The only thing worse than getting a cold or flu in the winter might be getting one in the spring. Now that it’s actually nice out, staying huddled up inside is probably the last thing you want to do. And of course, a nasty bug will only make your seasonal allergy symptoms more unpleasant.
It sounds kind of awful—but there’s a spicy, tangy tonic that might help. Fire cider has been making the rounds on wellness blogs and Instagram as a natural immunity booster that can help protect against cold and flu and ease sinus congestion, plus deliver a host of other benefits. While recipes vary, it’s usually made by steeping ingredients like garlic, onion, ginger, citrus, horseradish, hot peppers, fresh herbs, and spices in apple cider vinegar.
If you love hot, pungent flavors, you can sip a spoonful of the stuff straight up. (Having more than that could irritate your throat.) But you can also mix it into hot water or tea, use it in marinades or dressings, or even add it to cocktails.
It Could Mean Fewer Colds: Fire cider has long been a go-to remedy among herbalists. And while there’s no research on the drink itself, experts agree that the stuff is packed with ingredients that could boost your health. Research shows that apple cider vinegar boasts antimicrobial properties that have the potential to fight infections. And it’s a similar story for garlic and onion, says Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University and Director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. Typical fire cider herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric are also thought to promote a healthy immune system. And while the vitamin C in citrus fruits probably won’t cure a cold, getting enough could play a role in keeping germs at bay.
It Keeps Cravings At Bay: But fewer colds might be just one of fire cider’s benefits. “Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help lower blood sugar—I have many patients who use it before meals, and it appears to work,” Feuerstein says. That could give you steadier, more even energy and help keep sugary cravings at bay, which in turn could help lower the risk for type 2 diabetes.
It Can Help Your Digestive System: Some fire cider fans also claim that the tonic improves digestion. And in fact, you’ll get some prebiotics (sugars that feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract) from apple cider vinegar. Fresh ginger is also thought to stimulate the production of saliva, and gastric enzymes to help break down food. Problem is, fire cider is usually made with other things that could mess with your belly. “Horseradish and hot peppers can be irritating to the stomach lining, so it might be worth going lighter on the hot, spicy ingredients,” Feuerstein says.
Two Brands To Try
Believe it or not, bottled fire cider is actually pretty easy to find. (Try Herbal Revolution’s Fire Tonic or Shire City Herbals Fire Cider). But making it yourself is quick and cheap. Plus, you get to control the ingredients—so you can make a cider that is as sweet, spicy, or pungent as you want. Below, our favorite recipe.
Simple Fire Cider Recipe
Makes about 2 cups
This fire cider skips the spicy horseradish and jalapeno pepper, which could irritate your stomach. Want to experiment with a spicier tonic? Try adding up to 1/2 cup diced horseradish and 2 chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers.
½ medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ orange, thinly sliced
½ lemon, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 2½ cups cups raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
¼ cup raw honey, plus more to taste
1. Combine the onion, garlic, orange, lemon, honey, ginger, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, and cinnamon in a clean glass jar. Pour in the apple cider vinegar, adding enough to making sure the ingredients are fully covered and that there are no air bubbles. Place the lid on the jar, lining the top of the jar with wax paper if you’re using a metal lid. (The wax paper prevents the vinegar from corroding the metal.)
2. Place the mixture in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks, or up to a month.
3. Strain the mixture and discard the solids. Place the fire cider in a clean jar and stir in the honey, adding more to taste, if you’d like. Store fire cider in the refrigerator.
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