What exactly is this Fire Cider stuff I’ve been hearing about?
Fire Cider is an apple cider vinegar-based tonic that was first conceived of in the late 1970s by Rosemary Gladstar, a highly respected herbalist, educator, and author. This amazing liquid slowly gained popularity and has become a mainstream favorite in the herbal community for its amazing immune-boosting properties.
Fire Cider in a Nutshell
Gladstar’s original formula includes a combination of macerated fresh ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, horseradish, and cayenne pepper. The ingredients are then covered with unfiltered apple cider vinegar for three to four weeks. After which, the solid ingredients are strained out and the reserved liquid is combined with honey to sweeten the mixture and mellow out the flavors.
All that stuff is in fire cider? Wow, that sounds crazy... and you want us to drink it? Why in the world would we want to do that?
All those benefits from the ingredients above are distilled and infused into that golden liquid and gives your immune system the boost it needs to get you through the cold, flu, sore throat season that we all know and dread.
Its amaaaaazing! It has a flavor that is powerful, unique and once you’ve become a convert, this stuff is borderline addictive. While the Fire Cider can be made as spicy or as mild as you want, make no mistake it is a powerhouse of taste!
Gladstar said of her creation, “At the time, I really wanted vinegar tinctures to take off, so I came up with this recipe and thought the combination of flavors was fabulous -- hot, sour, pungent, and sweet. Not only does it taste good, but it's also easy to make and uses common herbs that you can get from your backyard or local grocery store”
Amy learned about Fire Cider when she first attended the Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference back in 2010. When she got home from that life-changing conference, she couldn’t wait to tell me about this amazing tonic she learned how to make in one of the many workshops and classes she experienced that year. Ever since then, this extraordinary DIY tonic has been a staple in our fridge and has been our friend to help us get through cold, cough, and flu season with revved up immune systems ready to do battle with the wee beasties we know as germs and viruses.
Each ingredient in Fire Cider brings has its own purpose and benefits that it brings to the party.
Apple-cider vinegar is widely known for its aid for digestive distress, as well as innumerable other benefits that have been shouted from the rooftops as of late. Far from being just the latest trendy health fad, vinegars have long been used by healers throughout the ages.
(1) “For more than 2000 years, vinegar has been used to flavor and preserve foods, heal wounds, fight infections, clean surfaces, and manage diabetes... Evidence linking vinegar use to reduced risk for hypertension and cancer is equivocal. However, many recent scientific investigations have documented that vinegar ingestion reduces the glucose response to a carbohydrate load in healthy adults and in individuals with diabetes. There is also some evidence that vinegar ingestion increases short-term satiety."
Ginger root is a warming herb full of helpful properties. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent for the upper respiratory tract during the common cold or bronchitis, is antimicrobial, it is a natural diuretic, and helps to calm sour stomach or nausea.
Garlic is great for helping to ease bacterial and fungal infections of the upper respiratory system (the common cold and flu, bronchitis) as well as lower gastrointestinal ailments (cramps or bloating from gas). It is also taken by those with high cholesterol and arteriosclerosis.
Onions have similar properties to garlic and have a long history of healthful uses. Herbalists have used onion to calm inflammatory and spastic conditions of the upper respiratory tract (common cold, bronchitis, bronchial asthma; coughs), it is a natural diuretic, and helps guard against gastrointestinal issues (loss of appetite, gassy bloating, and minor cramps).
Turmeric root is used mainly for its exotic flavor and the bright colors it lends to foods, but it has amazing healing properties as an antioxidant, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, and it helps prevent the feeling of over-fullness after a meal. If you do include turmeric root in your recipe, be sure to add black pepper to the mix as well (either whole peppercorns or ground black pepper). The pepper acts as an agent to allow the turmeric to become more bio-available for your system to utilize its helpful properties. Black pepper also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of its own.
Horseradish is yet another natural anti-inflammatory agent for the upper respiratory tract (I bet you're detecting a pattern here) and has been used when experiencing the common cold, laryngitis, bronchitis, coughs, or even headaches due to sinus congestion. If you’ve ever grated fresh horseradish or used too much horseradish sauce with a meal, then you know how quickly it will clear your sinuses.
Cayenne pepper is considered among many American herbalists almost as a "cure-all". Its use is beneficial to those experiencing fever, to guard against the common cold, provide general body cleansing, and help to regulate blood flow. Careful though, too much can quickly become too strong for gentler palates! “A dab’ll do ya”, as they say here in Appalachia.
Honey (we prefer to buy local and raw varieties) has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, and it helps to soothe sore and irritated throats due to its high viscosity. The thick coating also helps to protect against further irritation. It is also said that the regular ingestion of local honey also helps to reduce the body’s response to hay-fever and pollen allergies. Here it also helps to buffer the strong flavors in Fire Cider, mellowing things out a bit and helping the flavors to marry.
How to Make It
The basic recipe lends itself to experimentation. Gladstar says, “It's a very fluid formula, so adjust it until it tastes right to you. You can add… echinacea if you have a cold, more horseradish if you have a sinus infection, or more honey if you don't like sourness.” I’m partial to adding jalapeños; cinnamon sticks are also a popular addition (and bring a lot to the table for the health benefits they provide). Citruses (lemon and orange) can add a very pleasant flavor! The recipe plus a few optional suggestions is provided below.
How to Take It
Both Gladstar and us at Soulstice Nutrition advise that first timers dilute the Fire Cider with a small amount of water or perhaps some apple juice - about two ounces of water to one ounce of Fire Cider. Once you’re a full-on Ciderhead, try drinking it straight. Our usual method is to pour a one to two-ounce shot, taken daily serves as an excellent tonic to maintain a robust immune system. Or take spoonful to a half-ounce two or three times a day if you feel a cold coming on. I’ve also been known to use Fire Cider in place of other vinegars when making vinaigrette salad dressings. (cue my “Mad Scientist” laugh; mua-hahaha!)
Basic Fire Cider
The basic recipe credit goes to Rosemary Gladstar (of course), with additions by us.
1-2 quarts raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
¼ cup or more grated turmeric root
¼ cup or more chopped garlic
¼ cup or more grated ginger
1 tbsp of whole black peppercorns (or 1 tsp of ground black pepper)
Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper *to taste. (I would start with ½ a teaspoon of dried powder or 1 piece of fresh pepper and build from there depending on your personal spicy tolerance)
*To Taste means should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it. Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary. You can always substitute or add jalapeños (1 or 2, chopped) if you prefer their flavor over cayenne peppers.
Local raw honey, *to taste (1 or more cups)
Optional ingredients: Echinacea, cinnamon, slices of orange or lemon, rose hips, hibiscus roselles (makes it a beautiful red color), any culinary herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano, bay leaf).
Idea! Maybe add ingredients to the original mix to make give it a Bloody Mary flavor profile (Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, smoked paprika, a pinch of celery salt, etc).
Place the ingredients in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the ingredients by at least three to four inches. Close the jar with a tightly fitting lid.
Place jar in a warm place and let for three to four weeks. Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.
After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs, and reserve the liquid.
Add honey ‘to taste*’. Warm the honey first so it mixes in well. Putting the jar down into a bowl of hot water from the faucet for a few minutes should be enough.
Re-bottle and enjoy!
*'To Taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet.
Fire Cider will keep for several months un-refrigerated if stored in a cool pantry. But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you’ve room, it'll keep for four to six months or longer in the fridge.
But Soulstice Nutrition, I think I'm coming down with a cold and don't want to wait 4 weeks until my Fire Cider is ready... I want my Fire Cider and I want it now!
No worries friends, we've got you covered...
Optional fast-cook method:
You can take the solid ingredients and either chop them more finely or break them down in a blender (use caution to keep the fumes and slurry out of your eyes!). Pour in enough apple cider vinegar to help the blending process. Don't over-fill your blender, work in batches if necessary.
Transfer the slurry to a large pot, or double-boiler if you have one available, and cover with the rest of the apple cider vinegar. Cover with a lid.
Keeping the lid on, gently warm the mixture over low heat (don't let it get above 120°F/49°C) for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Don't forget about those fumes and your tender eyeballs! Fair warning: your home is going to smell amazing to you, but maybe a little worry-some to any house guests you might be entertaining in the next 24 hours.
After the 3 hours cooking time, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or potato ricer. You will need to squeeze the goodness out of the solid ingredients or you will lose a great deal of the medicinal properties. (Don't use your bare hands, you could burn or irritate your skin.)
Add the honey and mix well, making sure the honey is completely dissolved
Let your Fire Cider cool completely and pour into sterilized jars, label with the date, and store as desired.
A final note regarding the history of the Fire Cider formula..
With an excerpt from "Fire Cider!" by Rosemary Gladstar and Friends
(2) "People seemed to especially love this recipe... and if they didn't love it, they adjusted the herbs and added a little more honey until it was just perfect for them… It was so easy to make, and so inexpensive, and all of the herbs were common and readily available – you could grow most of them or find them in the local supermarket.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly [in 2012], a brand-new company owned by two young people saw a great opportunity and, without any public notice, trademarked the name fire cider.
However, with the trademarking of the name fire cider, suddenly all those herbalists who had make and selling this traditional herbal formula – sometimes for decades – became vulnerable to accusations of trademark infringement. They were no longer able to sell it under its traditional name – the name it is best known by.”
Thus sparked the “Free Fire Cider” movement. Spearheaded by the “Fire Cider 3” Kathi Langelier of Herbal Revolution (ME), Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs (RI) and Nicole Telkes of Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine (TX) and supported by herbalists the world-over, the movement began the legal battle to remove the trademarking of a traditional term and restricting it for commercial use.
The result? They won!
(3) “A Massachusetts court has ruled “fire cider” is a generic term that cannot be trademarked, potentially ending a years-long legal battle between herbal brand owners and tonic maker Shire City Herbals, which claims to have originated and own the term.
The case’s origins stem from a 2012 trademark filing by Shire City for the name “fire cider,” which it had been using as a brand name for its line of herbal tonics made with ginger, horseradish, onions and apple cider vinegar. The move led to a backlash among herbal tonic makers who claimed that “fire cider” is a generic term that was in use long before being adopted and trademarked by Shire City."
So, long story short (tl;dr)...
(too late, I know!) - experiment, play, make your Fire Cider your Fire Cider. Share your recipes with your friends and family without fear of stepping on legal toes. Share those amazing recipes with us on our Facebook page! We would loooove to hear all the ways you've made Fire Cider your own!
(1) Johnston, C. S., & Gaas, C. A. (January 01, 2006). Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. Medgenmed : Medscape General Medicine, 8, 2.)
(2) Gladstar, R. (2019). Fire cider!: 101 zesty recipes for health-boosting remedies made with apple cider vinegar.
(3) In the Courtroom: Court Rules 'Fire Cider' Generic Term in Shire City Lawsuit. (2019, October 21). Retrieved February 12, 2020, from https://www.bevnet.com/news/2019/in-the-courtroom-court-rules-fire-cider-generic-term-in-shire-city-lawsuit