There is something deeply satisfying about walking into your kitchen and putting together ingredients that will nourish and heal the body. I cannot think of any other super tonic that is more needed in each and every home during the winter than fire cider.
Fire cider is made up of a blend of herbs, spices, and peppers and many of its components can be found in your kitchen. We steep ingredients for a period of 4 to 6 weeks in apple cider vinegar, strained and sweetened with raw honey. Rosemary Gladstar, an herbalist, coined the term in the 1970s & herbalists from all walks of life have made versions of the tonic for the last 40 years.
Even beyond the 70s, the use of vinegar in herbal remedies is well documented and has been used for centuries, particularly amongst African slaves and other folk practitioners who have used vinegar as a cure for fevers, to avoid the development of vaginal infections, the prevention of skin and scalp problems, arthritis and so on. One remedy for rheumatism would include taking an empty whiskey bottle and filling it half full with vinegar then putting a couple of handfuls of large red ants and shaking well. This tonic was applied both externally and internally to battle rheumatism. Both slaves and plantation owners alike used vinegar for many ailments and while some people today may think these remedies seem a bit obscure the truth of the matter is, for many they worked.
Today we will take a deeper dive into looking at different elements that make up fire cider and their benefits - let's get in to it.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a major component of fire cider. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one vinegar that I really like to use because it has more nutrients and enzymes than regular distilled vinegar so when you are making tonics whether it's a fire cider or any other herbal tonic, you want to use an apple cider vinegar (ACV) particularly one that is raw and unfiltered. It is made by fermenting the sugar from apples which creates acetic acid and is responsible for many great benefits. Making your own ACV is fun and easy to do, but buying it is ok to do as well. The supply is plentiful and it doesn't cost much for a solid organic, raw, and unpasturized ACV. Some of my favorite brands to use are made by Natural Coast and Braggs.
I could write an entire blog post about all the amazing benefits of ACV. It is widely popular for its benefits to promote good gut health due to all of the amazing probiotics it naturally contains. It also aids in weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels, and helps to kill harmful bacteria. Place ACV in a spray bottle of water and tea tree essential oil to win the battle against foot and toe fungus.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sourcing organic ACV to ensure you end up with a clean tonic free of pesticides.
People will often think of a creamy sauce when horseradish comes to mind, but horseradish is actually a spicy pungent root vegetable in the mustard family. It has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat conditions such as inflammation, high cholesterol and more notably to improve respiration issues and clear sinuses. There are many variations of fire cider recipes that exist, however horseradish is a constant staple in my fire cider no matter what other components I may change along with it.
Horseradish is the number-one herb for combating sinus congestion and headaches. It clears your sinuses better than anything; even when you’re just grating it, by the time you’re done, your sinuses are wide open.
Be sure to use fresh horseradish and you may elect to grate or thinly slice it so more surface area of the root is exposed to the ACV to maximize maceration. It contains calcium, magnesium and potassium and is known to be rich in antioxidants. Consider adding this dynamic accumulator in your garden and grow your own as it is a vigorously growing perennial that will provide good medicine for your family for years to come. Consuming large quantities of horseradish can be toxic and omit if from your recipe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Many people are familiar with garlic and if you have had any classes with me you know I'm a big fan of it. If I see a recipe that asked for two or three cloves of garlic, for me, that means use 10 to 12 cloves. I especially load up on garlic during the winter months using it heavily in soups and stews to take advantage of its many healing properties.
Garlic (Allium sativum L.) is an annual bulbous herb of the Alliaceae family that are native to Central and South Asia. It has been used for culinary and spiritual purposes for many years. Garlic, also known as poor man's penicillin, is antibacterial and antiviral so it helps fight viruses and colds. Pre-clinical data demonstrated that garlic and its OSCs (organosulfur compounds) have potential antiviral activity against different human, animal and plant pathogenic viruses through blocking viral entry into host cells. This is why we want it in our fire cider.
There is always an abundance of garlic harvested each year on our homestead. Much of it gets braided and added to meals, some will find its way into our annual batch of fire cider, the remaining bulbs will be planted for next season's harvest.
A student attended one of my fire cider classes and after making her own batch, she contacted me to say her garlic turned blue. Bluish/green garlic can sometimes happen when making fire cider. The color change is caused by a reaction between enzymes and sulfur-containing amino acids in the garlic (the same enzymes are responsible for garlic's flavor) along with the acid (in this case vinegar). So while it may look a little off, its fine and safe to eat.
Onion belongs to the same family of plants as garlic. Similar to garlic, onion contains many immune-boosting properties that contains antioxidants that fight inflammation. They are rich in B vitamins, Vitamin C and potassium. Onions have been used for centuries to treat loss of appetite, hypertension, fevers, colds and cough.
Slaves used onions to treat many infections by putting the ill person in a room full of onions to cleanse out the illness. This method is practiced in many homes today by placing an onion on the bedside table or sleeping with onion slices in your sock to draw out illness.
Everybody needs to have ginger in their kitchen whether fresh or dried. Ginger is just an amazing kitchen medicine. It is a rhizome so it can be grown easily in pots and containers. I recommend using only fresh ginger for your fire cider.
Ginger is good for your immune system, it aids in digestion and helps to increase blood flow so it supports your circulatory system. It gets your blood moving especially for people who have the body constitution where they tend to be cold often. These are folks who usually walk around with an extra layer of clothing.
In addition to being warming, ginger can soothe an achy stomach, ease a sore throat, and there are studies being conducted with osteoarthritis patients who have reported significantly less joint pain while using ginger.
Herbs, Citrus, and Peppers
We cannot forget our herbs and other boosts that will fuel our fire cider with even more healing plant power. Rosemary is commonly used for fire cider however there are many other herbal plants and berries that can be added to your tonic.
- Lemon Balm
- Peppers (jalapeno, cayenne)
- Citrus (lemon, oranges, limes)
- Stinging Nettle
Our turmeric root harvest
The list goes on and on. Citrus and hot peppers almost always end up in each batch of fire cider I make. When using citrus, I include the peel as well. As with hot peppers, I use all of it. Including the seeds! Cayenne pepper is one of the best cardiovascular herbs. It helps your immune system mobilize and moves blood through the system.
Another critical component of fire cider is honey. Honey is very soothing for inflamed tissues and organs, but its primary purpose is as a harmonizer for the fire cider. It helps blend all the flavors together and makes it taste wonderful not just to your taste buds, but to your digestive system as a whole.
In addition, honey helps to sooth sore throats and if you use local raw honey, it may help alleviate allergies by gently exposing you to local pollen.
So without further delay, here is our homestead recipe for Fire Cider. This recipe can be made into a 16 to 32oz mason jar, however I encourage you to quadruple the recipe and aim to make a gallon. Your family and friends will thank you.