Fire Cider is a keep-on-hand pantry classic for good health. As a general health tonic, taking a shot of Fire Cider is an awesome way start your morning or as a pick me up when you’re feeling low. It’s also indispensable to help kick out the early stages of a cold!
In the kitchen, Fire Cider makes a great culinary ingredient, for use cocktails, sparkling water, or in salad dressings and marinades. I used some as part of the dressing on a bean salad last weekend at my birthday gathering, and it was a hit.
Why buy bottles of packaged Fire Cider at the co-op or Whole Foods when you can make a batch at home yourself (or with friends!) and take an active role in supporting your own health? Get on it and build that healing pantry yourself.
What is Fire Cider?
Fire Cider is a combination of herbs and medicinal foods soaked in vinegar, so named by the great Rosemary Gladstar years and years ago. Every herbalist has their own version of Fire Cider, and the internet is bursting with variations. This bold mix of horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric, chili peppers, lemons, raw honey, and a few other herbal allies is a naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial dream come true, helping to stimulate the immune system, support the qi (your body’s functional energy), increase circulation, promote detoxification, and kick out pathogenic factors with every zesty dose.
The spicy, sour, bitter, acrid, and sweet flavor combination is very moving and stimulating to the body’s blood, qi, and fluids, making it a great choice if you’re feeling a cold coming on, are “stuck in a rut” or depressed, have tight achy muscles, spend a lot of time sitting at a desk all day, have cold hands and feet, have a slow-moving digestive system, have phlegm stuck in your lungs, or are recovering from a few too many cocktails last night….
As for my version of Fire Cider, I like adding I like adding thyme, rosemary, dried, shredded astragalus root, and shredded fresh burdock root. Thyme is nourishing and moving to the qi, and rosemary stimulates digestion. Both work together to support the qi, loosen and transform phlegm and mucous, and resolve pathogenic factors like colds and flus.
Astragalus (huang qi) is one of my herbal sweethearts, a wonderfully tonifying herb that helps to build the body’s blood and qi, support the Lungs, and promote stable energy levels and digestive function. In Chinese herbal medicine, astragalus is also treasured for its ability to boost protective qi and protect your body against pathogenic factors — that’s Chinese medicine talk for your immune system.
Burdock root is a long, slender, wily-looking root, with a rough brown exterior and a cream colored, starchy interior. When exposed to oxygen, shredded and sliced burdock root turns brown very quickly — as evidenced by the deep brown color in the photo above. Burdock has powerful detoxifying, heat clearing, dampness draining, and external pathogen clearing effects. I like adding sliced burdock root to broths, stocks, and stews, and often throw dried burdock root in liver-supportive herbal tea blends.
How does it taste?
It tastes like it means business — spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, and awesome. It’s called Fire Cider for a reason.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t use Fire Cider?
While Fire Cider is considered generally safe, there are some situations where it may not be the right fit for certain individuals. People taking prescription blood thinners (like Coumadin or Warfarin) may want to avoid Fire Cider completely, or use extreme caution — many these herbs have blood thinning properties, so you will want to work with you physician to make sure your INR levels are stable. Additionally, the immune-stimulating properties of Fire Cider may be problematic for individuals with autoimmune conditions. Caution should also be taken by anyone taking several prescription medications, or individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Finally, if you’re a hot tempered or easily irritable person who is warm all the time, sweaty, and gets easily red and shiny in the face, this Fire Cider may just be a little too much, um, fire for you. Try some soothing green tea, lemon balm tea, nettle tea, or mint tea instead.
If you have questions on whether Fire Cider is right for you, speak to your healthcare practitioner.
Fire Cider Recipe
yield: 1 quart
- 4 cups raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup fresh horseradish root, grated (do not peel)
- 1 cup fresh burdock root, grated (do not peel)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ cup peeled garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ cup fresh ginger root, grated (do not peel)
- ½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated (do not peel), or 1 tablespoon dried powdered turmeric if fresh is unavailable
- rind and juice of 3 small, organic unwaxed lemons
- 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced
- ¼ cup dried, shredded astragalus (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dry thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon dry rosemary leaves
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼-½ cup raw honey
Scrub all ingredients well, and prepare as directed above.I used the largest holes on a box grater to grate the horseradish, burdock, ginger, and turmeric roots. If grating by hand isn’t your style, you could probably use the grating/shredding blade in a food processor, but I’ve never done it this way! Take caution while grating horseradish and chopping onions and peppers, to ensure that your eyes and skin are protected. Wear gloves, or make sure to wash hands well after contact with these ingredients!
Layer all ingredients EXCEPT honey into a ½ gallon (aka 2 quart) mason jar. Cover with vinegar. Put a square of wax paper or parchment over the top of the jar, then screw on lid over the wax/parchment paper. Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Check often to make sure ingredients are covered completely by apple cider vinegar, topping off with more vinegar as needed.
After 4-6 weeks, open jar and strain out vinegar into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Squeeze ingredients in cheesecloth to get out remaining vinegar. Stir honey into vinegar, to taste. Transfer into air-tight bottles or jars, and store in a dark, cool place. Done! Shake bottle well before each use.
- As a general health tonic, take 1/2-1 oz shots daily, or as needed.
- For acute cold symptoms, 1/2 – 1 oz shots every few hours at the first sign of a cold, until symptoms subside.
- As a culinary ingredient, use as you would vinegar, adding to dressings, marinades, sauces, or mixing in cocktails or sparkling water.
P.S.: Fire Cider Activism!
There is a company named Shire City Herbals who produces Fire Cider on a large scale and sells their products at various natural grocers and food co-ops. Unfortunately, Shire City Herbals has tried to claim the term “Fire Cider” as their own intellectual property and trademark it, going as far as to contact independent herbalists selling their own versions of Fire Cider and demand that these small producers stop using the term. Fire Cider, a term coined by Rosemary Gladstar some 30 years ago and shared freely since then, has a long history in community herbalism and is a tradition shared by many.
Not cool, Shire City Herbals, not cool.
In response to the money-driven, trademark-happy behavior of the Shire City Herbals company, community organizers, activists, and herbalists (and Rosemary Gladstar herself!) have shared their frustrations, creating a movement to stand up for the shared traditions of the herbal community, organize a boycott against Shire City Herbals, and take legal action against their company.
As my dear friend Fedelma, a community-organizing radical nurse midwife and herbal medicine advocate, says: “Because of the clepto and capitalist actions of Shire City Herbals, every act by an independent herbalist or healer or PERSON has now become political, so every time I make it, I like to turn it into an organizing moment!”
If you are interested in learning more about Fire Cider activism, check out the Free Fire Cider page! Trademarking tradition is preposterous.