Fire Cider!

101 Zesty Recipes for Health-Boosting Remedies Made with Apple Cider Vinegar


By Rosemary Gladstar

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For more than 30 years, best-selling author and popular herbalist Rosemary Gladstar has been touting the health benefits of fire cider — a spicy blend of apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger, horseradish, garlic, and other immune-boosting herbs. Her original recipe, inspired by traditional cider vinegar remedies, has given rise to dozens of fire cider formulations created by fans of the tonic who use it to address everyday ills, from colds and flu to leg cramps and hangovers. Fire Cider! is a lively collection of 101 recipes contributed by more than 70 herbal enthusiasts, with energizing versions ranging from Black Currant Fire Cider to Triple Goddess Vinegar, Fire Cider Dark Moonshine, and Bloody Mary Fire Cider. Colorful asides, including tribute songs and amusing anecdotes, capture Gladstar’s passionate desire to pass along the fire cider tradition.

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"God is trying to make vinegar.
It is the winemaker's job to stay his hand."

— August Sebastiani, winemaker

And I say, "Let God have her way!"

—Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist

This book is dedicated . . .

To three feisty herbal activists who cofounded Tradition, Not Trade­mark and the Free Fire Cider movement to help ensure that traditional herbal products, especially those with a long history of use, remain community owned and trademark-free. These herbalists took a stand to protect the legacy of our herbal traditions. Kathi Langelier of Herbal Revolution (Maine), Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs (Rhode Island), and Nicole Telkes of Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine (Texas), we salute you.

To three steadfast lawyers who stood up next to these women in defense of them and our community. James Goggin, Seth Coburn, and Rita Heimes, we applaud you.

In loving memory, to one of the great herbalists of our time, Cascade Anderson Geller (1954–2013), who would be proud to know that we took a stand.


Introduction Cider Vinegar and the Fire Cider Revolution

Chapter One Apple Cider Vinegar: A Brief Biography

Chapter Two Fun, Fabulous, and Sassy: Fire Cider Recipes from Far and Wide

Chapter Three The Cider Vinegar Family Tree: Oxymels, Tonics, and Other Remedies

Chapter Four Real Kitchen Medicine: Cooking with Vinegar and Fire Cider

Acknowledgments and Gratitude

About the Contributors

Metric Conversion Charts


Recipe List

More Books from Storey

Share Your Experience!


Cider Vinegar and the Fire Cider Revolution

With its tart, sour, and slightly sweet zing, apple cider vinegar adds a zesty flavor to many dishes, along with a hardy dose of healthful benefits. In fact, cider vinegar may be among the most ubiquitous health items found in the world. Inexpensive, easily made, easy to store, long lasting, versatile, and tasty, it's the poor man's liquid gold. Travel the four corners, the nooks and crannies, the circles and spirals of the world — wherever apples grow, you will find all manner of cider vinegar recipes and remedies still in popular use today. Apple cider vinegar has been used for issues ranging from gastrointestinal problems to heartburn, and for mental clarity, energy, immune health, and a variety of first-aid measures — and used successfully enough, it seems, to have its uses passed down through time.

Some apple cider vinegar recipes have been around for centuries. Four Thieves Vinegar and The Queen of Hungary's Water, for example, have been popular recipes for more than five hundred years, and even today they are made and sold around the world. Some formulations, like Dr. Jarvis's famous apple cider vinegar and honey tonic and Dr. John Christopher's apple cider vinegar and cayenne tincture, became popular in the alternative healing community of the 1960s, when drinking cider vinegar with as much cayenne as you could tolerate, with or without honey, was deemed the healthy thing to do. It certainly could put fire in your belly (and hair on your chest!).

And then there was fire cider . . . Who would ever have thought that a simple vinegar recipe made with common kitchen ingredients would become as popular as it has — or as controversial? It certainly never crossed my mind that day, oh so long ago, when my students and I were in the kitchen chopping garlic, onions, horseradish, and ginger, and we ended up adding it all to a jar of apple cider vinegar. I could never have predicted that one day we would be headed to federal court to protect the tradition of this simple remedy, and that fire cider would make national headlines.

It all began quite innocently . . .

About four decades ago, in the kitchen of the California School of Herbal Studies, we were creating an herbal formula for winter health, but it was more of a creative group effort than an actual recipe. It was the onset of autumn and I was teaching a class for my students called "Herbs for Winter Health." Winters in Northern California are gray, chilly, and damp, and many people in Sonoma County, where the herb school was located, were prone to repetitive colds, chronic coughs, respiratory issues, and seasonal depression, all symptoms brought on by the cold dampness of the region. The task was to create a remedy using common, readily available kitchen ingredients that could be taken as a daily tonic to warm and energize the body, raise immunity, and aid in circulation.

There were a few such tonics already available: Dr. Jarvis's apple cider vinegar tonic; Dr. Christopher's hot apple cider vinegar and cayenne toddy; the popular Four Thieves Vinegar (which allegedly was used by four grave robbers in the Middle Ages to prevent them from getting the plague while they robbed the graves of victims); and a newly introduced remedy called Cyclone Cider that had us all reeling. Researching what were the common features in each of these formulas, I had gathered and purchased a basket of kitchen herbs and had a large bottle of raw apple cider vinegar and local raw honey on hand. We were ready to roll!

Although I may have used the name
fire cider
first, the formula wasn't
fully original; it was based on
several other formulas of the time. . . .
No herbal formula is truly
original or unique.

It has been a lot of years, but I do remember that day, and the making of that recipe. Possibly I remember it as well as I do because it was recorded in the first edition of my home study course in 1981, and then included again in several of the herbal books I wrote over the years, and the story was told often enough as I taught the recipe to hundreds of students in the passing years. And possibly I remember it because of my dear friend and fellow herbalist Jane Bothwell, who happened to be a student at the school at the time and was in class when we made the first batch of fire cider. I trust Jane's memory far better than I do my own. She always reminds me that although I may have used the name fire cider first, the formula wasn't fully original; it was based on several other formulas of the time. She's right, of course. No herbal formula is truly original or unique, for that matter; herbal knowledge has been passed down through the ages, from one generation to the next, for thousands and thousands of years. We learn from our elders and gather information from many sources. Often the plants themselves speak to us, reminding us of what they are used for and how to use them. And then we call these formulas "ours"?

Rosemary enjoying the twang of fire cider, circa 1970s

By its nature, herbal medicine defies ownership. If herbal formulas — even the ones we invent ourselves, tinkering with herbs and ingredients in our own kitchens — can be said to be "ours," it's a collective ours, and ours only for a few minutes in time, till they are passed on, and on, and on, as herbal knowledge always has been, as part of our inheritance of being human and our ability to care for each other and ourselves.

Back to the story. So there we were in the herb school kitchen with a large basket of freshly gathered herbs, chopping and grating, mixing and mashing . . . laughing, I'm sure, and weeping as well as the mighty horseradish was grated, releasing its volatile oils into the air, making our eyes and sinuses run, clearing them out and warming us up. We didn't have a recipe to follow; we were just making it up as we went. But when we were finished, we had a half-gallon jar half-filled with grated ginger and horseradish, chopped onions and garlic, and a few fresh feisty cayenne peppers to add richness, warmth, and color to the blend. We poured in enough apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by a generous two to three inches, wrapped the top of the jar with waxed paper (vinegar corrodes metal tops), and screwed the lid on firmly. Then we gave it all a great shaking, and then a little more shaking. This was the time we would also say our medicine prayers, or sing a little chant along, or just imagine the goodness of the medicine we were making. It was the 1970s; we were all young hippies and so afire with light and life, so why not make a little magic when making medicine? (It's a practice, by the way, that I still adhere to this very day.)

We left that large colorful jar sitting on the warm kitchen shelf, with the woodstove burning, classes happening, and people coming and going, for approximately four to six weeks, the normal time frame for making tinctures in the folkloric tradition. And every day someone would shake the jar to keep everything agitating and macerating, or, as we might prefer to say, blending harmoniously together. Then the liquid was strained from the marc (the solids), and we had our first tasting. It was tasty, tart, sour, hot, decongesting, and deeply warming. Almost perfect. We added honey (just enough honey that it was hot, spicy, sweet, and pungent). The honey added the necessary soothing, moistening, and balancing action to tame all those hot, dry herbs. It was really perfect.

Of course, over the years, the ­original formula has changed a little each time a fresh batch was made. At times, we added fresh grated turmeric for its ­anti-inflammatory action, echinacea for its immune-boosting properties, elderberries for their powerful antiviral activities (as well as for the lovely purple color they impart), and fresh lemon slices for their bioflavonoids and vitamin C. In the creative manner of all great chefs and most great herbalists, each has added their own creative touch so that today there are many versions of the famous fire cider. But really, the original fire cider blend couldn't be much more perfect, thanks to the students that day in the class, thanks to Jane, who may just be one of the best community herbalists I know, and thanks to the herbs that guided us.

And that's how fire cider began.

It spread out into the world rather slowly at first, but as I traveled and taught through the ensuing years, and taught others how to make it, and they taught others, it developed a life of its own.

People seemed to especially love this recipe . . . and if they didn't love it, they adjusted the herbs and added a little more honey until it was just perfect for them. Kids loved it, husbands and wives loved it, parents and partners loved it. It was so easy to make, and so inexpensive, and all of the herbs were common and readily available — you could grow most of them or find them in the local supermarket. And best of all, not only was it tasty and easy to make, but it was a very effective remedy for many of those cold, damp conditions of winter. People took it as a daily tonic to keep themselves healthy throughout the winter; they took it at the first sign of a cold or the flu to mobilize their immune system; they drank it diluted in a little warm water or juice as an energizing winter drink; they added it to soups, salad dressings, and other dishes for an extra kick. They found myriad ways to use it.

And that's how the story should have continued, but it didn't . . .

As the years went along, the herbal industry grew side by side with the resurging interest in herbal medicine. In response to an ever-growing need, many herbalists started small cottage businesses to provide high-quality herbs and remedies for their communities. Once Etsy and other Internet shops were up and running, they became great venues for herbalists to sell their homemade products and provided a way for home herbalists to earn a livelihood. Fire cider, echinacea tincture, rhodiola, triphala, elderberry syrup, and medicinal mushrooms seemed to be the herbal medicines of choice for our time, and many herbalists were making and selling them online and in herb shops across the country.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a brand-new company owned by two young people saw a great opportunity and, without any public notice, trademarked the name fire cider. It had never occurred to me, or to most of us working within the plant medicine community, that the common name for a popular herbal remedy could be trademarked. In our naiveté, we thought trademark laws were in place to provide protection for people who had created their own original products from others who were trying to copy them. We didn't realize that, in fact, a trademark could sometimes be obtained by whoever grabbed a name and claimed ownership first. It was a wake-up call.

There had always existed a strong sense of sharing and cooperation among people who were practicing herbalism; people readily shared recipes and information in classes, online, and through books and newsletters. What was a good remedy for if not for sharing? In addition, there were lots of remedies that we considered part of our herbal legacy and "community owned"; anyone was welcome to make them and sell them. Usually this was because a recipe, like the legendary Four Thieves Vinegar, had been around for so long that ownership could no longer be traced, or because a remedy, like elderberry syrup, triphala, echinacea tincture, or fire cider, was so popular and ubiquitous that it was considered generic. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of herbal formulas that fall into this category. They are like open-source software: everyone is free to use them, tinker with them, improve them, adapt them, and share the results with the world. And everyone benefits.

However, with the trademarking of the name fire cider, suddenly all those herbalists who had been making and selling this traditional herbal formula — sometimes for decades — became vulnerable to accusations of trademark infringement. They were no longer able to sell it under its traditional name — the name it is best known by. Instead, if they wanted to keep selling their own fire cider product, they had to rename it and relabel it.

In one legal maneuver, a single commercial entity took ownership of a name and a tradition that that had been rooted in American herbalism for years upon years. Sadly, the same fate awaits many other traditional herbal formulas. Much like the appropriation of Native and indigenous people's healing traditions, arts, and artifacts, herbal traditions that have long been shared by cultures around the world are being appropriated for commercial purposes. Shortly after the name fire cider was trademarked, the name four thieves was also trademarked, this time by a popular and well-known essential oil company. What does that mean? After five hundred years of being communally owned and shared, now only one company is allowed to sell a formula called Four Thieves.

Tradition, Not Trademark

The story is still unfolding. The final chapters are being written as we wait on the fate of fire cider to be decided by the people's court of law. This book is in part an attempt to keep the origin story of fire cider alive and well and also to help ensure that traditional herbal formulas, those recipes and remedies that have a long history of being used, like fire cider, are kept in circulation for all to make and sell as they choose.

So gather up the kids or the neighbors, a bottle of apple cider vinegar, and a few kitchen herbs and get chopping. It's easy and fun. When you are making your first or next bottle of fire cider, or any of the fabulous and sassy recipes in this collection, remember that you are participating in the herbal healing arts, a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Welcome to the wonderful world of herbs! Have fun! Stay healthy!

And please protect your traditions. Many of the recipes and formulas that have been passed down through generations are part of a shared herbal inheritance and legacy. While trademark laws are necessary to protect individuals and companies for their investments and products, herbal recipes and formulas that are traditional, common, and shared should not be trademarked. It would be like strangers trademarking your favorite family recipe and calling it their own. It's not theirs — though you would have been happy to share it with them.

A Silver Lining Inside Every Cloud

All stories should have a silver lining, and the fire cider story has several. Because of the huge amount of publicity around the fire cider trademark — the story was printed in the Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Spirit of Change, Mother Earth News, and Epicurious, among many others, and on hundreds of online sites — fire cider went viral and people around the world started making and buying it. Go fire cider!

In response to the trademark, many small companies began making their own brand of fire cider but camouflaged the name, so it is distinguishable but just different enough to fly under the radar of trademarking laws. Hot Shots, Fire Liberty, Fire Tonic, Fiery Cider, and Spicy Cider are just a few of the many commercial (but untrademarked) varieties of fire cider you'll now find.

Fire cider is an entry-level remedy and a wide-open gateway into home herbalism! Many people who make fire cider realize how simple and easy it is to make kitchen medicine. And one thing leads to another . . . Soon they are picking elderberries and ­making delicious elderberry syrup, one of the best antiflu medicines available. Or they are chopping up fresh roots of echinacea to make their own immune tonic. It's so fun to see medicine come back into the kitchen and people rediscovering their ancestral herbal roots.

And, finally, full disclosure: The people who trademarked the name fire cider aren't evil or mean. They are a young couple who made a good product, saw a great opportunity, and jumped. Their argument was always that if they didn't, some other large company would. When we pointed out that they themselves were the "large company" that stopped others — some of whom had been selling fire cider for decades before them — from making it, they didn't respond. When it was suggested that they just change the name to reflect their own personal brand of fire cider, they refused. We're not sure why; just a simple name change would have eliminated a huge amount of angst for everyone. Through it all, though, they have spread fire cider into the marketplace, so perhaps we can say there's a silver lining there as well, though the silver may be a bit tarnished.

Free Fire Cider

by Mary Blue, Farmacy Herbs, Providence, Rhode Island

In February 2014, I was home sick with the flu when the news broke on social media that the term fire cider had been trademarked by a commercial producer. Herbalists all over the country protested against the seizure of what, for them, was a common name for a common remedy. Soon after, a boycott of that product was called, leading to the creation of the nonprofit Tradition, Not Trademark organization and the beginning of the Free Fire Cider campaign. 

Do you think I was taking fire cider when I was sick during those first few weeks of the campaign? Heck no! I hate the stuff. It makes me sick to my stomach. I have never taken fire cider as medicine. I love garlic, ginger, pepper  .  .  . but the apple cider vinegar? I don't like it one bit. I got involved not because I love fire cider, but because I believe in standing up for what's right  — and in this case, it's about preserving the legacy of shared traditions, recipes, and knowledge in American herbalism.

The Free Fire Cider team filed a petition to cancel the fire cider trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A few months later, the company that had trademarked the term


On Sale
Oct 15, 2019
Page Count
204 pages

Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary Gladstar

About the Author

Rosemary Gladstar is the best-selling author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide and Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, which draw on her 40-plus years of experiences studying and teaching about the healing properties of herbs. She is a world-renowned educator, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founding director of Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, the International Herb Symposium, and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference. Gladstar is founding president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native American herbs. She was the original formulator for Traditional Medicinal herbal teas and has led herbal educational adventures around the world. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine and The National Health Freedom Coalition. She lives in Vermont.

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