Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Fire cider is a delicious homemade herbal concoction that uses apple cider vinegar to extract the medicinal constituents from herbs. Hot, pungent, sour, and sweet, fire cider is certainly not for the faint of heart. Yet this fiery concoction has been revered for generations as a simple and effective remedy to relieve sinus congestion, ward off colds and flus, aid digestion, and increase circulation. It is also a very effective digestive tonic if taken before meals, as the apple cider vinegar and herbs stimulate the secretion of gastric juices that help break down foods. Fire cider can be sipped neat on its own, mixed with other beverages, or used in cooking.
As a folk remedy there are countless variations, but most fire cider recipes include ingredients like fresh horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger, and chile pepper. These are infused in apple cider vinegar (vinegar draws out many plant constituents), which is then strained and sweetened with honey. My recipe is based on the one popularized by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, I like to add turmeric, citrus, and herbs like parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Together they form a potent punch that is immune-boosting, antibacterial, antiviral, congestion clearing, and warming.
Here are some of the commonly used ingredients and their benefits:
Ginger is a tuberous rhizome, or a root that sends out multiple shoots from its nodes, used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can be very helpful when used for upper respiratory tract infections, respiratory distress and bronchitis.
Garlic is an herb commonly used for its powerful anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It can help prevent the common cold and can be useful when fighting the flu and helps ease fever, cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis and asthma.
Onion naturally contains the plant polyphenol quercetin which is helpful for reducing allergies and relaxing the muscles in the respiratory airways associated with asthma. Like garlic, onion is also helpful for fever, cold, cough and bronchitis.
Horseradish is a root vegetable in the brassicaceae family related to mustard and broccoli. It is very helpful in the treatment of sinusitis as well as cough, colic, bronchitis and sore throat.
Cayenne is the “fire” in my cider recipe and provides a lot of heat which improves blood flow and acts a diaphoretic, meaning it will make you sweat. In the winter it is important to eat spices and herbs that warm you and improve circulation.
Black pepper will add a bit of bite similar to cayenne but it also brings additional benefits that help with arthritis, asthma, upset stomach, bronchitis, sinusitis and rhinitis. Additionally, black pepper can increase the absorption of turmeric when taken together.
Raw apple cider vinegar has so many health benefits, that chances are you’ve heard about them by now. It is a great source of vitamin C and has often been used to increase digestion, reduce symptoms of allergies, balance blood sugar and aid in weight loss.
If you’re a fan of spicy foods, you might take to fire cider right away, tossing back shots to get your blood flowing on a cold winter day. If you have a more timid palate, you might want to dial back on the chile, sweeten with extra honey, and start with small dashes of fire cider in your food rather than drinking it straight.
A few serving suggestions:
*Straight up: Rosemary Gladstar recommends taking 1 to 2 tablespoons at the first sign of a cold, and then repeating every 3 to 4 hours until symptoms subside. Some people also take fire cider as a preventative during cold and flu season.
*Mix with lemonade or orange juice
*Mix with hot water and extra honey to make a tea
*Use in place of vinegar in salad dressings and condiments
*Drizzle on steamed vegetables or sautéed greens
*Use in marinades for meat, tofu, and tempeh
*Add to soups and chilis
*Try a couple of dashes in a cocktail, such as a Bloody Mary
It's worth a try!