I was introduced to Fire Cider (produced by a local place, Shire City Herbals in Pittsfield, MA), a few weeks ago when a friend offered me a few precious shots of his stash after hearing me complain about inflamed lymph nodes in my throat, and the worry of a prolonged oncoming illness. Made with apple cider vinegar and other natural, immune-boosting ingredients, according to writer Trisha McCaul:“Fire Cider is a tonic with antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which can be taken daily as a preventive and also at the onset of colds or flu; an expectorant (that) breaks up congestion and helps us ward off respiratory ailments and sinusitis; also helps to stimulate sweating and moves toxins out of the body, which is beneficial in cases of colds, flu and mild fevers”.
When our friend informed me I could make Fire Cider at home, I knew it was something we needed to have on hand every winter to fight off colds and flu. You can warm it up and drink straight if you’re about to get sick, or use it in all kinds of inventive ways as a daily immune booster during winter months. Even your kids can benefit from a drop combined with extra honey and/or Chamomile Tea, or by soaking a cloth and placing it on the chest. But beware, it’s not for the faint of heart (or stomach) in full-force.
(Obvious Disclaimer: I’m no doctor so these health claims are anecdotal and based on my own online research and personal experience).
Fire Cider, despite its firey ingredients, is also used as a digestive potion, and the recipe I used is widely attributed to Rosemary Gladstar (“a pioneer in the herbal movement and has been called the ‘godmother of American Herbalism’”). It is based on a New England traditional tonic of Apple Cider Vinegar (“maintains proper pH levels for a healthy alkaline state, which ultimately helps to produce health, reverse illness and gain vitality”) combined with Honey (“contains powerful antioxidants with antiseptic and antibacterial properties”). Ms. Gladstar added Fresh Horseradish Root (“notably high in vitamin C and has anti-microbial activities”), Garlic (“supports the immune function and opens the pores of the skin to lower a fever”), Onion (“has been used as a food remedy for centuries in cold, cough, bronchitis and influenza”, among other illustrious healing properties), Fresh Ginger Root (“valued for its ability to warm the stomach, to ease vomiting & nausea and to fight off colds, chills and coughs…useful for all types of congestion in the body”), and Hot Peppers (“traditionally used by herbalists to cure stomach aches, cramping, gas, varicose veins, allergies, and constipation…even heart attacks”). On the recommendation of my friend, Heather (an herbalist who works in the Wellness Department of the Honest Weight Food Coop), I added citrus and herbs.
(adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s version)
- 1 part Garlic (I used a whole head, peeled and smashed)
- 1 part Horseradish (fresh a must, 1 medium cleaned, peeled and sliced root)
- 1 part Onions (I used ¾ of a large one, peeled and rough-chopped)
- ½ part Fresh Ginger (one medium, peeled and grated root)
- Cayenne to taste (again, fresh is a must – I used ¼ of a seeded Habanero)
- Honey to taste (about ¼ cup)
- Apple Cider Vinegar (about 1 qt.)
- 1 large Orange (zested and juiced)
- Rosemary, Thyme or any herbs you have on hand and prefer
METHOD: Prepare your roots and vegetables and place them in a glass jar, preferably with a plastic lid (if you’re using a mason jar, cover it with wax paper before sealing to prevent oxidation). Leave 2 inches of room and fill almost to the top with vinegar. Seal and allow the concoction to cure for 4-12 weeks in that dark, mysterious corner of your pantry, or if you live in more temperate climates (or you’re trying this recipe earlier in the year), burying your Fire Cider is said to cure it more effectively. After your Fire Cider has festered to your liking, strain the liquid into a clean container and mix in the honey. Refrigerate; sealed tight, it should last 6-8 weeks due to the high acid content.
NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: The garlic, onions, ginger, peppers, honey and herbs all came from local farms and neighbors. The only difficulty I had in immediate sourcing of ingredients was finding fresh Horseradish Root. I bought jarred horseradish (hoping I wouldn’t have to use it) and put out feelers on Facebook Wednesday (hoping someone I knew could get their hands on fresh). Sarah Gordon from FarmieMarket noticed my plea, contacted her farmers and on Thursday, delivered at least 10, just-dug-up, beautifully dirty roots from two local farms (thank you Lady Liberty and Mountain Winds Farms)!
I only used a small portion, so if you’re inclined to make this remedy and you live locally, please comment below so we can arrange for you to take some off my hands!
I can’t wait to find out in a few weeks how my Fire Cider turns out compared to the tasty stuff from the talented folks, Shire City Herbals, bottling it for retail over in Mass! I’ll keep you posted.
Disclaimer: We are not doctors so these health claims are anecdotal and based on Britin’s own online research and personal experience. Please consult your doctor, whether Eastern or Western, with any health concern. Thanks a bunch! -Christina