Its been a month since the Fall Equinox and in that time the Queen City of the Plains has fully entered autumn. The time to surrender to a slower pace, cook hearty meals, read good books and sip tea while buried in cozy blankets and sweaters has arrived.
The songs of Chelsea Wolfe, Joanna Newsom and The Weather Station anchor me as I brace for the dark, cold months ahead. Chilly, long nights and rainy days create a need for fire-y herbal potions that wake up the senses and encourage immune function. As someone who grew up in the swamps of Florida, real winter was not a reality until my early twenties. Since, warming herbs have become vital allies in my fight to keep myself well.
I cannot imagine winter without spicy tea blends, herbal tonics, stir-fries and soups. Furthermore, many of my loved ones battle with sinus infections, colds and other respiratory issues during this time of year. My devotion to kitchen magic and desire to heal those I care for inspires me to craft new remedies seasonally, which I will be sharing with you on the full moons from now on.
One of my favorite remedies is known as Fire Cider. Fire Cider is a traditional remedy with deep roots in folk medicine. The term "Fire Cider" was popularized by herbal goddess Rosemary Gladstar* over 40 years ago when she started to spread this remedy to the people as a winter wellness remedy. Making my own version has become an important fall ritual and I am excited to share it’s healing power with all of you!
As with most recipes I will share, the freedom is yours to play and create a potion that provides you with the exact healing you and your loved ones need most.
The basics for Fire Cider include horseradish, ginger, onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar and honey. If you've never grated fresh horseradish, get ready for a powerful sinus opening experience. This time around, I added grapefruit, hyssop, pink peppercorns, yarrow, burdock root and dandelion root along with the base ingredients.
Crafting this remedy is a potent moon activity and a wonderful stimulant to the immune, digestive and circulatory systems. These body systems get hit the hardest in the winter, and I encourage you to add this tonic to your self-care regimen over the next few months. Not only are you empowering yourself by taking your health into your own hands, you are joining a tradition of wise womyn in the sacred art of medicine making.
*If you have never heard of Rosemary Gladstar I highly recommend you look her up. In recent months, there has been a decent amount of controversy surrounding Fire Cider within the herbal community, and I believe it is worth your time and support.
I tend to be more intuitive and playful in the kitchen but I've provided rough measurements for those that rely on them. Remember there is no wrong way to make Fire Cider; the recipe changes from person to person and from year to year!
Whenever I am making kitchen magic, I begin by burning sage and cleansing my space. I like to thank the plants as I use them and try to set an intention of wellness and warmth into my potion.
Prepare all of your ingredients and place them in a clean jar. If you’re using a metal lid, line it with wax paper or plastic wrap so that the vinegar doesn’t corrode it, then put the lid on. Shake it up! Store in a dark place for one moon cycle.
On the next full moon, strain out the pulp, and pour the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid goodness as you can from the pulp while straining. Next add the honey. I have Osha honey left over from a wildcrafting trip last summer that I am going to use. Add to taste. I usually incorporate a tablespoon at a time, tasting along the way.
1/2 cup fresh grated (or sliced) organic ginger root
1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root
½ of a medium organic onion, chopped
10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed
Zest and juice from 1 organic grapefruit (any type of citrus can me used)
2 tbsp fresh grated (or sliced) turmeric
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
1 tbsp dried yarrow
1 tbsp dried hyssop
½ tbsp dried dandelion root
½ tbsp dried burdock root
organic apple cider vinegar
raw local honey
Add the vinegar to a meal or sip it straight. I typically take a small shot glass daily, which I find to be an excellent preventative care option, while drinking more of it in times of immune distress has helped ease my symptoms. So much healing magic! By the time your tonic is ready it will be the end of November and I’m certain you will be overjoyed to have such a pungent, delicious, healing vinegar as an ally during these cold months.
Brittany Ducham is a community herbalist located in Denver, Colroado. She is owner and operator of Spellbound Herbals, creating handcrafted medicines from ingredients wildcrafted in and around Colorado.