Apple cider vinegar is vinegar made from the fermented, unstrained juice of crushed apples. It is highly acidic and gives off a potent smell, similar to aged wine. The high concentration of vitamin C, fiber, and acids are believed by some to boost immunity while breaking up the congestion that comes with a cold.

While apple cider vinegar (ACV) is becoming a popular home remedy for colds, researchers are still figuring out why it may help you feel better and if there are some people it won’t work for.

When you drink organic, cold-pressed apple cider vinegar, it contains a substance called “must.” Must is the bits and pieces of the apple that are fermenting in its cloudy juice. The must is what holds the “mother,” which is a colony of bacteria that work as probiotics when you consume them. Probiotics were shown in 2011 to have an immune-boosting effect, which might be why drinking apple cider vinegar can shorten the duration of a cold.

The acid in apple cider vinegar thins out mucous in the throat. This helps the mucous to move out of your respiratory system more quickly. Loosening phlegm can help you feel like you’re on the way to recovery. There’s also some reason to believe that the acid in apple cider vinegar can work to kill pathogens that are making you sick.

Apple cider vinegar is rich in the same nutrients that you would find in apples, too. Potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants, and vitamin E are just part of the nutritional components in apples. Eating apples might contribute to better lung function, according to some research, so it makes sense that apple cider vinegar might help you breathe easier.

Apple cider vinegar with honey

A popular (and age-old) remedy for a cold mixes apple cider vinegar with honey. This remedy has been proposed for a cold for centuries:

  • Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 5 parts warm water
  • Add 2-3 tbsp. of raw honey

Apple cider vinegar gargle

If you don’t have honey on hand, consider using apple cider vinegar in a gargle solution. Mix together:

  • 1/4 cup water that feels warm to the touch
  • 1/4 cup vinegar

Tilt your head back and gargle this mixture for up to two minutes, making sure to spit it out and rinse your teeth after using. This may help with uncomfortable congestion.

Apple cider vinegar throat rub

You may want to consider rubbing apple cider vinegar on your throat and around your sinuses. The powerful smell of apple cider vinegar may help to loosen your congestion and help you to breathe easier while your body fights off a bacterial or viral infection.

Apple cider vinegar pills

If the taste of apple cider vinegar doesn’t appeal to you, consider purchasing ACV pills. While they don’t contain the same amount of immunity-boosting vitamin C, these pills can provide some of the same benefits of apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic. This acid can irritate your stomach lining and esophagus, contributing to an ulcer. Apple cider vinegar should be diluted in water before you drink it. People with existing stomach ulcers, GERD, or acid reflux may consider avoiding apple cider vinegar for this reason.

After drinking any apple cider vinegar solution, make sure to rinse your teeth with water afterward. There’s reason to believe that drinking apple cider vinegar without rinsing your mouth out afterward could lead to the erosion of your tooth enamel over time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have an official stance on apple cider vinegar, according to a report published by CNN. If you’re considering using apple cider vinegar to treat your child’s sore throat or congestion, use caution and call your child’s doctor first.

Apple cider vinegar is a home remedy that many people swear by. But we don’t have extensive studies that show it’s an effective way to treat a cold. For most people, giving apple cider vinegar a try is a low-cost and low-risk way to try to shorten the duration of a cold. Because there are established health benefits and little risk, you might want to add apple cider vinegar to your health regimen.

If you have any of the below symptoms or other serious symptoms, don’t try to treat your cold by yourself at home:

  • a lingering cough
  • a fever that persists for more than 48 hours
  • dizziness
  • nausea

Call your doctor to get a professional diagnosis if your cold doesn’t go away or gets worse.