Ever heard of fire cider? No?
OK. Think bloody mary-ish, but replace the booze and tomato juice with straight-up vinegar and a touch of honey.
It’s a health tonic that was created back in the 70s by an herbalist named Rosemary Gladstar, and lots of people swear by its ability to keep their immune system in tip-top shape.
So cozy up, because it’s time for a fireside(r) chat.
Fire cider is an interesting concoction made from a lineup of pungent and flavorful ingredients like:
These are all marinated in apple cider vinegar for up to 4 weeks — giving “home brew” a whole new, mildly painful meaning. Certain recipes may call for additional ingredients, like turmeric, jalapeños, or lemon juice. We’ve got one word: ouch.
Blessedly, you get to add some honey before drinking it. You can knock it back like a shot or dilute it a bit to make it more palatable. You can even add it to foods, like soup or salad dressings… which sounds pretty 🔥, actually.
According to avid fire cider sippers, the tonic is like rocket fuel for your immune system and digestive health. They recommend 2 to 3 tablespoons daily, either spread throughout the day or all at once.
Some people take it in the morning to jolt them awake, but others prefer it at night — although there appears to be no real difference in how it works based on when it’s taken. You do you.
Proceed with skepticism
Fire cider is a tonic, not a magic potion. Be wary of outlandish claims, like “You’ll never get sick again!” or “Your colon will be emptier than ever before!” (OK, that last one might be true depending on how much you’re taking at once).
From what we can find, there has been NO (zip, zero, zilch, nada) scientific research on the effects of fire cider on either your immune function or your digestive health.
The three key benefits of fire cider that are repeated over and over again online are: it can boost your immune system, it can help treat colds or the flu, and it can improve your digestive health. Let’s do some digging, shall we?
Certain ingredients used in fire cider have been shown to offer immune system benefits. For example, garlic and cayenne pepper have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, which may be beneficial to the immune system.
However, there’s currently no evidence that the combination of ingredients found in fire cider is more effective for promoting immune health or reducing the chance of getting sick.
But back to the garlic: one study noted that those taking garlic supplements had fewer colds and total sick days than those taking a placebo, but the study was pretty small and it was using powdered garlic supplements rather than garlic in the diet.
So while promising, it’s not really something we can shout from the rooftops about.
- Garlic. One 2012 study found that aged garlic extract might actually reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms and help people get back on their feet faster. The only downside? Terrible breath.
- Horseradish. Stuffy nose? Horseradish might help clear those sinuses right up thanks to its spicy and peppery flavor and smell.
- Cayenne pepper. Like horseradish, cayenne’s got a kick. Even taking a quick whiff of fire cider with some cayenne pepper in it might be enough to get things loosened up a bit.
- Honey. Honey might help calm coughs and sore throats, and is a safe option for kids. But don’t give it to infants under age 1 due to botulism risk. And please — no fire cider in the sippy cup.
Ginger, beloved by pregnant women and seafarers alike for its anti-nausea effects, has some scientific evidence to support its use for a vast swath of digestive issues in addition to nausea, like constipation, gas, ulcers, and heartburn.
But one 2011 study in people with indigestion found that, while ginger could help move food through the digestive system more quickly, it didn’t actually relieve any of the participants’ symptoms. So, more high quality studies in humans are definitely needed.
In addition, ACV with the “mother” (the creepy looking but good-for-you glob of bacteria floating in the bottle) contains probiotics, or bacteria that are good for your gut. However, there’s been no research specifically on how the probiotics in ACV affect your digestive health.
Overall, there’s really not a lot of strong evidence to support any of these uses of fire cider, BUT we can confidently say that it’s chock-full of good-for-you ingredients that might help with symptom relief when you’re feeling under the weather.
And — for you spice fiends out there, especially — it probably tastes pretty darn good.
Unfortunately, if you’re not careful you can experience some nasty side effects from fire cider.
Vinegar can erode your teeth, especially if you drink it straight. That’s why it’s best to dilute fire cider or other vinegars in water before drinking — we recommend about 8 ounces of water for every tablespoon of ACV.
And if you’re extra dedicated to being your pearly whites’ white knight, sip your fire cider through a straw.
Additionally, the compounds in fire cider that give it its pleasant/painful (depending on the person) burn can actually do the same thing to your digestive tract and cause symptoms like heartburn and diarrhea. On top of that, large amounts of vinegar can cause corrosive damage to the esophagus. Wince.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a huge problem if you’re sticking to just a tablespoon or 2 per day — especially if you’re diluting it or mixing it in food.
Also, you might have dragon breath after taking it, so maybe pop a breath mint.
Ready to try it? You can buy it online or at specialty stores, but here’s an easy recipe if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. You’ll need:
- 1 horseradish root, finely chopped
- 1 ginger root, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 head of garlic (approximately 10 cloves), peeled and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup honey
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar (at least 5% strength)
First, in a large glass jar with a lid, combine all of your ingredients except the ACV and honey. Then add ACV to cover, seal the jar, and store it away in a dark cupboard or your pantry for 4 weeks. Give it a good shake every day or every other day.
After 4 weeks, strain the liquid into a glass bottle or jar and mix in the honey. You can add more honey if you just can’t stomach the taste. Store it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks (if you don’t finish it before that).
Fire cider is a spicy, sour, and sweet herbal remedy that’s claimed to help strengthen your immune system and improve digestion. But hold up: there’s no research on its effectiveness, and taking large amounts undiluted may actually harm your teeth and digestive tract.
Still, it’s full of good-for-you ingredients and a makes a killer addition to soups or salad dressings.
Ready to get lit? Def give our super easy fire cider recipe a try.