Apple Cider Vinegar As A Home Treatment For Strep Throat?

During strep throat, the natural immune response causes the throat's mucous membranes to become inflamed, swollen, and sore, prompting people to seek natural treatments for the pain and infection. Due to the antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar (ACV), many anecdotally claim that it speeds up the recovery process, either by resolving the infection or at least reducing the painful symptoms. We'll explore what the current research says and look at popular methods of using ACV for strep.

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Because strep throat is caused by bacteria and ACV has antimicrobial properties, there is some basis for using ACV to treat strep throat. ACV has been shown to inhibit the growth of numerous bacterial strains, including the streptococcus bacteria that causes strep throat.

ACV’s organic acids and bioactive substances can induce the destruction of bacteria membrane cells, and the high levels of hydrogen ions in this vinegar can destabilize the microbes and induce their death. Additionally, phenolic compounds in ACV can inhibit the growth of the bacteria.  

While it can help inhibit harmful oral bacteria generally, you should not view ACV as a complete cure for strep throat. Different bacterial strains require very different acid strengths to penetrate the bacterial cell wall.

The most common streptococcus bacteria are actually well adapted to acidic compounds. One study even went as far as saying that a form of streptococcus had a “remarkable ability to withstand the acid onslaught.” Most commercially available ACVs are only 5–6% acidic, and even this level of acidity may be too strong for individuals with damaged or sensitive mucous membranes — unless diluted (more on this below).¹ 

This level of acidity is not enough to destroy the bacteria that cause strep throat, which succumb to a highly acidic environment often below pH 5. The acidic properties of ACV are not sufficient to eradicate a strep infection, but they can inhibit its growth. ACV’s bioactive compounds also have antimicrobial properties and may promote the growth of the mouth’s own antimicrobial forces. 

Although published scientific research has not shown a definitive link between ACV and the curing of strep, it is commonly promoted as a strep throat treatment. Whether it actually reduces the amount of strep in the throat or merely aids in the symptoms, it can potentially help.

The efficacy of ACV for strep

Due to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, ACV has been used medicinally in Africa, China, and western cultures for centuries.

It's definitely useful, but modern research, however limited, does not verify that it cures the strep throat. Rather than hoping ACV will completely cure your strep throat, it's more effective to ask, “Does apple cider vinegar help strep throat?”

One of the major symptoms of strep throat is inflammation, which research shows is behind most of the pain felt. Antioxidants are very effective at reducing inflammation. And thanks to ACV's acetic acid, phenolic acid, and vitamin C, ACV is a good source of antioxidants.²

ACV may not be a complete remedy for strep throat, but it can certainly help treat its most painful symptoms.

Home remedies based on apple cider vinegar

Home-made ACV and honey medicine have been used for centuries to treat a wide range of illnesses.

Like ACV, honey's antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects make it highly medicinal. It also has a soothing effect on inflamed tissues, which can help just enough to enable swallowing when your throat is painfully swollen.

Stir one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of ACV into a cup of warm water. Use less if the throat and tonsils are particularly painful or have any abrasions.

Be careful not to give honey to children under one, as their gastrointestinal system is not mature enough to be unaffected by certain germs honey may contain.

According to taste, feel free to include these other helpful ingredients in your home-made strep throat treatment:

  • Salt reduces swelling by pulling water out of the throat tissue and can also kill certain microbes in the throat.

  • Lemon further reduces oxidative stress and inflammation due to its vitamin C and other antioxidant content.

  • According to animal studies, coconut oil may reduce inflammation and is very soothing on mucous membranes.³

  • Ginger also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and several studies (here, here, and here) show its efficacy for pathogens that cause respiratory illness.⁴ ⁵ ⁶

  • Mint is another anti-inflammatory, and peppermint, in particular, causes a slight numbing effect, which can lessen throat pain.

  • Cinnamon also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and its use in sore throats goes all the way back to Traditional Chinese medicine.

Note that most of these treatments are essentially nutritional in nature. So ensuring a healthy and balanced diet while having an infection may help your body’s own fighting mechanisms and reduce inflammation.

Additionally, give yourself extra rest, light exercise, and plenty of sunshine. If applicable, quitting smoking will also help enormously — cigarette smoke has been found to increase the growth of strep bacteria.

The lowdown

Apple cider vinegar's usefulness may extend to a broad range of maladies, and it may help treat strep throat symptoms. It can even help control certain bacterial strains, although often at high concentrations, and data is lacking regarding its effect specifically on throat streptococcus infection.

That being said, ACV could be considered useful in mitigating the painful symptoms associated with strep throat in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle measures. Be sure to drink ACV slowly and in more diluted forms, and don’t expect any miracle cures.

People also ask

Is gargling apple cider vinegar safe?

Due to its acid content, those with gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), stomach ulcers, or esophageal erosion or ulcers should probably avoid using ACV as it could be dangerous or worsen these conditions. Those with any other gastrointestinal issues should exercise particular caution with ACV. If your throat is extremely swollen and the mucous membranes are damaged, try a small amount of diluted ACV first, and assess the level of pain before using more.

One study described the side effects of ACV as “inconsiderable” when taking the recommended quantity. Even still, if in doubt, it's important to exercise caution by taking diluted ACV in small amounts.⁷

Can apple cider vinegar help with a sore throat?

High-quality research on the overall health benefits of ACV is lacking. It's best considered in light of its nutritional benefits. Due to its antioxidant content, it can help reduce the pain, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with strep throat.

Its antimicrobial properties can help control the cause of infection and prevent further infection for highly damaged throat tissues — but there is no research supporting its role as a cure for strep throat in and of itself.

  1. Acid tolerance mechanisms utilized by streptococcus mutans (2011)

  2. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief (2010)

  3. In vivo antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities of dried and fermented processed virgin coconut oil (2011)

  4. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of ginger in tuberculosis (2016)

  5. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines (2013)

  6. Antibacterial effect of zingiber officinale and garcinia kola on respiratory tract pathogens (2002)

  7. Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: A systematic review (2020)

Other sources:

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