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When cold and flu season hits, I like to reach for natural remedies first. But I’ll be honest, if they don’t really work, I won’t really use them for long. That’s why my medicine cabinet is still a “healthy” mix of herbal medicine and modern pharmaceuticals: I believe there’s a place for both in modern healthcare, depending on what we’re dealing with (I admit, I still reach for the Advil when I’ve got a really bad headache that I want gone, fast!)
But for the most part, I try to stick to the all-natural stuff like herbs and essential oils to stay in good health and to support my body’s natural ability to fight off colds and flu. Because while modern pharmaceuticals are great for acute treatment of specific symptoms, they don’t often do much to support our overall health and wellbeing, and can even cause unwanted side effects that can negatively affect other systems in our body.
When it comes to colds and flu, I have a few go-to herbal remedies that I reach for that I find work just as well as (maybe better than) anything I can get over the counter.
First of all, straight honey on a spoon is excellent for soothing sore throats and boosting immunity. Sometimes I’ll even add a little chopped, fresh garlic for added potency!
Second, elderberry syrup is another powerhouse herbal remedy for cold and flu season. It can be expensive though if you purchase it from a health food or natural medicine store. However, you can make your own elderberry syrup with elderberries you grow or forage, or from dried elderberries you can buy or order online.
Finally, when I feel like my sinuses are starting to get stuffed up and I know a cold is coming on, I reach for my favourite herbal medicine that I make at home: Fire Cider.
Now, before I go any further, I need to make it clear that I am not a certified herbalist or health care practitioner. This information is for educational and entertainment purposes only, and you should always speak with your doctor or family health care provider before using herbal remedies as part of your healthcare routine. Just because something is natural does not automatically make it safe, and there are ingredients in the recipe I’m about to share with you that can interfere with certain medications and medical conditions. Always use good judgment and speak with your doctor before using medicinal herbs. You can read my full disclaimer here.
Fire Cider is a potent herbal remedy consisting of warming herbs and roots like horseradish, ginger, garlic, onion, hot peppers, etc. infused in apple cider vinegar.
The term “Fire Cider” was coined by famed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in the 1970s. It’s an herbal remedy made from infusing warming herbs in a jar and covering with organic apple cider vinegar. You then leave that mixture to infuse for a few weeks and then strain out the plant material, reserving the liquid. Whenever you’re feeling stuffed up, run down or as if a cold is coming on, take a tablespoon (or a small shot glass, which is how I like to do it!) of Fire Cider and it will help clear your sinuses and boost your immunity.
The warming, spicy nature of the roots and herbs used in this herbal preparation make it especially good for the fall and winter months and the cold & flu season that inevitably ensues.
The beauty of this remedy (or any other “folk” remedy for that matter), is that it is not an exact science, and is fully adaptable and customizable depending on your needs, tastes and what herbs and ingredients you have access to in your area.
Today I’m sharing my version of Fire Cider, which does include all of the herbs used in traditional fire cider recipes, but if you can’t find something (like, say, horseradish), or you don’t like something (like hot peppers), or there’s an ingredient that interferes with a medication or medical condition, etc. feel free to omit them.
Still, if you can get your hands on and use all of the ingredients in this recipe, you’ll reap the full health benefits and immunity boosting power of traditional fire cider.
Watch my full Fire Cider video tutorial below
What’s in Fire Cider
Each of the herbs in fire cider has its own special medicinal properties that help to boost immunity and support good health. Here’s a breakdown of each ingredient and its corresponding medicinal properties:
Apple Cider Vinegar: Boosts immunity and supports healthy gut bacteria.
Horseradish Root: Boosts immunity, supports the respiratory system and helps clear sinus infections.
- WARNING: Horseradish can slow thyroid activity, so if you have any sort of thyroid problem you might want to omit it. Talk to your doctor before using.
Garlic: Antiviral, antibacterial and contains allicin, which can help to ward off cancer.
Ginger: Improves circulation, reduces inflammation and contains antiviral and antimicrobial properties to help boost immunity and ward off sickness.
Onion: High in vitamin C, anti-inflammatory properties and antiviral properties
Hot Peppers: Contain capsaicin, which helps improve circulation & clear respiratory issues
- You can use any type of hot peppers. I usually use jalapeños or serrano chilli peppers.
Optional herbs & ingredients
There are a few other optional herbs you might want to consider adding to your fire cider mixture. Here are the ones I use and/or recommend:
Turmeric Root: Reduces inflammation and helps the body detoxify.
Thyme: Antibacterial and expectorant properties help to relieve sore throats, boost immunity and clear mucus from the body.
Rosemary: Antibacterial and a natural decongestant.
Oregano: Antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties make oregano wonderful for soothing coughs and colds.
Citrus Fruits: Sliced lemons and oranges are a nice addition to fire cider and contain high levels of vitamin C to help support the immune system.
Honey: Raw, local honey helps boost immunity and supports the body’s allergy defences too!
How to make fire cider
Fire Cider is stupidly simple to make. All you do is peel and chop the horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, hot peppers and turmeric root (if using) and add to a quart-sized Mason jar. Then take a couple sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary and use your fingers to bruise the herbs, which encourages them to release their essential oils. Place them in the jar too. Then cover all the herbs with organic apple cider vinegar (store-bought or homemade) and allow the mixture to infuse for 3-4 weeks.
Shake the jar once every day or two if you remember to help the herbs infuse. After three or four weeks, strain out the solids and compost and reserve the liquid. At this point you can either store as-is or add some honey to help sweeten the mixture. Personally, I store my fire cider without honey but I take a spoonful of honey to chase the fire cider when I take a shot.
Fire Cider should be stored in a cool, dark place and should last quite a while (we always go through course within at least a few months over cold and flu season, but it has lasted just fine on our shelf for up to at least three months and should technically last quite a bit longer). So no need to take up room in your refrigerator!
How to use fire cider for colds and flu
You can (and should) take about a tablespoon or so of fire cider daily during cold and flu season to help boost immunity and ward off sickness. At the first sign of a cold or flu, up your dosage to two or three tablespoons daily.
That’s it! Pretty simple, eh? If, however, you’d like to watch me make a batch of fire cider to see exactly how I do it, I’ve included a video at the end of the printable recipe below.
And as always, let me know what you think of this recipe and share any other tips or favourite herbal or all-natural remedies for cold and flu season in the comments below!
- Raw apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ½ cup chopped fresh horseradish root
- ½ cup chopped fresh ginger root
- 8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
- 1 or 2 jalapeños, chopped
- One handful each of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano an/or fresh sage (one or two tablespoons each if using dried herbs)
- ½ cup chopped fresh turmeric root (optional)
- ¼ cup raw local honey (optional)
- Place onions, horseradish, ginger, garlic, jalapeños, herbs and turmeric root (if using) in a clean, quart-sized Mason jar (or similar size glass jar).
- Cover completely with apple cider vinegar (use a weight to keep ingredients under the vinegar if necessary).
- Place a lid on the jar and shake to combine ingredients. Let sit for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking once every day or two (or whenever you remember!).
- Strain out the herbs and solid ingredients and reserve vinegar. Add the honey (if using) and shake well to combine.
- Store in a cool, dark place and take a tablespoon of fire cider daily during cold and flu season to ward off potential illness. If already sick, up the dosage as needed. If you find the fire cider is too strong, chase with a spoonful of raw honey.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂