Vinegar is more than just an ingredient in your salad dressing — white vinegar is also good for your health in a number of ways.
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Vinegar — which is a combination of water and acetic acid — has been used for centuries as a medicine, preservative and health supplement, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And certain white vinegar benefits can still be harnessed today by eating, drinking or even cleaning with the ingredient.
Below, browse white vinegar's health benefits and some safety precautions to keep in mind.
Can You Eat White Vinegar?
Drinking white vinegar isn't the only way to ingest the liquid — you can also cook with it. For instance, white vinegar is good for pickling foods and mixing into dressings, condiments and sauces, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
1. It Has Antioxidant Properties
Distilled vinegar is good for you (along with other variations of the drink) in part due to its antioxidant qualities.
Indeed, vinegar is packed with micronutrients and compounds like polyphenols and melanoidins, respectively, that act as antioxidants, according to September 2016 research in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
These antioxidants shield your cells from damage, which in turn may help protect against conditions like heart disease, obesity, and cancer, per an April 2016 review in Current Opinion in Food Science.
2. It May Promote Heart Health
White vinegar is also good for you due to its potential ability to support heart health. For instance, the ingredient has been linked to lower blood pressure, per the Current Opinion in Food Science review.
According to the same review, taking daily vinegar supplements has also been linked to increased levels of "good" cholesterol and decreased levels of "bad" cholesterol.
Talk to your doctor before trying any supplement, as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they're sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
3. It May Help Manage Blood Sugar
Another possible benefit of drinking white vinegar is its ability to help control blood sugar.
Vinegar has been shown to affect how your body processes glucose and can help slow down your digestion when added to a starchy meal, both of which may prevent blood sugar spikes, according to a May 2018 review in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine.
The same study found that people with diabetes who took vinegar orally experienced lower blood glucose levels 30 minutes later than those who did not. However, the researchers say that more studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of vinegar, plus the best dose and type of vinegar to take if you have diabetes.
Another January 2013 study in the Journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology found that when people with type 2 diabetes added 15 milliliters of white vinegar to their middle meal each day for a month, it was linked to a decrease in fasting blood sugar compared to those who did not. The vinegar was also linked to lower HbA1c — a common biomarker for diabetes.
As a bonus, the blood-sugar-lowering effect of white vinegar suggests that it might also be linked to improved blood flow.
For instance, a June 2015 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people with signs of prediabetes took a small dose of vinegar before a meal, they experienced increased blood flow and decreased triglyceride and insulin levels compared to a placebo.
However, this research only included eight people, so larger studies are needed to better establish this link.
4. It May Support Weight Loss
Another of white vinegar's benefits for the body is that it may help support weight loss.
This may be because vinegar slows digestion, which can help you feel full longer and may lead to eating less overall, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
However, there's still not enough consistent evidence to suggest a strong connection between vinegar and weight loss, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Still, some studies have linked the two. A small April 2014 study in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Research found that 37 people with diabetes, overweight and high blood pressure who took 20 milliliters of hawthorn vinegar after each meal for a month experienced a mean weight loss of around 3 pounds.
That said, this doesn't mean that vinegar caused the weight loss — more and larger studies are needed to better establish the connection between vinegar and shedding pounds.
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5. It Can Support Ear Health
Distilled white vinegar is good for your ear health, too: Indeed, you can put vinegar in your ear (as long as you do it safely — more on how to do that below).
If you have too much ear wax, putting white vinegar in your ear may help. Per the University of Florida, here's how you put vinegar in your ears to remove wax:
- Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar with warm water.
- Use a syringe to gently pour the vinegar and water solution into your ears.
- Tilt your head to let it drain out.
Besides using vinegar against ear wax, you can also use white vinegar for ear infections.
For example, putting vinegar in your ear may help prevent swimmer's ear, a bacterial infection that can occur when water gets into the canal during swimming, per the Mayo Clinic. Here's how to try this at-home remedy:
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
- Pour 1 teaspoon of the white vinegar ear rinse into your ear canal.
- Tilt your head to let it drain out.
Your doctor may also recommend using distilled vinegar and water solution if you have a hard-to-treat infection and a hole in your ear, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Follow their instructions for how to apply the mixture.
Using vinegar for ear wax buildup is a safer option than cotton swabs, per the University of Florida. That's because Q-tips can cause scratches, punctures or blockages in your ear canal.
6. It's Antimicrobial
Vinegar also has antimicrobial effects. As a result, it may help clean and treat various conditions like nail fungus, warts and lice, according to May 2014 research in the Journal of Food Science.
Another December 2013 review in the Journal of Infection and Public Health found that the acetic acid in vinegar may help manage burn wound infections.
However, more research is needed to better establish vinegar's ability to treat these conditions and how exactly to use it.
Talk to your doctor before using vinegar as a treatment for any of the aforementioned conditions. They can help you determine the best way to manage your health issue.
7. It Can Be Used as a Disinfectant
Vinegar is also a disinfectant, which is why it can be used as a nontoxic alternative to cleaning chemicals for certain chores, like removing mineral deposits and soap scum that accumulate in your bathroom, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
But it's important to note that while using vinegar as a cleaning solution can kill some bacteria, it doesn't kill them all (salmonella, for example). That's why it's typically recommended to stick to commercial products.
The disinfecting power of white vinegar can also be harnessed to support your oral health. A May 2014 study in the Scientific World Journal found that soaking toothbrushes in white vinegar helped kill common bacteria like S. mutans (which can cause tooth decay).
But remember, vinegar can't eliminate all pathogens, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So be sure to practice safe oral hygiene by replacing your toothbrush every three months or so.
Should You Take White Vinegar for Heartburn or Acid Reflux?
The short answer? Vinegar does not help with heartburn or acid reflux because it's acidic — it typically has a pH of 2 or 3, per Clemson University.
It's thus unlikely that vinegar is good for acid reflux or heartburn, as it can't neutralize stomach acid to relieve symptoms, says Joan Weichun Chen, MD, a gastroenterologist, reflux specialist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In fact, vinegar (including balsamic vinegar) can cause heartburn and acid reflux for some.
How could it be, then, that some people report feeling better after a swig (or more) of vinegar?
Dr. Chen can think of two possibilities: First, not all heartburn is related to acid reflux, so symptoms may be due to another condition. Second, she says saturating pain receptors with another acidic substance may temporarily distract from irritating stomach acid.
Though white vinegar is good for you in many contexts, there are a few side effects to keep in mind.
Per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these can include:
- Upset stomach
- Irritation of the esophagus
- Eroding tooth enamel
Talk to your doctor before using vinegar as a treatment to make sure it's safe for you and your health needs, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
- Current Opinion in Food Science: "Therapeutic effects of vinegar: a review"
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Vinegar Functions on Health"
- Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: "Diabetes Control: Is Vinegar a Promising Candidate to Help Achieve Targets?"
- Journal of Food and Nutrition Research: "Metabolic Effects of Hawthorn Vinegar in Patients With High Cardiovascular Risk Group"
- Clemson University: "pH Values of Common Foods and Ingredients"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vinegar"
- Journal of Diabetes and Endocrinology: "The effect of white vinegar on some blood biochemical factors in type 2 diabetic patients"
- 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"
- Mayo Clinic: "Home Remedies: Suffering from swimmer’s ear"
- University of Florida: "Ear Wax"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Ear infection - chronic"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Apple cider vinegar diet: Does it really work?"
- Journal of Infection and Public Health: "Acetic acid treatment of pseudomonal wound infections--a review"
- Journal of Food Science: "Functional Properties of Vinegar"
- Scientific World Journal: "Effectiveness of Alternative Methods for Toothbrush Disinfection: An In Vitro Study"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”