Apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be used as a substitute for rheumatoid arthritis medications, but it may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More research is needed.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that’s marked by inflammation. It causes joint damage and pain throughout the body. Other symptoms associated with RA include:

  • joint swelling
  • joint stiffness
  • fatigue

There’s no known cure for the condition. Various medications are available to help treat RA and manage the symptoms. They aim to lower inflammation and discomfort, and to prevent further joint erosion and damage.

Natural remedies, such as apple cider vinegar (ACV), are also available. They’re not a substitute for medication, but they may offer relief from certain symptoms.

ACV may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could be important for RA symptom management.

There are several phytonutrients, or plant-based compounds, in ACV. Examples include polyphenols and acetic acid. Researchers believe polyphenols may contribute to ACV’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Acetic acid may play a similar role, according to animal studies.

A 2021 literature review concluded that polyphenols, in general, may help alleviate RA-related joint damage, swelling, and pain.

Studies that clearly link ACV’s polyphenols — and its other compounds — to reductions in RA swelling and pain are needed.

A 2019 study split 70 adults with type 2 diabetes and high blood lipids into two groups. For 8 weeks, they received either 20 milliliters (mL) of ACV each day or no ACV at all. The group who received ACV saw better blood sugar management and less oxidative damage in the body. Oxidative damage is closely linked to inflammation.

This study wasn’t performed on people with RA. However, any treatment that reduces oxidative damage may potentially have anti-inflammatory benefits important to people with RA. More studies are needed to confirm this.

Other uses of apple cider vinegar

ACV is commonly used in cooking. Small studies in humans, animals, and cells suggest it might also have modest health benefits.

ACV may be a good natural remedy to try if you’re interested in:

Learn more about the uses of ACV.

There’s not sufficient research to establish that ACV is effective at preventing, treating, or curing RA or any of its symptoms, including pain.

Applying ACV topically to affected areas may not have significant health benefits. Inappropriate use on the skin could actually cause irritation, worsen inflammation, and result in damage.

A small 2019 study found that a diluted ACV mixture didn’t improve skin integrity in people with atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition. The study participants soaked one of their forearms in the mixture for 10 minutes over 14 days.

In addition, the Arthritis Foundation lists ACV as a common arthritis food myth for the management of pain and inflammation.

Drinking ACV or adding it to foods is commonly recommended to people who want to take a nutritional approach to RA symptom management.

The dose most often linked to health benefits is 15 to 30 mL per day, mixed in water or other beverages. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest there’s an ideal daily dose of ACV to consume when treating RA or managing its symptoms.

Also, vinegar is highly acidic. Before ingesting it, you may want to try diluting it with water to prevent damage to your teeth.

Applying ACV topically for local pain relief is another common use, but this approach doesn’t have any scientific studies behind it currently.

Many people believe that adding ACV to a bath before bed can also help to relieve RA pain. More research must be done before any conclusions can be drawn.

If you notice an adverse reaction after ingesting, topically applying, or soaking in an ACV mixture, stop using it immediately.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), several other nutritional and topical complementary approaches for RA symptom relief are available.

Nutritional approaches for RA include:

Some topical therapies to consider include herbal oils and capsaicin cream.

For many of these natural remedies for RA, only a small amount of research has been done in limited study populations. More work is needed to fully understand how they help with RA.

NCCIH also recommends against substituting other approaches, including complementary therapies, for treatments prescribed or recommended by a doctor.

While ACV is commonly seen as a cure-all for minor illnesses and injuries, there’s not enough evidence to prove it’s an effective treatment for RA.

ACV isn’t a replacement for traditional RA medications. Taking medication, if prescribed by a doctor, is an important part of managing RA.

ACV may be an affordable home remedy that seems like it has less significant side effects than more traditional RA therapies. It may not be helpful or effective for some people, though.

Consuming too much ACV or using it improperly also has several well-established side effects.

Before pursuing alternative treatments or combining traditional RA therapies with complementary approaches, talk with a doctor about what an appropriate treatment plan may look like for you.

If you begin to experience unusual side effects or your condition worsens while using ACV, get immediate medical attention.