Apple cider vinegar is popular in dressings and other recipes, but many people make claims about its efficacy as everything from a diabetes cure to a weapon in the fight against internal and external parasites. Although it has some effectiveness as a disinfectant, evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar is not really the magical parasite-killing elixir it has been labeled by some proponents.
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
As the name suggests, apple cider vinegar starts with apples. Apples destined to become vinegar are mashed into pulp, then allowed to ferment as bacteria and yeast consume the natural sugars present in the fruit. At this stage, alcohol is produced as a byproduct of fermentation. The resulting alcohol is subjected to further fermentation to produce acetic acid, the main ingredient in full-strength vinegar. Since the full-strength vinegar is far too acidic for human consumption, apple cider vinegar is then diluted with water to about 5 percent acidity.
Claims About Effectiveness Against Parasites
Many proponents of apple cider vinegar's usefulness as a fighter of internal parasites like worms, bacteria and yeast are adherents to the pH or acid/alkaline theory of disease. According to this theory, infections by parasites and other illnesses are caused by an excessively acidic (low pH) diet and are treated by consumption of more alkaline (high pH) foods. Despite the fact that apple cider vinegar is an acidic food, adherents to this theory believe that consuming it has an "alkalizing" effect that restores the body to an environment inhospitable to parasites.
What Happens When We Consume Apple Cider Vinegar?
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D. points out that there is no scientific basis for the acid/alkaline theory, stating: "Dietary modification cannot change the acidity of any part of your body except your urine." Therefore, claims that parasites are killed by changing pH balance in the body through consuming apple cider vinegar are not credible, and indeed are dangerous if they discourage people with internal parasitic infections from seeking medical attention.
Killing External Parasites and Weeds
Although apple cider vinegar does not kill internal parasites, it acts as a mild disinfectant for killing germs on household surfaces, fruits and vegetables. It does not, however, kill as many germs as common household cleaners. While the 5 percent acidity of household vinegar is too low to effectively kill weeds, horticultural supply shops offer vinegar-based herbicides with a much higher acid concentration that helps control parasites in the garden. Vinegar at these concentrations is not safe for human consumption.
Ann Murray has been writing since 1990, with her work now appearing on various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in writing and history from Bard College and is pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in biology.