As some of you know, there is a company out there that grabbed the copyright on the term “fire cider” even though the phrase was coined by Rosemary Gladstar decades ago and so has been in the herbalists’ vernacular since then. Nevertheless, I am going to talk about ‘fire cider’ and publish the article I had written on it for Yoga Living last fall.
Now that autumn is upon us, it’s time to start getting ready for the upcoming “cold and flu season” by preparing a traditional medicine known as “fire cider”. The fire cider is made in September so it’s ready by November. A doctor once told me the cold and flu seasons starts November 1st because kids eat so much candy on Halloween (October 31st), that they compromise their immune systems. Now, there are many ways to make it but the traditional method is as follows. This is based on a quart mason jar but as always in the folk tradition, you can modify it any way you wish.
- Ten cloves of garlic – peeled, mashed and finely cut
- ½ cup of freshly grated horseradish*
- ½ cup of grated organic ginger root
- Spicy peppers: Jalapeño, Serrano, Habanero, and Cayenne — the amount will depend on which one you use you and your spice tolerance. One can substitute ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- Enough organic apple cider vinegar to fill the jar
- Raw honey to taste
- Juice of one lemon and zest
- ½ teaspoon of paprika powder
- One teaspoon of turmeric powder
- One medium onion finely chopped
Other things you will need:
- Quart mason jar
- Wax paper
- Cheese cloth or cotton sack
* If you have never grated horseradish, please be careful! It is very pungent and should be done in a well-ventilated area.
Place all the vegetables in the mason jar and cover them with organic apple cider vinegar. Cover the jar with the wax paper and the put the lid on tightly. Be sure to label it with the date and the ingredients, or note it elsewhere. This is important for refining your recipe the following year. Traditionally, the cider is then buried in the ground where it is cool and dark –just remember to note where you buried it! Of course the more modern storage is simply a cool, dark place in your home or apartment.
Let the cider sit for at least four weeks. When you are ready, pour the contents into a bowl or another jar through a cheese cloth or cotton sack. It is important to squeeze all the juice out of the vegetables so press firmly. One this is done, you can compost your “mark” or the vegetables that made your fire cider. Then, take the strained cider and put it back in the mason jar and add the honey –slowly– to taste. Be sure to shake the jar well each time you add the honey.
How to use fire cider. Fire cider can be taken straight–just shake the bottle well and pour out a teaspoon full–you can take it several times a day. Of course it can be mixed with water or juice to temper the taste although some even use it as a condiment.
This warming formula was often used when there was too much mucous in the nasal or respiratory passages. But it was also used when bouts of rheumatism and arthritis flared up or when someone just wanted to warm themselves up in the cold winter months. Let’s look at the ingredients individually.
Garlic. By now most people know the healing properties of garlic. Garlic (Allium sativum), which is in the onion family, is both warming and drying and thus used in many formulas to help with the afflictions of the respiratory system. Juliette de Bairacli Levy, a famed French herbalist, once said that garlic was one of the most powerful antiseptic herbs ever. Indeed, research has shown the constituent, allicin, to have high levels of antimicrobial activity. Garlic is also an effective an anti-inflammatory, a circulatory enhancer, a liver protector, a worm eradicator and has even been shown to reduce hypertension! (Braun & Cohen).
Horseradish root. Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana), is one of the oldest known herbs and is originally one of the five bitter herbs of the Bible. Known for its pungency, the mustard oil within horseradish gives it is drying and heating properties and thus, its use in many respiratory and sinus formulas. Horseradish is also a circulatory stimulant and the peroxidase enzymes have been shown to assist in wound healing. According to Sauer’s Herbal, the Pennsylvania Dutch used this common condiment to expel kidney stones (Weaver). Finally, Horseradish has been shown to lower cholesterol and has helped with various inflammatory disorders (Braun & Cohen).
Ginger root (Zingiber officinale). Pulling out my very first herbal book ever (purchased 1978), Jethro Kloss, in Back to Eden says this about ginger. “…prevents griping, good for diarrhea, colds, la grippe, chronic bronchitis, dyspepsia, gas and fermentation, cholera, gout and nausea….” (Kloss). Scientific research not only corroborated much of what Kloss wrote in 1939 but went on to find that ginger has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antioxidant, immunomodulation, hepatoprotective, anti-fibrotic properties as well (Braun & Cohen).
Cayenne pepper. The use of cayenne pepper dates back over 7000 years where we believe it was first discovered in Mexico. However, we know that cayenne was a popular herb in the Ayurvedic tradition as well. Along with its heating properties, cayenne is also both stimulating and drying which is why it was used in many instances of respiratory illness, and as a peripheral circulation stimulant. It contains vitamin A, C, B complex, E and, pantothenic acid. Due to the oleorisein content, cayenne acts as a catalyst for other herbs and the capsaicin helps to increase the body’s metabolism. (Standard Process). Jethro Kloss waxes on about cayenne calling it “one of the most wonderful herb medicines we have” and said it was used as much externally (for wound healing) as it was for its internal properties (Kloss).
Apple cider vinegar. We know that vinegar has been around since at least 5000 BC where Babylonians used date vinegar to preserve food, and as a medicine. Apple cider vinegar has been used in this country for hundreds of years as a preservative, a natural medicine, a condiment, and even as a cleaning/disinfecting agent. Apple cider vinegar contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, as well as dietary fiber, and because of these nutritive values along with its preserving qualities, apple cider vinegar makes a great liquid to hold the juices from the fire cider’s vegetables.
Honey. Before you write off honey as just another form of sugar, consider this. In 2012, the International Journal of Biological Science published a study on honey (Honey-a novel antidiabetic agent), the findings of which demonstrated its beneficial effects. These advantageous effects included such areas as the gastrointestinal tract, the gut microbiota, the liver, and the pancreas. It also concluded that honey is able to help reduce blood glucose levels and that it might be useful in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. But early makers of fire cider probably only knew that it was a great preservative and that it tasted good!
So, now that you know how good everything that goes into fire cider is, why not trying making some? Every year, you can continue to perfect it until you make your own signature fire cider.
- Herbs & Natural Supplements: An Evidenced Based Guide, Braun & Cohen
- Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(6):913-34. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.3697. Epub 2012 Jul 7.
- Honey–a novel antidiabetic agent.
- Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss
- Standard Process literature
- Sauer’s Herbal Cures, William Woys Weaver
- Common Herbs for Natural Health, Juliette de Bairacli Levy