December 16, 2013

‘Tis the season for colds and flus, and based on the Facebook posts of my mom friends this one’s going to be intense.

I’m probably not the only one who gets calls or emails when a client or friend feels like she may be going down for the count.

What’s an herbalist to do?

My favorite suggestion for clients who feel like they’re coming down with something is fire cider. The spicy, tangy concoction seems to blast away colds & flus, and if nothing else it feels invigorating as it goes down. It’s also a good bet during the recovery phase when someone isn’t feeling quite back to normal, but they’re through the worst of it.

Here’s why I love it so:

  1. It’s super easy to make. Even the most inexperienced cook will have a hard time messing this one up.
  2. It tastes pretty good. No, really. Apple cider vinegar, peppers, garlic, ginger… yum. You can always use the extra as a salad dressing or a marinade.
  3. It’s cheap. Even if you buy the fancy ACV, it’s going to be hard to find a less expensive option. Skip the echinacea and try this instead.
  4. Almost everyone can find these ingredients. One trip to Food Lion or Kroger and you’re all set.
  5. It’s empowering for the client. There’s something to be said for making your own medicine; you can do it again next time without needing to ask an “expert”

Instructions for Making Fire Cider

Start by gathering:

  • 1-2 heads of garlic (not 1-2 cloves…:))
  • a big honking piece of ginger
  • an onion or two
  • fresh horseradish if you can find it; the kind in a jar will work in a pinch
  • fresh hot peppers – whatever’s available or use red pepper flakes if necessary
  • rosemary, thyme, oregano – fresh or dried
  • apple cider vinegar
  • honey

All ingredients except the vinegar are optional, so use what you have & like and skip the rest.

Here’s the approximate recipe I use, in video form.

Need something a bit milder?

Here’s my suggestion for a super mild version. Feel free to modify and adapt to your situation. There’s a version for everyone!


  • 5-10 cloves garlic
  • One 2-4” piece of ginger
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, rosemary or oregano
  • ½ onion or 3-4 spring/green onions
  • 1-2 banana peppers (mild) or 1 tsp red pepper flakes (for a slightly spicier version)
  • 1 tbsp honey* (optional)
  • 12-16 oz apple cider vinegar ‘


Finely chop garlic, ginger, thyme, and onion. You can use a food processor, blender or just chop the old- fashioned way. Slice the peppers into rounds if using fresh. Place all ingredients into a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. If adding honey, add all ingredients into a small pan and gently heat to a low simmer. Once your concoction has reached a simmer, turn off the heat and add honey to taste.

Return mixture to jar, cover tightly and label clearly. Allow to steep for 2-8 weeks, shaking occasionally to encourage mixing. You may then either strain the liquid off and discard the marc or just leave it as is and use as needed.

Word to the Wise

Even though this is called “cider” you take it by the spoonful, not by the cup! I learned this lesson the hard way after one of my online students got horrible heartburn while sampling the products from this lesson :). I had forgotten to mention that it’s not a beverage. Oops.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Feel free to share with clients who need a boost!

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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