Herbalism Homesteading

Fire Cider: History and Ingredients

Somewhere between 1979 and 1980, Rosemary Gladstar, a master herbalist, created an amazing herbal vinegar that started a long tradition for herbalists.  As herbalists, we believe in community.  We believe that sharing common knowledge about herbs, their availability and their ability to heal is integral to our communities being responsible for their own health.

I was first exposed to “fire cider” when I was a young’un on tour, following the Grateful Dead, in the early 90’s. The combination of traveling, road food, staying up late, smoking and screaming our lungs out at concerts left us with what was affectionately known as “tour cough”.  Back then, the hippie mommas used to give us shots of fire cider to prevent sickness and, if we actually had an active infection, they would make us a drink of hot water with fire cider, honey and, occasionally a shot of liquor.  They would bundle us up and watch us as we sweat it out. Bottom line, it tasted like crap but it WORKED!

The biggest benefit of About 5 years ago, some upstart company trademarked the name and product “Fire Cider” and proceeded to try to sue 3 community herbalists for both using the name and selling the product. They attempted to sue for trademark violation, asking for a sum of $100,000. In the Spring of 2019, the courts decided that fire cider was not a trademark but a tradition. This was based mainly on the fact that there are countless ways to combine ingredients to create fire cider.  This is important because we are able to adjust it to both our tastes and needs of our body. 

Fire cider, in my opinion, is pretty much anti-EVERYTHING.  Antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and high in just about everything your body needs to fight of any slew of conditions. Every year in August, I start getting my brew together.  As I previously mentioned, every herbalist puts in different ingredients and amounts of those ingredients, but the most important ingredient is the cider itself.  I, personally use Bragg’s raw organic apple cider vinegar with the mother.  I know other herbalists and homesteaders who make their own cider vinegar to use in their recipe. Aside from this, there are some similarities in ingredients. 

Here is what I use in my recipe:

  • Lemons
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Horseradish

For the ginger, turmeric, onions, garlic, jalapenos and horseradish, I grate everything finely. The greater the surface area of the herbs that comes in contact with the menstruum (vinegar), the more medicine is extracted. Then I cut the lemons up in quarters.  I put all this in a gallon mason jar and fill with Bragg’s (I keep the vinegar bottles to put the cider in when finished). It is important to place wax paper between the metal lid and the mixture to avoid the acetic acid coming in contact with the metal lid.

Place the jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry for at least a month.  I usually try to give myself 6 weeks for it to macerate.  I agitate the jar every day, giving it a good shake up allows the vinegar to come into greater contact with the contents.

After 4-6 weeks, it’s time to strain the mixture. Using a fine mesh sieve, lined with organic cheesecloth, I strain the vinegar twice and using a funnel, pour the cider back into the vinegar bottles.   At this point, your fire cider is ready. 

As I said earlier, I take a shot a day to prevent colds, flus and other viruses and infections.  If I get sick, I use the vinegar in a hot tea with raw organic honey (& sometimes a shot of whiskey) to help my immune system fight against the resident “bug”.  Remember, if you have allergies, sensitivities or general distaste to any of the ingredients, there are available substitutions. You can adjust amounts o suit your tastes.  I have a friend that uses Vidalia onion instead of yellow onion, habanero pepper instead of jalapeno. Sometimes I add rosemary sprigs, peppercorns, or thyme & oregano.  It truly is a personal mixture based on your tastes and needs.  Don’t be afraid to play with it a little and figure out what works best for you!

By Danielle Savage

I am a lifelong learner. I have lived experience in many, many forms but what I hold dear is my connection with the land, my spirituality, my ancestors and teaching others that there is another way to live besides the current offering!

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