Flexible Fire Cider

This apple cider vinegar based tonic has potent, spicy herbs and roots to fight off illness, reduce inflammation, boost immunity and improve circulation. Taking a tablespoon or two each day helps maintain good health through the roughest of flu seasons. 2-3 TBS several times a day will deliver the knock out blow to a nasty virus. It tastes a bit like a concentrated, tangy, asian vinaigrette, delicious on grilled and fresh veggies, and makes a killer spicy martini or bloody mary mix addition.

I flexibly followed Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for her book, Medicinal Herbs, A Beginners Guide–subbing out horseradish for some other fresh items I did have and cutting the quantity back in case of First Pancake Syndrome. Fire Cider recipes start with a few primary ingredients (garlic, ginger, onion, apple cider vinegar, honey, cayenne, and horseradish) known for their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial and all around anti-bummer, bad-ass super powers. To these, a slew of other healing herbs and spices are optionally added. I had lemon balm, fresno chili pepper, turmeric and black peppercorns on hand, which bring their own healthful properties to the party.

Flexible Fire Cider

Here’s what used:

  • 1 part garlic
  • 1 part ginger
  • 0.5 part turmeric
  • 3 parts onion
  • 0.5 part lemon balm
  • 1 part fesno chili (fresh, seeds included)
  • 0.5 part black peppercorns
  • A few sage leaves (’cause I had them)
  • Raw apple cider vinegar/ACV (t must be raw/unpasturized) sufficient to cover
  • Honey to taste
  • Cayenne to taste

Fire Cider prep

To prepare it all: grate the ginger and turmeric, mince the garlic, chop the onion and chili. Throw all of this into a glass jar, along with the whole lemon balm, sage leaves and peppercorns. Warm the ACV on the stove slightly–it should be very warm but not too hot to touch–and then pour it into the jar, over the pile of ingredients. Cap the jar and place it in a warm, sunny spot (or near a furnace). Let it infuse for 3 to 4 weeks, turning the jar daily to help it along.

After 3-4 weeks, open her up, strain out the herbs and add in honey and ground cayenne pepper. These are both done to taste, but the final product should be both vibrantly spicy and sweet. I’m guessing I’ll use around 0.5 part honey and less than that in cayenne as I’ve got fresh chilies in there already, but TBD.

I’ll update the post when I crack this puppy open in about a month. What other interesting pieces of knowledge can I drop?

Garlic – there are a million wonderful things that can be said about garlic’s medicinal and culinary applications (and “11 Proven Benefits“). Google them, it’s impressive–but here’s the tl;dr version: Garlic is good, mmmmK?

What I can offer up is a tip to maximize all of those fabulous benefits when using garlic (it’s an old tip, but worth revisiting)…

Wait for 10 minutes after chopping/crushing/slicing garlic before you cook it up!

Many of garlic’s beneficial compounds (allyl sulfides) need time to form after they have been activated by the chopping process, and heat immediately inhibits this formation. By waiting, we allow the garlic’s full, healthy potential to shine and receive all those lovely immune boosting properties.

Lemon Balm – I’d originally planted this citrusy, slightly piny herb at the recommendation of Ms. Gladstar, via the aforementioned book. Why did I choose this aromatic herb? I went back to the book in an effort to remember: herbalists have understood the power of this “elixer of life” balm for centuries, and more recently, so have modern scientists! Volatile oils in L’balm–citronellal and citral, to be exact–help to calm the nervous and digestive systems. In addition to these desirable properties, I love the flavor and knew I could find hundreds of every-day uses.

Bee Balm, as it’s sometimes called, is a mild sedative or tranquilizer, so tea from the leaves can be used to calm a nervous stomach, colic, or heart spasms. As it is very gentle yet effective, it is often suggested for children and babies. Lindsay Wolsey over at Herbal Legacy highlights its ability to inhibit the division of tumor cells and act as an anti-histamine. The plant is chock full of polyphenols–these are little assassins in the war against degenerative diseases and some viruses; specifically useful in treating cold sores (herpes simplex). (Yup, really!). The website Herb Wisdom lists another 50 applications, including: 

“Mental clarity, concentration and relaxation. Lemon balm is widely used to treat anxiety and insomnia in Europe. It reduced anxiety and stress and eases sleep disorders.”

Oooh, right. There it is. I’d been suffering from insomnia and stress-related health issues for over a year, planting an herb and trusting I’d remember it seemed like a legit solution. Lemon balm leaves are also great in a salad or tossed into soup at the very end. Their flavor holds up equally well cooked down in a dish, or prepared in marinades and dressings. Super versatile and delicious. It’s worth picking out the younger/more tender leaves if going for raw, but otherwise just wash and chop. Perhaps the most prolific medicinal preparation is as a simple

Lemon Balm Tea:

Steep 1 heaping Tbs of dried leaves or 2 Tbs of fresh leaves per cup of boiling water.

If you have the time and the climate, make a Sun Tea by placing herbs and cool, filtered water in a covered vessel in the sun for several hours to a day. Strain out the leaves and enjoy! Optionally, add ice, honey, lemon wedge, mint leaves, cinnamon stick, literally any other herb you like or a prosecco floater.

To our health!

p.s. just found that The Nerdy Farm Wife has a great post on 12 Things to Do With Lemon Balm–I’m excited to try the Lemon Balm and Honey Butter idea! Also an important warning from the site, “while it’s generally considered safe for most people, lemon balm can inhibit thyroid function.” If you have an under-active thyroid or are pregnant, check with a doctor before using lemon balm internally in large quantities.


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