A voice for
herbal medicine

We share traditional, scientific and practical insights written by experienced herbalists and health experts from the world of herbal medicine and natural health

← Back to Insights

How to make fire cider

  • Sophia Goard
    Sophia Goard

    Sophia is trained in biology and herbal medicine and works with medicinal plants to foster good health for people and the natural world. She is an editor at Herbal Reality and co-founder of The Peach, where she provides workshops and consulting services for organisations and teams wishing to address health and sustainability challenges. Connect with Sophia on LinkedIn.

  • 10:30 reading time (ish)
  • Making herbal remedies

Fire cider is a fantastic addition to any home apothecary. This article shares a deep dive into what it is, how it works and how to make your own for this autumn and winter season.

Fire cider: A background

How to make fire cider
Fire cider with turmeric and chilli

Writing from north-western Europe, the days are getting shorter and greyer as Autumn takes hold. The cold and the damp are drawing in, and the procession of sniffles and colds begins. Time to roll out the immune tonics; elderberry and rosehip syrups, echinacea drops and the renowned Fire Cider. You may have heard of Fire Cider, a term which has perfused the wellness and herbalism worlds since the 1970’s, when Rosemary Gladstar of Mountain Rose Herbs used the name to refer to apple cider vinegar (ACV) macerated with a range of kitchen garden herbs and spices, with honey dissolved into the end product (1). Gladstar disseminated the recipe and the name freely, encouraging others to experiment with their own recipes based on what they had available. Fire Cider gained even greater renown during a 2014 – 2019 lawsuit that saw one USA company attempt to trademark the name, requiring numerous smaller producers to cease production or rename their products (2). The persecuting company lost, solidifying Fire Cider as a generic term referring to a traditional folk remedy that cannot be owned.

So, what makes Fire Cider so special and why have so many taken an interest in it? First, a little background. ACV is commonplace nowadays and has been on the scene anywhere apples grow. Native to Central Asia, apple tree grafts and seeds have been carried across the world (3). In North America, European settlers would plant apple trees as a way to stake a claim on land they wanted to settle, and the apples were pressed for apple juice and alcoholic cider, the latter of which eventually becomes vinegar if exposed to air (3). Johnny Appleseed was a man fixated on spreading apple seeds, which is the less usual way of cultivating apples because the palatability of apples varies hugely; grafting ensures consistency, and all apples of a single variety can be traced back to one tree that happened to yield tasty fruit.

The upshot of Appleseed’s mission to plant apple seeds was that the fruit, while not necessarily pleasant to eat, offered a rich profile of astringent, bitter and sweet flavours that were perfect for brewing alcoholic cider, and later vinegar (3). The alcohol in cider is converted to acetic acid – the acid in vinegar – by airborne bacteria belonging to the genus Acetobacter, making it an abundant, simply-made ingredient useful in the kitchen. The acidity of vinegar excludes pathogenic and spoilage bacteria, hence its use in pickling and preserving fresh foods.

In the 1990s, ACV was popularised by Paul C. Bragg, for whom the well-known ACV-with-the-mother vinegar brand Bragg’s is named. Bragg played an important role in disseminating the belief that ACV was a panacea for health issues (3). Research in human, animal and in vitro studies has corroborated that including ACV in the diet does significantly reduce blood lipid levels, blood glucose levels and longer-term markers of blood sugar, which together indicate some level of protection from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases like atherosclerosis and diabetes mellitus (4-6).

Teamed up with a range of herbs and spices – the core of which are horseradish, ginger, garlic, onion, chilli, turmeric and rosemary (1) – each of which offers its own benefits, Fire Cider becomes a very useful tonic to keep well and address seasonal and even mild topical infections. Energetically speaking, the combination of sour, pungent and aromatic tastes captured in Fire Cider counteract the cold, damp qualities of the common cold and other illnesses that take hold when immunity is low. Even better, Fire Cider is alcohol-free and can be incorporated into food and drink, making it a reliable ally for the entire family. 

Sophia Goard

Sophia is trained in biology and herbal medicine and works with medicinal plants to foster good health for people and the natural world. She is an editor at Herbal Reality and co-founder of The... Read more

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the very latest in herbal insights.

Sign up to our newsletter