3 Ways People Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Psoriasis

By Claire Gillespie
Reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.
November 08, 2021

Apple cider vinegar, the fermented juice of crushed apples, is a popular home remedy that’s been used in cooking for hundreds of years. It contains acetic acid as well as nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin C, and it’s known for its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. As such, it’s been anecdotally hailed as a treatment for many health issues and conditions, including psoriasis. Here, we explain three ways people use apple cider vinegar for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and examine whether they really work.

Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Rinse

Little research exists on the benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV) for psoriasis, but the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) suggests that it can be used to help relieve itch from scalp psoriasis.

“Apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antifungal properties,” says Sandy Skotnicki, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto, Canada and author of Beyond Soap. “It also lowers the pH of the skin, which helps restore skin-barrier function, which can be reduced in psoriasis.”

The NPF recommends opting for organic apple cider vinegar (which can be found at health-food stores and most grocery stores). Dilute it by mixing it with an equal amount of water, says Skotnicki. You can apply it to your scalp after shampooing, up to several times a week. After the ACV solution has dried on your scalp, rinse it off to reduce the risk of irritation. Watch out for side effects like burning and stop use if you experience any issues. If you have open cracks or fissures on your scalp, avoid using apple cider vinegar until they have healed, otherwise it would sting and cause pain and further irritation.

There have been no studies done on ACV and psoriasis yet. A small study on people with eczema patients found that daily application of diluted ACV for 14 days led to no skin-barrier improvement but instead led to irritation in 73 percent of the people. So, it’s important to monitor your symptoms for improvement or worsening while using ACV, and it is always recommended to notify your dermatologist if you’re trying new treatments, so they can help you monitor your symptoms.

Eating (or Drinking) ACV

Apple cider vinegar can also be taken orally, but there is no current evidence as to whether this can help psoriasis either. In fact, studies on consuming ACV and the associated benefits for any health conditions are limited, says Tejal Pathak, a registered dietitian in Houston, Texas. However, some people believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of ACV may help to reduce pain and swelling from psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

If you want to take apple cider vinegar orally to see if it has an effect on your psoriasis symptoms, Pathak recommends trying it in soups, gravies, sauces, or salad dressings. “Because acetic acid is the main component of ACV, it’s highly acidic in nature and sour in taste,” she says, so adding it to other foods is the tastiest way to go. You could also dilute it with a beverage like water, coconut water, or tea to make it more palatable.

To start, add anywhere from 1 to 2 teaspoons to 1 to 2 tablespoons per day to a large glass of your chosen beverage. It’s always best to stick with small doses, as too much vinegar can cause harmful side effects like tooth-enamel erosion. Also, avoid taking oral ACV tablets, since there have been reports of esophageal injury due to inconsistent and inaccurate labeling and dosages of over-the-counter supplement products, which are not well regulated.

Topical ACV for Pain

To ease psoriatic arthritis pain, you can try applying diluted apple cider vinegar topically to the affected area. Again, there is no research evidence that shows this works; and, in fact, the Arthritis Foundation lists apple cider vinegar easing arthritis pain as a myth. But, if it works for you, then great!

To reduce the risk of skin irritation, it is recommended to dilute the product with coconut or sunflower (safflower) oil first—at a minimum, 1 part ACV to 1 part oil. Then use a cotton ball to apply the vinegar up to twice daily. If you experience an adverse reaction, stop using it right away. Chemical burns have been reported in patients who tried to remove moles, warts, and molluscum with undiluted 5% ACV, so never use it without diluting it. Also, avoid covering the area with a bandage, since occlusion can increase the concentration of ACV and may lead to skin injury.

You may also find pain relief by adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to a 40-gallon bathtub. Soak in the solution for up to 30 minutes before bedtime to help reduce overnight stiffness and swelling.

The bottom line is that there’s currently no evidence that apple cider vinegar is helpful for psoriasis. Yet, many people say it is helpful for them. As with all all-natural psoriasis treatments, it may work for you and it may not.

The difference between home remedies and prescription drugs is that prescription medications undergo rigorous FDA approval, so there’s information on how best to use the medication; whereas, with home remedies, there’s a lot of guesswork. It’s always a good idea to inform your dermatologist or rheumatologist about any home remedies before your start, so they can ensure there are no interactions with your current treatment regimen.

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