistance and glucose control in people with prediabetes.
However, keep in mind that this was a small study with only eight participants. A large May 2014 review of the research on vinegar and controlling diabetes published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine concluded that more large-scale research is needed to determine the efficacy of vinegar as a potential adjunct treatment for prediabetes and diabetes.
Another benefit of apple cider vinegar is that it has antimicrobial properties. It has been shown to inhibit growth of E. coli, Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus — the bacteria also known as "staph" that can cause skin infections, pneumonia and even food poisoning.
Because of its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar has been used topically to treat certain skin diseases. It was even used during the Civil War to disinfect soldiers' wounds.
An April 2018 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that people who drank apple cider vinegar before a meal while restricting their daily food intake by 250 calories lost more weight than people who followed the same calorie-restricted diet without supplementing with apple cider vinegar.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey bees make honey from flower nectar, which they collect and take to their beehive. The enzymes in bee saliva break down the sugar in the nectar into glucose and fructose, the two main components of honey.
Each variety of honey differs as the environment, season, processing techniques and type of flower nectar all affect the composition. Besides fructose and glucose, honey is mainly composed of water and small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.
Like apple cider vinegar, honey has antimicrobial properties. Applying honey topically can promote the healing of infected wounds such as scratches, acne and lesions. The antimicrobial benefits of honey are attributed to its its hydrogen peroxide content, acidity and high osmolority, which just means that honey is a highly concentrated solution.
A February 2017 review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, found that honey has also been shown to soothe symptoms of digestive issues, aid in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome and treat sore throats. If you have a sore throat or are suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, constipation, diarrhea or gastroenteritis, taking honey might soothe your symptoms.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey
Though the health benefits of both apple cider vinegar and honey have been studied separately, very few studies have been done on the mixture of the two ingredients. Because of this, it's still unclear whether combining apple cider vinegar with honey enhances or diminishes any of the ingredients' individual health benefits.
A small December 2014 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that honey vinegar syrup actually increased fasting insulin levels and decreased HDL ("good") cholesterol in healthy subjects. Though, this was a study on fewer than 100 people, so more randomized large-scale studies need to be carried out to verify these findings.
Risks and Considerations
For the most part, apple cider vinegar is safe to drink every day, in small quantities and diluted with water. That said, it has been shown to erode tooth enamel and cause acid reflux and nausea. Also, if you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys might have a difficult time processing the acid inside apple cider vinegar.
Honey is also generally safe to consume in small quantities, at least for people over 12 months of age. Both raw and heat-treated honey can contain the bacteria that causes infant botulism. For this reason, do not feed honey to infants under the age of 12 months. Also, keep in mind that you can have too much of a good thing. Eating large amounts of honey is not recommended due to its high sugar content.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "On Regimen in Acute Diseases"
- University of Chicago Medical Center: "Debunking the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vinegars"
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Acetic Acid on Glucose Uptake and Blood Flow Rates in the Skeletal Muscle in Humans With Impaired Glucose Tolerance"
- Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: "Diabetes Control: Is Vinegar a Promising Candidate to Help Achieve Targets?"
- Scientific Reports: "Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar Against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans: Downregulating Cytokine and Microbial Protein Expression"
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Beneficial Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index and Lipid Profile in Overweight or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- International Journal of Preventive Medicine: "Effect of Honey Vinegar Syrup on Blood Sugar and Lipid Profile in Healthy Subjects"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Botulism: Prevention"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "The Effect of External Apple Vinegar Application on Varicosity Symptoms, Pain, and Social Appearance Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: "Antimicrobial Activity of Honey With Special Reference to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Methicillin Sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA)"
- EUFIC: "The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Honey"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: "Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Honey"