Here in the U.S., chicken soup is an age-old remedy for the common cold. In China, it’s lizard soup (really!); Spain, garlic tea;  India, turmeric. And now there’s also fire cider, a spicy, tangy herbal concoction that’s as tasty as it is effective.

If you’ve never heard of fire cider, don’t worry. In this article we’ll explore:

  • What fire cider is
  • How to make fire cider
  • The natural ingredients that make the tincture so special
  • Plus, the interesting history of fire cider

What Is Fire Cider?

Fire cider is a folk recipe said to have immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-viral properties.

The original recipe is made from 7 special ingredients:

  1. Raw horseradish root (grated)
  2. Raw ginger root (grated)
  3. Raw garlic (minced)
  4. Raw onions (chopped)
  5. Cayenne pepper (in dried spice form)
  6. Raw apple cider
  7. Raw honey (local is best)

(Organic ingredients are best whenever possible.)

This elixir is an herbalist favorite during cold and flu season. Though no formal research has been carried out to study the effects of fire cider, there are many studies suggesting the ingredients in fire cider have restorative and healing properties. (More on that below!)

Fire Cider Recipe

Instructions:

  1. Mix ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root, ½ cup fresh onions, ¼ cup grated ginger, 1/4 cup chopped garlic, and 3 whole fresh cayenne peppers (if you can’t find fresh peppers, you can use 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper) in a quart jar.
  2. Add about 2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar to cover. Sprinkle in cayenne pepper.
  3. Cover with lid and shake well.
  4. Let sit at room temperature for 4 to 6 weeks.
  5. Strain and add 1/3 cup of honey (you may use more or less, depending on how sweet you like it). Store in a cool place.

How to Use Fire Cider

Though some prefer to “shoot” the drink, there are so many other ways to take the herbal tincture.

To drink it straight:

  • Pour it into a 1-oz shot glass and shoot or sip once per day
  • If you feel a cold coming on, take .1/2-ounce 2 to 3 times per day

To take fire cider with other food and drink:

  • Dilute with warm water or apple cider to make a tea
  • Add it to salad dressings
  • Drizzle it over veggies
  • Use it as a marinade
  • Stir it into soup

Do You Have to Refrigerate Fire Cider?

While some companies that sell the tincture say it’s shelf stable and Rosemary’s own recipe says “fire cider will keep for several months,” it’s best to store homemade fire cider in the fridge and use within a month.

Fire Cider Ingredients and Benefits

Now that you know how to make fire cider, let’s talk about why it’s so good for you. While the whole is more than the sum of its parts, each ingredient has its own unique properties that contribute to the drink’s flavor and potency.

You’ll find a number of takes on the original recipe with things like lemon, turmeric, black pepper, and jalapeños mixed in, but the following ingredients are the classic ingredients and the base of even the most exotic versions of the recipe:

Horseradish

This spicy, subtly sweet root vegetable has long been used as a folk remedy for a number of ailments including coughs, food poisoning, and tuberculosis. The cruciferous vegetable is packed with tons of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

One of those compounds is allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), known for its anti-cancer and antibacterial properties. As a key ingredient in fire cider, horseradish adds heat, helping to warm you from the inside out, while also supporting your body’s innate ability to fight off bacteria.

Ginger

Ginger is an antiemetic that has been proven to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by morning sickness, surgery, and even chemotherapy. It’s also an impressive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral herb. (source)

Research suggests ginger can prevent viruses from sticking to the lining of the respiratory tract, stopping viral infections before they can get a foothold and cause symptoms.

Garlic

Garlic has been used as medicine by cultures around the world for centuries. Flavorful, with a sharp spiciness, it’s a go-to for coughs and infections. Studies show garlic packs a powerful antimicrobial punch—it’s an effective antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial.

Onions

With their versatile taste, ranging from sweet to a sharp biting heat, onions—whether cooked or raw—add a range of flavors to food. No matter how they’re used, they also provide health benefits.

They’re one of the richest sources of quercetin, a phytochemical known to enhance immune function. (source) By stimulating the immune system, quercetin helps our bodies fight back against cold and flu germs. Onions are also a good source of prebiotics, which promotes gut health for optimal immune function.

Cayenne pepper

Vibrantly red and strikingly hot, cayenne pepper is commonly used as a pain reliever and a way to diffuse a fever. Herbalists believe cayenne encourages blood flow to the extremities, diffusing heat from the core of the body, which helps lower fevers.

Plus, cayenne pepper’s pain relieving properties are perfect for the body aches that accompany the flu and fevers. (source)

Honey

Amber colored and sweet, honey is a go-to for cough relief. Research has found it effectively relieves children’s nighttime coughs. And by doing so, it indirectly improves sleep.

Note: Children under the age of 1 should never have honey—it poses a risk of botulism intoxication.

The History of Fire Cider

Hungry for more on fire cider? Let’s talk about its impressive history from at-home folk remedy to the wildly popular tonic it is today…

Though popularized in the ’80s by famed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, the origins of fire cider are said to date back to the times of the plague. During that time, grave robbers and thieves drank a potent mixture similar to fire cider to protect themselves from contracting the deadly and highly contagious disease.

Eventually, Gladstar started selling fire cider in a local herb store in Sonoma, CA. She then published the recipe in her books, introducing even more people to the now infamous recipe.

Today, it’s sold by other companies and the recipe can be found in many books. There are even entire workshops, events, and classes dedicated to teaching participants how to make the tincture.

Fire Cider Controversy

Huh?! You might wonder how an herb-filled beverage could cause any sort of controversy, there is one. And it has to do with trademarking.

In 2012, Shire City Herbals, a small company that started making the tincture in 2010, trademarked the name fire cider. But the herbal community wasn’t happy about it. Critics say it’s a generic term that names a type of preparation, food, or product—not a specific proprietary blend—and that trademarking the name fire cider is akin to trademarking the name banana bread or apple cider.

Despite petitions and public outcry, the company still holds a trademark for the term. (source)

How About You?

Have you ever made fire cider? Do you stick to the classic recipe or experiment with different variations?