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 e