The Mother of all tonics

A versatile tonic within and without the body, a grooming secret weapon and useful around the kitchen, Apple Cider Vinegar is the ‘mother’ of multipurpose staples, writes Ms Mathahle Stofile.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of those ingredients we all grew up with in our homes. At our house, it was always just there in the pantry, next to the other white vinegar we use on chips. I never once saw my mother or anyone else in the house actually use the ACV or consume it in any way. But the sight of the bottle always brought a certain comfort because it was such a familiar featured staple.

Now and then, we would get a visitor who would ask for a little AVS in her water because she was trying to lose weight. Later, I would read that some people believed it helped alleviate diabetes. Through experimenting, I found out that it makes for a great toner/exfoliator when diluted in equal-parts water and swiped around the face with a cotton pad when the skin is clogged. More recently, I learned what a brilliant detangler and hair conditioner it was, thanks to YouTube tutorials, watched while I was frantically trying to detangle and braid my five-year-old’s hair during lockdown.

Interestingly, there are very few science-based studies that vouch for this stuff but if the anecdotes (and my own personal experience in some instances) are anything to go by, I’m going to go ahead and say I’m team ACV. My vote is mainly based on the logic around gut health and fermented foods, read more here.

Later, I would read that some people believed it alleviated their diabetes. Through experimenting, I found that it makes for a great toner/exfoliator (and) more recently, I learned what a brilliant detangler and hair conditioner it was

AVC gets way better PR than other vinegars because it is different. The main differentiating factor is that it contains a substance called “mother” or “mother of vinegar”, which is composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria. Ms Shreya Goswami, a food writer, has the best explanation of what the “mother” is:Simply put, this means that the original bacteria culture used to make the vinegar (by fermenting the crushed apples) was not filtered out during the manufacturing process. The nutrients and bacteria were not distilled or pasteurised after the vinegar was ready, and so this vinegar is murky or cloudy, and the bacteria culture can be seen at the bottom of the bottle.” That bacteria culture is what’s referred to as the “mother”. From everything I have read, tried and read, filtered and pasteurised ACV – most commonly found in shops, looks quite clear – is quite different from ACV that is unfiltered and unpasteurised with some of the mother still in it. You want the latter as the potency is held by the mother.

Vinegar has long been used for health and dietary benefits around the world. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, was known to prescribe ACV for different infections, while American soldiers commonly used in on their wounds during the American Civil War. A few studies have shown it to stabilise blood sugar levels, kill harmful bacteria and reduce blood pressure. It is also believed to reduce fatigue and provide a healthy energy boost, due to its potassium, enzymes and amino acids.

“The main differentiating factor is that it contains a substance called “mother” or “mother of vinegar”, which is composed of cellulose and acetic acid bacteria. “

There are various ways in which ACV can be used, here are some favourites:

  • Add a cupful to your bath to help draw toxins from the body.
  • Dilute with equal parts water and use as a skin toner when skin feels clogged.
  • Use it as a hair detangler or conditioner.
  • Works great as a mouth wash, for bad breath.
  • Drink it (never pure!)

The most common way is to ingest it. Add two tablespoons to a glass of water and drink the mixture once a day in the morning/daytime rather than at night. Because it is Rich in malic acid, ACV has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Here’s my go-to salad dressing recipe for those who want to ease into it:

¼ teaspoon crushed garlic

½ teaspoon crushed ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil 

5 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons ACV

Salt & paper

1 tablespoon mayo if you like creamy

Whisk it all together and serve with your favourite salad. Enjoy!

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