Feel the Burn: Fire Cider 101

January is here and after a couple months of indulging in your favorite sweets and treats, it is time to kick back into a healthier routine. We spend a lot of energy thinking of others during the holidays, so there is no better time than the New Year to check back in, focus on yourself and practice self-care!

In December, Katherine Elmer from Spoonful Herbals taught a Winter Wellness and Fire Cider Making workshop here at City Market. Katherine was trained at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism and currently practices at the Burlington Herb Clinic located at the Railyard Healing Center. She also is a lecturer of Herbal Medicine at UVM and the UVM Medical Center Program in Integrative Health.

In this workshop she went over some key strategies to prevent and relieve symptoms of common winter ailments and participants were also able to make and take home their own batch of fire cider, a traditional herbal winter wellness formula.  

During the winter, Katherine explained, we are more susceptible to the common cold and flu because we spend more time inside in close proximity to one another, viruses are able to spread more easily, and there is less Vitamin D due to shorter days with less sunlight. In order to combat this wintertime reality, we must build up and maintain a strong wellness foundation. Katherine explained that she looks at our foundation of wellness as divided into three pillars: good nutrition, lots of rest (sleep), and supportive relationships. Without one of these parts, our wellness will suffer.

In addition to this foundation, Katherine shared that there are endless herbal strategies for the cold and flu season. But one that is easy to prepare and good for both prevention and treatment of winter colds and flu is fire cider! Fire cider is a vinegar infusion (oxymel), of spicy herbs and vegetables.

To start, Katherine introduced the importance of adding pungent herbs to fire cider—the smelliness of these herbs is actually a sign that they are a great antimicrobial! The mere act of smelling these herbs carries the volatile oils through your nasal passageway and helps to move viruses through and out of your body. Another commonality among the ingredients of fire cider is that they are all spicy! Honestly the spicier, the better! You have probably already experienced this with spicy food, but when you ingest something spicy, your body’s reaction is to sweat—you might have a runny rose and watery eyes among other responses. All of these are part of your body’s positive immune system response that will aid digestion and blood circulation—these herbs are simply just getting things moving, which ultimately helps to move viruses and other bad bacteria out of your body.

So, how do you make this magic fire cider? Here is one recipe from Vermont herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar. This is the recipe we followed in the Winter Wellness workshop, although the great thing about this concoction is you can use whatever you have on hand!


Now you have your fire cider, let’s talk about dosage. Katherine explained that a small shot glass or 1-2 tablespoons once a day at the onset of a cold or flu is a good place to start. But, there is nothing wrong with taking it more regularly, like once a day, during winter months. You can take it straight or mix it in a small amount of hot water to lessen the intensity.

The name Fire Cider has been around since the ‘80s but the process of mixing vinegar with spicy herbs has been around for much longer. Sharing the wisdom and recipe freely is part of what makes this herbal medicine so special. Recently, the name and process of making fire cider has turned political. If you are interested in learning more, Katherine suggests checking out FreeFireCider.com.

Enjoy, feel the burn, and be well. Check out more of our classes and events here!