I tend to think of this time of year as the time to create homemade fire cider, even though some people may think of it as the holiday season!
Traditional immune-boosting treatment fire cider has a long history in folk medicine (but most popularly championed by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar). It is essentially a zesty vinegar that has been infused with potent herbs that have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and circulatory properties. It is both fiery and sweet because to the addition of chili peppers and a little local honey, hence the name.
I use homemade fire cider in a number different ways, including as a preventative measure against cold and flu viruses, when cold symptoms first appear, and as a decongestant and expectorant once the cold has already started. In addition to being an immunity booster, homemade fire cider stimulates the digestive system and aids in promoting blood flow throughout the body and to the extremities (which keeps us warm on chilly winter days!). Starting in the middle of October and continuing through the winter, I usually drink one shot glass of this hot liquor every day.
What Makes Homemade Fire Cider So "Hot"?
Onions and other plants in the allium family, such as shallots, leeks, and notably garlic, are rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and the essential compound allicin. They assist boost the effects of vitamin C and are antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and anti-inflammatory (Duke, 1997; Li, 2008).
Horseradish has a potent digestive-fire stimulant effect that raises gastric secretions and hunger. Moreover, it encourages sweating, making it beneficial for fevers, colds, and the flu. Additionally an expectorant and a weak antimicrobial, horseradish. It is frequently used for infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts (Murray et al., 2005).
Ginger is warming and promotes blood circulation (so it is used to remove pathogens from the bloodstream). It is frequently applied in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine to relieve congestion in the lungs and nasal passages as well as other parts of the body. By warming the body and promoting perspiration, ginger may also be used to reduce fevers. Moreover, it has potent anti-inflammatory properties, boosts immunological function, and eases nausea (Murray et al., 2005; Duke, 1997).
ACV and honey both have antimicrobial characteristics and can help increase energy levels (ACV breaks down lactic acid accumulation that causes weariness, and honey boosts the metabolism), among other advantages (Brandon, 2014; Fessenden, 2015).
Since they boost circulation and mucous secretions, hot peppers with a lot of capsaicin, like cayenne, are quite effective in the early stages of colds. They convey heat and moisture to the surface and transport fluid from within. They are frequently applied topically to reduce pain and suffering by inhibiting substance P, a neurotransmitter. Duke, 1997; Wood, 2008; Murray et al., 2005.
A wonderful herbal ally for the respiratory system is thyme. It has strong antibacterial properties, thins mucus to make it easier to expectorate, and is a tonic spasmolytic. Moreover, it is a potent digestive aid and may be beneficial in cases of a stomach "bug" and cold symptoms (Wood, 2008).
A favorite recipe for homemade fire cider
The fact that each herbalist has their own recipe for homemade fire cider, which can be modified based on taste or the type of wellness support required, is one of the finest things about it. More so than with any other herbal cure, a recipe for fire cider is only a suggestion.
What's in homemade fire cider?
One large red onion (Allium cepa), three heads of garlic (Allium sativum), one organic lemon (Citrus x limon) with peel, two teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, one and a half cups of fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) root, one and a half cups of fresh turmeric (Curcuma longa) root, one and a half cups of fresh horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) root, and one and (Piper nigrum)
a few fresh cayenne or jalapeno (Capsicum spp.) peppers; depending on how spicy you want your fire cider to be, you may want to use more peppers or avoid them completely; it's best to err on the side of caution as you can always make it spicier later!
to taste, honey
unpasteurized, unrefined apple cider vinegar
Keep in mind that there are many different ways to prepare homemade fire cider. You can add other ingredients after these as a start. Dried elderberries, cinnamon sticks, echinacea, astragalus root, and even lavender blossoms are excellent alternatives.
In a half-gallon jar, combine all ingredients (excluding honey) and cover with raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Make sure the herbs are covered by at least a couple of inches, then cut a square of parchment or wax paper to cover the jar and seal it.
Shake the jar every day while storing for a few weeks in a warm location (I like the top of the refrigerator).
Your fire cider will be potent after three weeks, but you can continue infusing for much longer if you'd like. I've heard of herbalists who let their fire cider steep for months before filtering it.
Alternatively, you can blend the entire batch in a blender or Vitamix and let it sit for an extra week (without shaking for the last few days to let the components settle) before draining out the liquid. At this point, you can filter the herbs from the liquid.
Nevertheless, once the herbs have done infusing, combine thoroughly, add warmed raw honey to taste (I generally add about 1/3 cup), and bottle. Although refrigeration is not required, it can't harm.
More Applications For Your Handmade Fire Cider
Fire cider prepared at home has so many uses! It can be used in soups and stews as well as a tangy salad dressing when combined with olive or avocado oil. This year, I even made pickled cucumbers and okra with homemade fire cider!
Rub into aching joints and muscle pain.
For congestion, apply a clean flannel cloth that has been soaked with fire cider to the chest.
To make a calming, expectorant cough syrup, combine with honey.
To a Bloody Mary
What are your favorite additions to this traditional dish over and above the fundamentals? This season, have you already created your own fire cider? If so, how have you used it? Tell us about your successes!