What is Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother?

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What is the mother in apple cider vinegar
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I use apple cider vinegar a lot. From making cleaning recipes to its many health benefits, ACV is a staple in our home.

For cleaning, any vinegar will do. In food or drink recipes though, I always use an organic and unrefined version of apple cider vinegar with “the Mother.”

Over the years, my mentions of “vinegar with the mother,” have gotten a lot of questions. Readers ask what “the mother” means and how to find it, so I wanted to fully explain exactly what it is and why it is important.

Here’s why:

What is Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother?

In short, it is apple cider vinegar that still has the culture of beneficial bacteria that turns regular apple cider into vinegar in the first place. This is similar to the SCOBY (also called a “mother”) in Kombucha making.

Pasteurized vs. Unrefined & Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar

In ACV particularly, “the mother” is a complex structure of beneficial acids that seem to have health benefits. Unrefined vinegars have a murky appearance and typically still contain the mother culture. Clear and pasteurized vinegars typically do not contain the mother culture and don’t carry the same benefits.

Refined and clear vinegars are great for cleaning as they don’t leave residue. Raw, unfiltered and unrefined versions contain many more beneficial properties for culinary uses.

How Apple Cider Vinegar is Made

The word vinegar comes from the latin words vinum (wine) and acer (sour) and in essence vinegar is just that: sour wine.

Organic unfiltered vinegars have a long history of use, having been discovered thousands of years ago!

Folklore claims that Cleopatra once dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drank it in order to win a bet with Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony). She wagered that she could spend a fortune on a single meal. Vinegar is mention in the Bible and Hippocrates often recommended it for a variety of ailments.

Any carbohydrate or alcohol in theory can become vinegar. Carbohydrates are made into an alcohol through a process of careful fermentation.

The (non-distilled) alcohol in beer, wine or cider is exposed to air and a group of bacteria (acetobacter) that convert the alcohols into acetic acid.

In unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar, this beneficial group of bacteria and acids remains and creates the murky web-like “Mother.”

This type of vinegar gained commercial popularity in the 1930s:

In 1394, a group of French vintners developed a continuous method for making vinegar called the Orleans method. In this method, oak barrels were used as fermentation vessels and the vinegar was siphoned off through a spigot at the bottom of the barrel. About 15% of the vinegar was left behind which contained the “mother of vinegar” and its concentrated bacteria floating on top. A new batch of cider or wine was carefully added to the barrel and was quick started by the remaining vinegar. (source)

This is similar to the process for continuous brew kombucha, and at the time, it allowed these Frenchmen to satisfy the growing market for vinegars. They went on to create infused vinegars with herbs, spices, and fruits to meet the growing demand.

Benefits of The Mother in Apple Cider Vinegar

As with many things in nature, vinegar in its unfiltered, unadulterated and unrefined form has a variety of benefits that are lost when it is filtered and heated.

The acetic acid created in the secondary fermentation process is a component of the finished vinegar and has a host of benefits on its own. Certain medications contain acetic acid in concentrated form and studies have looked at the role of acetic acid in balancing blood sugar, blood pressure and dissolving cholesterol deposits in arteries.

More research is needed, but acetic acid in vinegar has a long history of use in alternative medicine.

Cleaning and Preserving

The high acid content in vinegar makes it a powerful preservative for food and it is often also recommended in cleaning for this reason. In fact, historically, vinegars were added to water to make the water more drinkable.

It is important to note that vinegar has some limitations as a natural cleaner and that it is not a registered disinfectant for disinfecting uses. A hydrogen peroxide based formula is a better choice and strong natural soaps (like this one) are better for degreasing.

Digestive Support

Digestive problems and acid reflux can often be from too little stomach acid rather than too much. Apple cider vinegar is a simple and really inexpensive remedy for low stomach acid. Personally, I’ve found relief from minor heartburn by adding 1 teaspoon of vinegar to water and drinking.

Immune Support

ACV also has a long history of use for immune support. According to legend, thieves during the bubonic plague survived by making an herbal vinegar with herbs like rosemary, thyme and lavender.

The “mother,” which provides immune boosting properties on its own, also allows the vinegar to get stronger over time and maintain its beneficial properties.

Beautiful Hair

The beneficial acids in the “mother” of apple cider vinegar are also great for hair, and this is one reason that ACV is often recommended as a hair rinse for conditioning hair and increasing shine.

For Healthy Skin

Unrefined Apple Cider Vinegar is also often used in skin remedies and beauty recipes. It can be used to help sunburns, skin rashes and mosquito bites (I typically dilute 50:50 with water).

Blood Sugar Balance

Unrefined apple cider vinegar, high in beneficial compounds, is also known for its ability to help keep blood sugar in check. It isn’t a wonder drug, but studies have shown that it can help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. (source)

Other studies have shown the benefits of ACV in helping improve cholesterol levels, and support heart health.

Where to buy Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother

Most grocery stores should carry it, or you can purchase it online on as well.

Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother: Bottom Line

Apple cider vinegar with the mother is simply unrefined, unpasteurized and unfiltered ACV. The “mother” is a colony of beneficial bacteria, similar to a Kombucha SCOBY, that helps create vinegar through a secondary fermentation process.

Vinegar is high in acetic acid and other beneficial compounds. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar may have more benefits that filtered and heated types of vinegar (though those types can work well for cleaning).

Does your vinegar have a mother?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


85 responses to “What is Apple Cider Vinegar with The Mother?”

  1. Kayden Avatar

    In your article you recommend Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds as a “strong, natural soap” that is good for degreasing. However, the second ingredient in Sal Suds, next to water, is sodium laurel sulfate which is a known toxic substance according to EWG.org and should be avoided in natural products. I don’t see anything natural about SLS.

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Sodium lauryl sulfate is a different substance than sodium laureth sulfate. The first has a rating of 1-2 on EWG and is considered safe in certain products that aren’t powdered and inhaled or used around the eye area. Since Sal Suds is a cleaner Katie feels comfortable using it in this way. Lisa Bronner also goes into more details on how their Sodium lauryl sulfate is made here. https://www.lisabronner.com/there-is-no-cancer-risk-from-sls-sodium-lauryl-sulfate/

  2. hillel batafik Avatar
    hillel batafik

    ACV comes raw & unfiltered with the mother and sometimes without the mother (though still raw and unfiltered). So the mother isn’t necessarily a benefit?

  3. Deborah Avatar

    I’m new to ACV and their benefits.
    I have been taking 1 tablespoon daily with turmeric .
    Should I be taking this in water or fruit juice as a friend has told me without diluting the ACC is extremely bad for my teeth and enamel?
    Also my partner has high blood pressure and is on prescribed meditation .
    Is it safe for him to take ACC daily as grapefruit juice is apparently not good ?
    Thanks Debbie

  4. Freda Avatar

    I noticed that nobody has noticed their vinegar eels, makes sense, they are hard to see. I have been making vinegar for sevral years, I don’t store the mother but just buy a new bottle of un pasteurized ACV with the mother. I was taking a look at my latest batch with a hand held microscope to check out CO2 bubble formation and noticed vinegar eels. Research suggests that they are normal in unpasteurized vinegar, they can sometimes be spotted with a large magnifying glass neare the surface of the vinegar.

    They are harmless and most people can’t really notice them anyway. This is a reason that many home vinegar makers pasteurize their vinegar. I don’t feel queezy about consuming vinegar with them and a friend of mine who is a biologist does not mind either but I will pasteurize what I serve to guests because I know that they would be revolted by the idea. Books on fermentation “Noma’s guide” for example” don’t even mention them.

    I once found an article that stated that fermented drinks containing vinegar eels were use medicinally in China “have not been able to find it again though”

    Can they be considered a pro-biotic amongst the other organisms that make up the mother “that’s kind of how I see them” even though this does not seem to be socially acceptable.

  5. Lanilu Avatar

    What do I do with the mother when the bottle is empty?
    My kombucha goes to the compost when I get overwhelmed.
    Thanks Lanilu

  6. Ak Avatar

    Iam a newbie

    Should i shake the bottle (to get all the mother evenly distributed) before i drink a spoon out of it..
    Or am i supposed to avoid the mother and drink only the vinegar? (And finally discard the bottle along with mother)

  7. Angie Avatar

    We are big believers in raw ACV around our house. My 10 year son was diagnosed with systemic strep and have found that fermented and cultured dairy products contain S. Thermophilus. That good strain is apparently on his immune systems hit list because it resembles the back strep bacteria.
    That being said, do you know if raw ACV contains S. Thermophilus? He loves acv water and honey but his vocal tic returned after drinking some the other day.

  8. Jay Avatar

    Hi Sabrina,
    you may be able to improve your family’s health by switching to a plant-based diet, because it is less inflammatory to the human body and thus usually very beneficial for people dealing with autoimmune disorders and allergies.

    Then there is a non-profit organization called Nutrition Facts, which provides scientific research to almost any diet related topic imagineable.

    Hope this helps your family to get well, Jay

  9. Shruthi Avatar

    Planning to have a baby. Does having ACV effects the same. Can u also co syne ACV

  10. Victor Avatar

    I have noticed a few questions have gone unanswered and I for one would like a response from anyone with the correct answer.

    Is it appropriate to shake the ACV with the mother before using it?

    Thank you

  11. Renata Avatar

    Mother ACV: how to identify whether its good or not, i see this one here thats showing,,, broken up mother, as if sheered paper, and cut into dices. I know a good mother is more of gel like and connecting,, mucous looking,, stretched out. AS opposed to this one I see that looks diced. Would that be a sign of bad mother?

    I know that having it refrigerated keeps all living organisms fresh or at least last longer.

    So Pls tell me whether I’m right, are there any photos to identify how it should look and should not look?

  12. Beau Avatar

    I bought some organic unfiltered acv at the health food shop. When it was used up there was a “mother” left in the bottom of the bottle. Is there anything that it’s good for? Can I use that slimy bacteria residue for anything? Is it good to eat (mixed with food)?

  13. Jim Avatar

    What do I do with mother how can I utilize this good thing I have

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