By: Kelley Garrison, ND
Tis the season for brewing up some Fire Cider to have on hand for the winter months! Fire Cider is a honey and vinegar based herbal remedy traditionally used to ward off cold and flu viruses, stimulate the immune system, and clear the sinuses and respiratory system. The name Fire Cider alludes to the hot and spicy nature of its herbs and the use of apple cider vinegar as its main menstruum. Although Fire Cider was originally developed by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar and her students in 1980, the tradition of using herbal infused vinegars in recorded history dates back to as early as the second century.
Grape and apple cider vinegar contains 4-6% acetic acid making it mildly antibacterial and thus a natural preservative in the herbal formulas in which it is used. This allows it to have an extended shelf life especially when using dry and/or antimicrobial herbs. Not only is vinegar rich in nutrients such as potassium, it is also able to extract minerals from herbs as well as medicinally active alkaloid compounds. As this formula can end up being quite spicy, the use of honey helps to balance out the heat to make it more palatable. Honey itself is a rich source of nutrients and contains antibacterial qualities.
The great thing about fire cider is its versatility. It can be taken directly as a quick swig for the brave heat lovers out there, but it can be used as an herbal vinaigrette to add flavor to salads, soups, and many other dishes.
Fire Cider Core Herbal Ingredients and their Medicinal Actions:
The original recipe for Fire Cider is meant to be adapted to personal preference, tastes, and medicinal needs, making it a great starter project for beginner herbalists. Below are the main components of the recipe but feel free to add different herbs and spices to help make it your own!
Onion: acts as an anti-inflammatory and immune stimulant and has been traditionally used to treat coughs from respiratory illnesses.
Garlic: acts as an antimicrobial, antifungal, and immune stimulant, and has been used to treat sinus congestion and respiratory infections. Additionally, its active compound allicin has been shown to lower high cholesterol, reduce elevated blood pressure, and balance blood sugar.
Horseradish: acts as an antimicrobial in the respiratory system, helps to break up thick mucus in the lungs and sinuses, stimulates the immune system.
Ginger: acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-nausea, and antioxidant.
Cayenne: acts as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal.
In addition to these core ingredients, many herbalists will add variations to help augment the taste and/or medicinal qualities of the brew. Some common examples are antimicrobial herbs such as rosemary, oregano, and thyme, anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, and taste enhancing ingredients such as lemon and orange peel.
Making Fire Cider:
The hardest part of making fire cider is all the prep work. You’ll want to peel and roughly chop each ingredient into small chunks. After you are done with this step though it is smooth sailing. You’ll notice that I don’t use exact measurements in this recipe. That’s on purpose as there is no need for specificity in this formula, so instead I find it more fun/easier just to eyeball it as I go along. For this reason, I like to add each ingredient in layers so that I can better visualize their overall ratios. You can adjust the layers to suit your preference. For instance, if you like a lot of spice/heat, then you can add more cayenne and horseradish.
After you’ve added all your layers, make sure there is at least 1-2 inches of space at the top so that the apple cider vinegar can fully cover all the ingredients. Pour in the apple cider vinegar until the jar is completely full to the brim. You don’t want any of the ingredients exposed to air as that can allow for bacterial growth. Secure the jar with a lid and then give the whole thing a good shake.
Set the jar aside in a spot where you’ll see it daily but where it isn’t exposed to extreme temperatures. At least once a day, give the jar a good shake to help the maceration process. The total time of maceration takes about a month. Don’t be alarmed if the garlic turns blue; this is a normal reaction between the allicin in the garlic and the vinegar.
Once a month has passed, it is time to strain out the vegetables and herbs. This can be done using a cheese cloth or a fine mesh sieve, whichever you have on hand. Make sure to squeeze as much of the cider as you can from herbs and veggies. Pour the cider into a clean jar and then add your desired amount of honey to help sweeten the brew and lend some of its healing and preservation qualities. Once the honey is added, just shake to mix and you’re all set! The fire cider should be shelf stable for around 6 months or more if made correctly. Enjoy!