Archive for the ‘Remedies’ Category

Fire Cider – A Traditional Herbal Remedy

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

fire cider


Fire cider is a mainstay in my herbal arsenal against winter crud. I toss back a shot glass of this immune system boosting tonic every day.  On those occasions when I can tell my immune system is messing around with a bug, I tend to toss back more than one shot a day.  Made with raw vinegar, honey, and pungent herbs and spices, it’s a spicy, tangy, savory, sweet and sour concoction that’s tasty, as well as good for you.

A couple of points of interest, if you’re like me, and like more than less information (otherwise, just skip the next few paragraphs to the recipe below):

Earlier this year, the University of Nottingham in the UK published an interesting experiment. They reproduced an ancient medieval remedy containing ingredients similar to those used today in fire cider – garlic, onion, wine. Wine in medieval times tended towards the sour, acidic end, and wasn’t what we are accustomed to in modern times. The microbiologists conducting the experiment were “genuinely amazed” by the results, and many modern folk herbalists felt vindicated.

Also of interest, is an unfolding legal drama surrounding fire cider.  In a nut shell, three small business owners, all herb farmers, have been sued by Shire City Herbals over the use the name “Fire Cider”. If you read about the background of fire cider, you’ll understand why herbalists (myself and my business included) have rallied in support of the three women being sued. Back in 2004, my business was served a cease and desist over an herb I was selling as a soap making additive. Not in a financial position to be a part of a class action lawsuit taking place surrounding the herb, I quit selling it.  I’m happy to say, the class action lawsuit was won, and the name “rooibos” is now public domain.  As a long-standing traditional remedy, I hope fire cider will enjoy the same outcome.

It’s not uncommon for herbalists to add their own twist, and there seem to be as many recipes as there are herbalists. The basics we all seem to stick with are garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, vinegar, and honey. Many add hot peppers.

I’ve put a few twists of my own on the recipe.  I use my own homemade raw kombucha vinegar in place of cider vinegar. For a little brightening flavor zing I like to add lemon slices. I’m dealing with osteoarthritis, so I’ve added turmeric for its many health benefits. I also throw in two or three astragalus root slices. Astragalus is effective against viral infections, helps boost the production of white blood cells, and promotes interferon production in the body.

I don’t measure, and honestly, I don’t think it matters for a recipe like this. I tend to throw something like equal-ish amounts of the onion, garlic, horseradish, and ginger into a big jar.

Fire Cider
Horseradish root
Ginger root

Optional Ingredients:
1 or 2 cayenne or other hot peppers
1 or 2 tablespoons turmeric powder (or chopped root, if it’s available to you)
1 or 2 sliced lemons
2 or 3 astragalus root slices

Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw honey

Peel and chop onion, garlic, horseradish, and ginger.  Place in an appropriate sized jar. I make mine in a gallon jar.  Add optional ingredients.  Add enough vinegar to cover ingredients by 3 or 4 inches.  Cover with a non-reactive lid (line metal lid with plastic wrap), and let the whole mess sit for about 4 weeks. Strain and mix the resulting liquid with honey to taste.




The Devil … errr.. Tina Made Me Do It!

Sunday, November 17th, 2013


When I got off work on Thursday afternoon, I kicked back on the sofa with a cup of tea and the most recent issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  My intention was to relax for a short while, unwind from a busy day in the shop, and then have dinner waiting for my husband when he came in after dark from deer hunting.  That’s not what happened.  Instead, I read an article written by my friend, Tina Sams, the editor of the magazine, entitled “Grocery Store Preparedness”.  The article was about how to stock your cupboards to be somewhat prepared for an unexpected cold or bout of the flu.  It also included some instructions for a few herbal concoctions meant for prevention and easing symptoms.  At this point I went off on a wild hare.  Pictured above is my kitchen counter within 10 minutes of reading the article, just before it exploded.

My herbal remedies arsenal has dwindled dangerously low, and I’ve procrastinated restocking for weeks. Tina’s article was just the motivation I needed, and dinner ended up being reheated leftovers, instead of the meatloaf I had originally planned.

First on my agenda was getting a few tinctures started. From left to right is Eleuthero root, Astragalus root, and Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi). Making tinctures is quick and easy.  I just fill a jar about 1/3 full of dried herb, and cover with vodka.  I let it sit about 6 weeks before using.  At that point it can be strained and bottled.  I store mine in the jars and strain off what I need into 2 ounce dropper bottles as I need it.

making tinctures

Eleuthero is an immune system booster, effective against colds and flu. Astragalus, one of my favorite preventives,  is effective against viral infections, helps boost the production of white blood cells, and promotes interferon production in the body. Interferon is a chemical that disrupts the life cycle of a virus. Holy Basil is most commonly used for stress and anxiety, but it’s also a powerful adaptogen, rich in phytochemicals, which exhibits both antiviral and antibiotic effects.  These three have a significant presence in my household, along with elderberry, which numerous studies have shown to be effective against multiple strains of influenza.

Next, I mixed up my favorite blend of herbal tea which I like to use when I feel a cold coming on, and also during a cold.  I need to give it a name.  I blend the following in a bowl and store it in and old bail lid canning jar.

2 parts Holy Basil
2 parts Dried Elderberries
1 part Dried Ginger
1 part Lemon Verbena
1 part Lemongrass
1 part Hibiscus

herb tea

I like this blend because it meets the criteria for my personal preferences. It tastes good – some zip is provided by the lemon verbena, lemongrass, and hibiscus (which also gives the tea a rich rosy color).  The elderberry and Holy Basil help combat the virus, and the ginger provides a warming effect that can help break a sweat and fight off chills. Elderberry also helps promote sweating.

herb tea

Next, I made a batch of garlic infused honey, recommended in Tina’s article. I’m not even going to go into the myriad benefits of garlic.  You can Google it.  When I eat garlic I seem to stink worse than most people.  When I eat it raw, I fart – a lot.  You want to stay far, far away from me when I’ve been eating raw garlic.

garlic honey

I also made the Ginger Elixir and the Fire Cider included in Tina’s article. A friend of Tina’s and mine calls the Ginger Elixir “ginger lemon honey throat yum yum stuff”.  That about sums it up. Since these are in the current issue of the magazine, I’m not going to give them here.  I bet if you visit The Essential Herbals Facebook page and ask about it, Tina might share … or you could just subscribe to the magazine, and she’ll start you off with the current issue.