Now that the chill of fall is here, there are lots of things to love: changing leaves, breezy walks, warm teas, stews in the slow cooker, bonfires, and much more. What's not to love is that fall marks the start of cold season. And flu season. And who-knows-what-it-is-but-you-feel-like-crap season. We are inside more often, getting less sunlight, and usually eat fewer fruits and vegetables, so we are more prone to getting sick. Pumping up your immune system has got to be a priority during this time of year.
Instead of getting vaccines full of mercury, formaldehyde and other poisons, or relying on bottles of Ny-Quil to get you through, how about taking your health into your own hands with some homemade medicine? Enter Fire Tonic.
Also known as Fire Cider (read about that controversy here...), Dragon Tonic and a few other names, Fire Tonic is a traditional folk remedy for colds, flus and what ails you. It is an herbal medicine made with herbs and vegetables, extracted in raw apple cider vinegar, that is full of immune-boosting and sickness-fighting properties. Your sick (or getting sick) body will thank you for crafting this spicy, sweet, tangy, pungent medicine, and you will likely feel like a million bucks after a shot of this stuff. The horseradish is great for opening up the lungs and getting mucus flowing, and the honey soothes the throat. Fire Tonic is packed with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, digestive-promoting, and vitamin C-rich veggies and herbs that are sure to do the trick.
Even if you aren't feeling sick, this is great to help strengthen and enhance the immune system to help protect you against sickness, as well as a general warming tonic during these cooler months. This firey blend is also fantastic for the digestive system! This kind of vinegar extraction is similar to an oxymel, as it is also infused into vinegar and honey (instead of alcohol or glycerine). The difference between this preparation and and an oxymel is that the latter is boiled down to a syrup while this Fire Tonic is kept in its raw state. I love vinegar extractions and oxymels because they are safer for more populations and usually have a much more pleasant taste than alcohol extractions. Plus, the word is cool....oxymel....nice....here's a great article on using honey and vinegar for making herbal medicine!
If you start a big batch now, you not only will have plenty to get you through the winter, but you could also give lovely bottles of homemade Fire Tonic to your loved ones for the holidays! People love homemade gifts, and this is really inexpensive to make!
Make sure you get only organic ingredients and use raw, local honey as well. This is cheap and easy to make but the quality of the ingredients is of the utmost importance. This recipe is for a quart-sized jar, but you could double or quadruple if you're really hardcore. Or, if you really don't want to make your own Fire Tonic but think it sounds rad, you can look for several brands at your local health food store or online herbal suppliers.
(Makes ~1 quart)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup grated ginger
1/4 cup grated horseradish root
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot peppers, diced, such as jalapeno
2 Tbs fresh turmeric, grated, or 1 Tbs dried turmeric
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw honey or to taste
2-3 springs fresh rosemary
3 Tbs dried rose hips
2 Tbs dried oregano (or fresh)
Pack the prepared vegetables and herbs into a clean quart-sized glass jar. I made one batch with rosemary and one with rose hips, but you could add many different herbs or just make a simpler cider and omit extras. Pour apple cider vinegar over the herbs and fill to the top. This will take about 3 cups of vinegar, but it may vary slightly.
Cover with a plastic lid, or a metal lid with a piece of parchment between the lid and jar to prevent rusting. Seal tightly and shake for several minutes.
Label and date the jar or jars, with the name and when you started it. Wait 4-6 weeks, shaking for a minute or two every few days to fully infuse the vinegar with the herbal goodness. After one month, strain out the vegetables and add the liquid back to the jar, adding 1/4 cup raw honey or to taste. You may save the strained veggies/herbs and use in a salad or as a condiment; it will be strong and delicious!
As a tonic: Take ~1 Tbs daily to boost immune function or promote digestion. If you are new to using apple cider vinegar this much, start with 1 tsp and work up to a higher dose. You could take this 2-3 times per day if you start to feel a sickness coming on as well. If you have a sensitive stomach, be cautious and use smaller amounts, as it is quite acidic.
This will keep for several months, either on the counter or in the fridge. I keep mine refrigerated for a longer shelf life, and I really like the way it tastes and feels on my throat when it is chilled.
Brine & Broth
I am a nutritionist in Southwest Wisconsin, focused on traditional, nutrient-dense foods. My goal is to provide you with simple and delicious recipes that fit into real life, and information for choosing healthful real foods. Enjoy!