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Apple Cider Vinegar for A Sore Throat: Several Ways to Use It Safely

Christine VanDoren

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

apple cider vinegar for sore throat

Vinegar is often used in cooking and as a food preserver. It can also be used around the house as a disinfectant and cleaner. 

Furthermore, it is thought that vinegar, in general, has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, but can it be used to treat minor ailments such as a sore throat? And are some kinds of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar (ACV), more effective than others when used for such ailments?

Solid medical evidence is lacking when it comes to using vinegar as a potential medicine for sore throats. Still, some forms of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, when mixed with warm water, have been used for this purpose for a considerable amount of time.

Some research[1], such as a small study published in the American Association of Diabetes in 2004, showed that apple cider vinegar could lower blood glucose levels after meals, so there is more to this vinegar than first meets the eye.

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help With Sore Throat?

Most sore throats are caused by bacterial infections and viruses, and sore throat symptoms can be mild or severe. Sore throats usually resolve within a few days, but constant throat pain leads to many seeking sore throat relief. If symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks, then these painful throat cases may need medical intervention with drugs like antibiotics.

When we get sore throats, we usually opt for honey and lemon added to some warm water. Honey has antibacterial properties, as does lemon juice. Honey also helps to soothe the inflammation and soreness of the infected membranes.

When treating sore throats naturally, some individuals like to use a mixture of apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon for sore throat relief. Whether this is a more effective remedy than honey alone is not clear. Scientific data suggests that the anti-inflammatory action of ACV[2] is enough on its own as an effective remedy.

However, apple cider vinegar for sore throat treatment is best when mixed with honey because it makes it far more palatable; this is similar to taking garlic for sore throats. Eating a clove of garlic on its own can aggravate the inflamed tissue in the back of the throat further while adding a little garlic to a gargle is far less likely to cause any problems.

It is known that the potassium in ACV helps to thin mucus secretions, and acetic acid is an effective remedy[3] against bacterial growth, thus promoting sinus drainage and easing throat pain. Some ask if apple cider vinegar can cure viruses in the throat, but research shows it to be ineffective against common colds and other viral infections.

With little evidence suggesting that apple cider vinegar can help treat sore throats, it is best to try it for yourself and take note of whether or not it actually does help relieve the symptoms. Because of the acidic nature of vinegar, it is always best to use it heavily diluted and with other ingredients to avoid burning your throat and stomach.

How To Use Apple Cider Vinegar For Sore Throat Safely

As already mentioned, apple cider vinegar concoctions are safest when mixed with other ingredients. Unlike hot honey and lemon drinks that are actually ingested, apple cider vinegar sore throat treatments are best used heavily diluted with water and as gargles instead of drinks.

Swallowing pure apple cider vinegar can burn your throat, esophagus, and stomach lining. When the undiluted acidic vinegar comes in contact with sore, inflamed tissue, this can make symptoms far worse and increase pain, soreness, and general throat discomfort, so it is vital not to use undiluted apple cider vinegar. Taking ACV too late in the evening can cause acid reflux, so avoid it late in the day.

Generally, apple cider vinegar gargles should be mixed in a warm water base. One teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can be added to a large glass of boiled water. Then, other ingredients can be used to either sweeten the mixture or make it more effective as an antibacterial and antiviral gargle. 

If a cough accompanies a sore throat, then honey should be used generously in the mixture. Honey can help to ease a sore throat and relieve a persistent cough just as effectively as drugs such as dextromethorphan.

Apple juice can make the gargle taste better, while lemon juice and honey can make the gargle more effective than just diluted apple cider vinegar alone.

A home remedy gargle solution should be used five times a day in between meals because this allows the gargle to remain in contact with the infected tissue longer. It is best to also avoid any other drinks for half an hour after gargling, as drinking can dilute and even wash away the gargle completely before it has had time to start working.

If you find your symptoms persisting or getting worse, then it is time to get your sore throat medically reviewed. However, simple non-complicated sore throat symptoms that are not linked to tonsillitis or flu should be helped with such gargles while your immune system fights and eventually kills the bacteria or virus that caused the sore throat in the first place.

You can also use apple cider vinegar for strep throat by adding a little salt to the gargle. The problem with strep throat is that although it is not the most common cause of sore throats when it is left untreated or is not responsive to gargles, it can lead to complications such as rheumatic fever. Strep throat is more common in children than adults, but either way, a prompt trip to the doctor’s office is the best way of preventing this type of bacterial throat infection from getting out of hand.

Side Effects

If apple cider vinegar is used correctly, then the side effects are often few and minor. As already mentioned, using undiluted apple cider vinegar is not advisable because this can produce far more serious side effects, including vomiting, nausea, and indigestion.

Tooth Enamel Erosion

Vinegar, including apple cider vinegar, is extremely acidic. Dilution counters this acidity somewhat, but frequent use in gargles can still lead to acid erosion of tooth enamel over time.

Throat Burning

If not diluted properly, apple cider vinegar can exacerbate sore throat symptoms – this is again due to the acidic nature of vinegar. The acid in vinegar can irritate an inflamed throat further, so make sure it is heavily diluted.

Internal Irritation

Some gargle residue can sometimes be swallowed, but again if the vinegar has been sufficiently diluted, then heartburn, stomach irritation, and esophageal burning can be avoided.

The Bottom Line

Three of the most common questions asked regarding apple cider vinegar and throat problems are, is apple cider vinegar good for sore throat, does apple cider vinegar kill bacteria, and does apple cider vinegar kill viruses in the throat?

Unfortunately, there is no hard evidence to help answer these questions with solid scientific studies and data. This could simply be due to the fact that scientists have been more interested in testing the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar against more serious diseases such as diabetes rather than sore throats.

However, in theory, this vinegar should be effective because its acid content can help kill some viruses and bacteria, and vinegar has been used for years as a food preserver and disinfectant. 

It is this acid content that makes it unsuitable for ingestion in large amounts or in concentrated forms. Most of our experiences with vinegar are in cuisine from around the world, and here it is mixed with many other ingredients leading to no side effects.

When it comes to treating sore throats, mixing vinegar with other substances, such as honey and lemon in a heavily diluted water base, delivers the best and safest treatment with minimal side effects, and apple cider vinegar seems to have the most health benefits when compared to other types of vinegar.

+ 3 sources

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  1. McDonald, E. (2018). Debunking the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. [online] Uchicagomedicine.org. Available at: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/debunking-the-health-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar [Accessed 3 May 2022].
  2. ‌Tsoupras, A., Moran, D., Byrne, T., Ryan, J., Barrett, L., Traas, C. and Zabetakis, I. (2021). Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Platelet Properties of Lipid Bioactives from Apple Cider By-Products. Molecules, [online] 26(10), p.2869. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/26/10/2869 [Accessed 3 May 2022].
  3. ‌Yagnik, D., Ward, M. and Shah, A.J. (2021). Antibacterial apple cider vinegar eradicates methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and resistant Escherichia coli. Scientific Reports, [online] 11(1). Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78407-x [Accessed 3 May 2022.
Christine VanDoren

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her passion is helping others learn how strong and healthy they can become by transforming their daily habits. Christine spends most of her time in the gym, hiking, painting, and learning how she can influence others through positivity!

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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