Stoke Your Immune System with Fire Ciders

Traditional Fire Cider

Fire up your immune system this fall with an herbal concoction that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

Known as Traditional Fire Cider, this vinegar- and honey-based herbal preparation is spiced with pungent flavors to stimulate heat and warmth throughout your body.

“These spicy preparations are meant to stoke the fire of the immune system and bring heat to the digestive system and get everything fired up,” says Crystal Hamby, a faculty member in the Bastyr University Department of Botanical Medicine.

Hamby started teaching others how to make Traditional Fire Ciders after graduating from Bastyr University’s Bachelor of Science in Botanical Medicine program in 2007.

“I love teaching people how to make Traditional Fire Ciders is because it’s integrating herbal medicinal into their diet,” she says. “It’s just such a great preventive medicine that works on a daily basis to keep us healthy.”

Recipes Vary by Region, Culture

Traditional Fire Ciders are a specific type of oxymel, an ancient medicine that combines herbs with the soothing combination of vinegar and honey. Together they help the medicine go down, while also adding their own vitamins, minerals and microbial properties.

It is believed this spiced-up version first was named Fire Cider by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who adds garlic, onion, horseradish, turmeric and pepper to the blend to kick-start immunity. From there, recipes for Traditional Fire Ciders are often adapted regionally depending on local herbs, culture or family tradition, Hamby says.

In her own recipe, Hamby adds culinary herbs for their antimicrobial properties as well as for their flavor, since she often uses her Fire Cider to cook with. She suggests using it straight as a salad dressing or mixing it with olive oil and mustard to make a vinaigrette, or using it as a marinade for fish, tofu and meats. Click to see Crystal Hamby's recipe for Traditional Fire Cider.

How Much to Take?

On a daily basis, Hamby consumes about 1 tablespoon of her Traditional Fire Cider twice per day, either in food or in a beverage such as sparkling water.

“When I start to feel like a cold or flu coming on, I increase the frequency and reduce the dosage to about 1 teaspoon per hour,” she says.

Be sure to listen to your body, Hamby adds, as garlic and some of the other herbs can cause gastrointestinal issues if taken in large quantities. As with all herbs and supplements, consult a health care professional before adding them if you take medications, have a health condition, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

To learn more about botanical medicines and herbal supplements, make an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health by calling 206.834.4100.