Apple cider vinegar is made from the fermented, unstrained juice of crushed apples. It’s acidic and gives off a potent smell, similar to aged wine.

It’s often used as a 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 benefit.

Some people also use apple cider vinegar as an expectorant to break up the congestion that comes with a cold, while others use it to help boost their immunity.

Unfiltered apple cider vinegar often contains the “mother,” a mix of yeast and bacteria that work as probiotics. In 2018, researchers found that probiotics have an immune-boosting quality that effectively fights influenza-like respiratory infections and the common cold (1).

Furthermore, vinegar contains polyphenols — compounds found in plant-based foods containing antioxidants — which can help reduce symptoms of a cold (2, 3, 4).

Using a vinegar remedy to treat persistent coughs dates back to the late 1800s. Today, there are iterations of the remedy that combine apple cider vinegar with honey (5).

Homemade cough medicine

Anecdotal reports suggest that homemade cough medicine containing apple cider vinegar and the following ingredients can help relieve symptoms:

  • cayenne pepper
  • ground ginger
  • honey
  • water

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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 loosen your congestion and help you breathe easier while your body fights off a bacterial or viral infection.

Apple cider vinegar pills

While you can easily purchase apple cider vinegar supplements online or over the counter, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements. There could be ingredients that aren’t listed on their labels.

A 2005 study evaluated eight different apple cider vinegar supplements. Researchers found that labeling information was inaccurate, inconsistent, and listed unproven claims. There was also doubt about whether apple cider vinegar was even an ingredient in the pills (6).

Like other kinds of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is acidic. Its acid content can irritate your stomach lining and contribute to acid reflux. It should be diluted with water before you drink it.

People with existing stomach ulcers or GERD may consider avoiding apple cider vinegar for this reason (7).

Additionally, apple cider vinegar has been associated with esophageal injury and dental erosion. After drinking any apple cider vinegar solution, make sure to rinse your teeth with water afterward to help avoid damaging your tooth enamel (7).

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have an official stance on apple cider vinegar, according to a report published by CNN (8).

If you’re considering using apple cider vinegar to treat your child’s sore throat or congestion or for any other reason, speak with their pediatrician or another healthcare provider before doing so.

Apple cider vinegar is a home remedy that many people swear by. But there isn’t extensive research showing that it’s an effective way to treat a cold. For most people, giving apple cider vinegar a try is a low cost, low risk way to reduce cold symptoms.

If your cold symptoms are severe or if you experience any of the following, don’t try to treat yourself at home:

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

Instead, contact your healthcare provider for treatment options. You should also speak with your provider if your cold doesn’t go away or gets worse. They can help determine the cause of your symptoms.