One of my favorite remedies for cold and flu season is fire cider. It’s loaded with anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting, and decongestant herbs. Best of all, it’s super simple to make. Even though the combination sounds bizarre, it’s actually tasty in a sweet and sour kind of way.
Fire cider can be made entirely with items from the grocery store, or customized with more exotic herbs from an herb shop. I even have an “instant” version to share with you.
Flu season here in the US is from October through May, with the peak in February. We haven’t even hit peak flu season yet, and already Alabama has declared a state of emergency and California is running out of Tamiflu. According to the CDC’s flu map for the week ending January 6, 2018, the flu is widespread in 49 states, and active in all 50 states.
In general, most flu cases do not require hospitalization. Sometimes, it may not even be the flu, but a bad cold instead. While the symptoms are similar, this guide can help you sort out the difference.
Why Fire Cider Makes Us Feel Better
When we have the flu, we feel congested, achy, feverish, and have a bad cough. The traditional recipe for fire cider is loaded with simple, familiar, yet potent, ingredients which address each of those complaints.
Garlic is well-known for its immune-supporting effects. It also acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory, which helps those painful coughs and body aches. It is also known as a diaphoretic, which means it causes the body to sweat. This helps to reduce fevers naturally. Thankfully, fresh garlic is a common ingredient in most grocery stores.
Onion and garlic are both alliums, and therefore are related plants. They also share some similarities in properties. The unassuming onion is a potent expectorant and eases coughs. Onion is often used in cough syrups for this reason. Onions are so accessible in every store, please do use fresh onion.
Warming ginger root also helps to induce sweating and fever reduction. Ginger also acts as an antispasmodic, which helps to ease those terrible coughing fits. It is highly recommended to use fresh ginger root (technically, it’s a rhizome, but no one ever bothers to call it that).
Horseradish is excellent for relieving congestion. It is also an effective diaphoretic (sweat-inducing/fever-reducing) herb. On top of that, horseradish is also an expectorant. What could be better for the flu? Sometimes, horseradish can be hard to find at the grocery store. It is in the mustard family, so go ahead and substitute some crushed mustard seed or mustard powder if you need to.
Cayenne is hot, but it is also a superior anti-inflammatory. I use it every time I’m congested to relieve the inflammation in my sinuses which make the sensation of congestion worse. This hot pepper can also get a congested nose running again, making blowing your nose a lot more productive. You can use any kind of hot pepper you wish. You can use fresh hot peppers, cayenne powder, or red pepper flakes.
Is there anyone left who doesn’t know that turmeric is anti-inflammatory? Because of this, turmeric is a huge help for reducing that achy feeling we get with the flu. There’s only one grocery store near me that sells it fresh. If you can find it fresh, great. If not, use the powdered herb.
Apple cider vinegar
Of all natural health products, apple cider vinegar has probably more health claims to it than any other. I’m dubious about most of these claims. However, it is a good menstruum (solvent) to extract the benefits out of the other ingredients. It also does seem to help ease coughing and congestion. I stick with the raw apple cider vinegar, and thankfully, this is also a common grocery store item.
There is just something so wonderful about lemon. It lends both its bright flavor and its powerful decongestant properties to this recipe. You can use fresh lemon slices or add lemon juice at the end. Also, play with adding lime and other citrus fruits for fun.
Honey is effective at calming coughs. Our kids’ pediatrician was thrilled when we told her we keep bees, as cough suppressants had been found ineffective for children, while honey had been shown effective as a cough suppressant. Honey lends the sweet flavor to this hot, sweet, and sour remedy. Honey is added at the end.
How to Make Fire Cider
You’re going to be surprised at how easy this is.
- Layer the garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, cayenne, turmeric, and any citrus slices you may have into a quart or gallon mason jar. You can make multiple layers. Keep layering until you have filled about 3/4 of the jar.
- Fill to the top with apple cider vinegar. Use a knife or canning tool to get out any air pockets. If the vinegar isn’t in contact with the herb, it can’t extract anything from it.
- Let it steep for two weeks or longer depending upon your tastes.
- Strain out the plant material, and reserve the vinegar.
To this herbal vinegar, also called an acetum, you can add lemon juice and honey to your tastes. Once the honey has been added, this is known as an oxymel (a sweet and sour recipe).
Nothing could be easier. But, just in case you still have questions, or want ideas for other herbs you can use, check out this video tutorial. It’s from the Herbal Skills Intensive, a course available on HerbalPrepper.com. The tutorial is a bit lengthy, but it is a thorough explanation of the remedy and how to make it.
“Instant” Fire Cider
I know, I know, a lot of people are thinking, “It takes two weeks or longer to make, but I’m sick now!” That’s ok, I’ve got you covered with an instant version. Check out the video below to see how this herbal wizardry comes together.
One last thing
Don’t be afraid of the heat from the cayenne. You can add as much or as little hot pepper as you wish. Missing an ingredient? Substitute or skip it. This is literally the most forgiving recipe I’ve ever seen.
There’s a lot of cold and flu season left to go. Mix up a batch today, and be ready in case you get sick. Let me know what you think of the recipe!
About the Author
Cat Ellis is an herbalist, massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.