Vinegar is definitely not a new substance.
It has been in existence since at least 5000 BC when the Babylonians used dates to make wine and vinegar.
While it was also widely used as a preserving or pickling agent, it did not take long for vinegar’s amazing health benefits to shine through.
Hippocrates (c. 420 BC), the Father of Medicine, used a specific type of vinegar—apple cider vinegar (AVC)—for a variety of health aliments, including common coughs and colds (1). In fact, a look at the history of vinegar proves this fermented food was used by almost every culture for everything from a food and preservative to a highly prized medicinal.
What Makes ACV So Potent?
Vinegar, in general, is made from almost any form of carbohydrate that can be fermented. This includes grapes, dates, potatoes, beets, and even coconuts, to name just a few. But one of the most powerful ingredients in use is apples. Vinegar made from apples actually undergoes two fermentation processes that result in a host of beneficial enzymes and life-giving nutrients.
ACV goes through the normal fermentation process that all vinegars go through. Bacterial cultures and yeast are added to water and fresh apples. Together, these microorganisms convert the sugar-rich juice into alcohol. In the second stage of the fermenting process, a different species of bacteria known as acetobacter are introduced (2). These bacteria facilitate in turning the alcohol into acetic acid, which is what gives vinegar its recognizable sour taste (3) .
The main difference between ACV and regular vinegar, however, is something that first started in 1934 when a group of French vintners developed the Orleans Method.
This continuous brewing method involved oak barrels, which were used as fermentation vessels. Once fermented, vinegar was siphoned off through a spigot in the bottom of the barrel. About 15 percent of the vinegar, however, was left behind, and this liquid contained a substance known as the “mother of vinegar.”
This “cobweb-like,” amino acid-based substance, is only found in unprocessed, unfiltered vinegar. Brewers learned to use the mother to make new batches of vinegar by carefully adding it to another barrel containing a new batch of cider in order to “quick start” the fermentation process (4).
The mother’s complex structure of beneficial bioactive compounds includes acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin and caffeic acid to name just a few. These potent nutrients provide powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties as well as an array of other health benefits (5, 6). They also give the liquid a distinct murky appearance, which may not be the prettiest to look at, but it is a sure sign your vinegar is a quality brew.
Most manufacturers pasteurize and filter vinegar as a way to prevent the mother from forming, but you actually need mother to experience some of the many amazing health benefits associated with ACV. That why it’s important to buy raw unfiltered vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits
Vinegar is a complex food containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polyphenols and many non-volatile organic acids such as citric, lactic, and malic acids.
These combined ingredients, according to researchers, may explain its broad range of medicinal uses and properties that include the following.
1. Prevents Infections/Kills Bacteria
Hippocrates first recommended using vinegar for treating sores and ulcers as well as other ailments such as respiratory illnesses that tend to become infected. Today, we know his claims certainly had merit as research shows vinegar is both a household disinfectant and a powerful antimicrobial for wounds.
While many studies show vinegar is effective against a variety of nasty bacteria, a more recent 2015 study further shows that even highly diluted acetic acid is an effective alternative agent for preventing infections and killing the bacteria found in burn wounds (7).