Fire Cider is a simple, powerful, seasonal folk medicine that is made predominantly from ingredients you’ll already have in your kitchen. It is a multi-purpose and versatile remedy that can be used for a handful of different health issues, as a preventative medicine, or to improve health and wellbeing overall. Below you’ll find a recipe and information on why you might make and use fire cider as an immune and digestive tonic through the colder months.
Apple Cider, made from fermenting apples, is an ancient beverage with roots in Britain as far back as 3000BCE. Vinegar’s use can be traced back even further – as far as 5000BCE – and was used as a natural pickling and preserving agent in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, with evidence of vinegar in Egyptian urns as far back as 3000BCE. In 400BCE Hippocrates was recommending Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to his patients for colds and coughs.
All of that to say, ACV, and the use of vinegar as both a preserving agent and a medicine in of itself is really, really old! Humans across many parts of the earth have been using this natural process for making medicine, pickling and flavouring foods for thousands of years.
Enter Rosemary Gladstar, an American Herbalist often referred to as the Godmother of American Herbalism, who around 1979 created and shared a formula of infused foods and herbs in apple cider vinegar and named it Fire Cider, a warming immune and digestive tonic with a wide range of health benefits.
Using Fire Cider as Medicine
As mentioned earlier on, ACV alone has medicinal qualities, supporting the digestive fire, helping the body alkalise, and has been used for coughs and colds. Now imagine what it can do when it’s spent a few weeks hanging out with veggies and herbs like garlic, onion, ginger and horseradish! It becomes a bit of a super tonic – killing bugs, strengthening immunity, and building that digestive fire and keeping it stoked through the winter months. It can be used at first sign of cold and flu to help you kill a bug, can help sluggish or cold digestion warm back up again, and can be taken as a tonic daily to boost immunity overall and keep that vital fire toasty – especially in the colder months. It is also anti-inflammatory (especially if yours has a turmeric boost!) and alkalising, meaning it can settle an aggravated digestive tract and counter the effects of an inflammatory diet.
There are a few instances in which I would recommend caution, or not to use fire cider, and that includes if you have a really sore throat (especially if your fire cider has chilli in it, ouch! Wait til the throat is not so sore to use it, or just use ACV on it’s own), have an overactive/hot stomach, or if you have reflux, GERD or stomach ulcers. These are circumstances were the fire in fire cider can be too much for an already heated condition and could make things worse. If you’re unsure you can chat to your holistic practitioner for more tailored advice.
Herbalism Builds Community
There is almost nothing I love more than gathering around my kitchen table with like minded folk to talk herbs and make medicines. The words and laughter and story’s that flow over the onion and rosemary and vinegar is a whole extra layer of medicine that gets infused in every herb you chop, and poured into each jar, ready to become the remedy. Sharing responsibility, each bringing something to add to the medicine, brings people and plant together. Sourcing as locally as possible such as at farmers markets, community gardens or your own backyard brings such immense joy and pride, and creates a whole new level of respect for the gracious and beautiful earth we are in relationship with. Each time you pick up the finished product you are reconnecting to that moment of magic and medicine, and alone, that is a powerful healing agent in itself.
So make your fire cider with your kids, your parents, your friends, your neighbours, your work colleagues, your fellow plant nerds. Make it an Autumn or Winter ritual to come together, and make your own medicine together.
Fire Cider Recipe
“So here’s the recipe… but honestly? I just chop a whole bunch of these ingredients in amounts that feel right for me. There are some obvious ratios worth observing, like there is more onion than anything else, and turmeric has the smallest quantity, but trust what feels right to you. I’m a big believer in the ‘looks about right’ system of measurement. Once you’ve tasted it you can refine your next batch, adding more of something or less of another. And you can always add a little more vinegar to dilute it if you find you’ve overdone it with something!”
1 medium onion chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped
4 tbsp fresh grated ginger
4 tbsp fresh grated horseradish
2 tbsp ground turmeric
Apple cider vinegar (acv)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Honey to taste
Your own selection of herbs or spices (see below)
- Combine onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric and horseradish in a jar, and any other ingredients you are adding.
- Gently warm some ACV on a stove top – do not allow to boil or get too hot. If you are adding hard/dry herbs like fennel seeds, caraway seeds or star anise, you may like to add them while the ACV warms. Once warm, pour over combined veg/herbs.
- Leave to infuse for 3-4 weeks, and shake occasionally. When ready, strain and remove herbs, and add honey to taste, and cayenne if desired.
Dosage: 1-2 tablespoons in warm (not cold) water at first sign of cold/flu. Repeat dose every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside. Or, take once daily as deep warming immunity, digestive, and vitality tonic. Reduce the dosage as needed depending on how you feel when you take it, and how spicy it is.
Warning: This remedy may have too much heat for those with high stomach acid, reflux, GERD or stomach ulcers, and either caution or avoidance is recommended depending on your circumstances. It may be ok as a ‘food as medicine’, used in salad dressings etc.
Consider adding other herbs such as cinnamon, rosemary, caraway, thyme, star anise, fennel, sage etc for variation, anything you have in abundance. You can use them fresh or dried. You can also add a piece of lemon or grapefruit to make it a drink if having it with warm water. I usually put a sprig of rosemary in the jar at the end.
I sometimes substitute fresh horseradish for dried, but use about ½ – 2/3 of the recommend amount as dried rhizomes like horseradish and ginger are more potent dry than fresh.
If Astrological Herbalism is your jam, try making your fire cider on Sunday at the hour of the Sun (google planetary hours) to really draw down those solar rays. To next level your Astro-magic, read the Orphic Hymn to the Sun as you chop and pour, and mark your label with the Sun’s glyph! In the cooler months when the Sun isn’t too hot, you may like to leave your fire cider to infuse in a sunny window for a few hours.
Make two batches so you can start using one straight away, and leave the second to infuse for a few weeks, or until you have need of it. The first batch obviously won’t be as strong as the second, but if there is a need for it, it is better used now than waited for! The best medicine is the one you have available to you. Leave the veg/herb material in it so it infuses as you use it, strengthening over time.
If you have loved this article or gotten use of the recipe, share it! Leave me a comment or tag me on instagram – @rebeccaholly_vh – so I can see the amazing concoctions you’ve created.
Rebecca Holly xx
Rebecca Holly is a Naturopath & Kinesiologist with over 9 years clinical experience. She loves working with Women’s health, Mental & Emotional wellbeing, and is always balancing the healing needs of both body and soul. Her focus on folk herbalism and the Wise Woman tradition of healing makes her Naturopathic practice truly holistic.