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Winter Wellness: Fire Fighter

The heady mix of strong flavours is offset by adding honey.

In the lead-up to the coldest months, now’s a great time to think about herbal remedies to boost you and your family’s immunity.

Being able to boost your immunity through homemade tonics is a more natural and more sustainable alternative to commercially sourced options. By including ingredients sourced from your own patch – be it your garden, beehive or pantry of homemade fare – making fire cider, an oxymel or a cough syrup can be a really rewarding process.

Trio Of Tonics

An oxymel, stemming from the ancient Greek word oxymeli which means acid and honey, is a traditional blend of vinegar and honey and has a long history back to ancient times, both for its own therapeutic benefits and as a base for other medicinal formulas. An example gaining in popularity right now is fire cider, which is a spicy, immune-boosting tonic of apple cider vinegar and honey infused with powerhouse herbs, most of which are easy to grow.

If we omit the vinegar, focusing instead on the soothing antimicrobial and antifungal properties of honey, we have the perfect base for a homemade cough syrup to ease coughs which are common at this time of year.

Fire Cider

A North American herbalist named Rosemary Gladstar popularised the term fire cider and has been publicising the health benefits of it for almost 40 years. Her recipe was inspired by traditional apple cider vinegar recipes and, over the past few years, students and enthusiasts have been formulating this tonic to boost immunity and promote wellness.

More recently, a commercial maker trademarked the name fire cider which has ignited a campaign spearheaded by community herbalists to reclaim the use of the term. This has brought attention to the remedy’s long-established place in folk medicine, its popularity and its health benefits.

With cold and flu season upon us, drinking homemade fire cider regularly can boost your health and naturally protect against colds and flus, while easing sinus congestion that’s already taken hold. Proponents also claim it can aid digestion.


The individual ingredients of fire cider – most of which can be grown in your garden at home – are all uniquely beneficial and, when infused together, form a lively and beneficial tonic.

Starting with apple cider vinegar, it’s rich in potassium and alkaline in nature, and as a medium in fire cider, is used to extract minerals from the herbs. Honey, as well as counteracting the acidic flavours, is a phytonutrient powerhouse, full of antioxidants and has both antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

The fire in the name comes from chilli or cayenne peppers, stimulating the circulatory system which promotes healing. There’s garlic, which is an expectorant, as well as boasting antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

Horseradish is the digestion stimulant – and has been used to treat colds and flus, sinus and lung congestion, headaches as well as hayfever and allergies – ginger enhances immune function, aids nausea, has potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Lastly, onions are nutrient dense and packed with antioxidants, are antibacterial and improve immune function.

There are so many ways to make fire cider, but once you’ve made it a few times you can add all sorts of things like hibiscus, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, orange and turmeric to make it your own personal formula.

How To Consume

When you see that list of ingredients, fire cider can look intimidating; all pungent aromatic herbs that shouldn’t produce the moreish and spicy flavours many find it to have. But there are many ways you can consume it to make it not only more palatable for your individual tastes, but to increase the likelihood of receiving its benefits.

The most obvious way is straight up, two tablespoons every morning will do the trick, or you can dilute it in water if you find the taste confronting, even adding it to your water bottle to sip throughout the day.

Fire cider is also great in marinades, soups, over steamed vegies, even in salad dressings. In fact, our immune oxymel recipe (below) mixed with a couple of tablespoons of tahini makes a really great salad dressing. Experiment with the ratio of tahini and oxymel to suit your own tastes.

All of the ingredients can be grown at home.

Basic fire cider


1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish

1/2 cup freshly grated ginger

10 cloves garlic, chopped

1 medium brown onion, chopped

1 lemon, zest and juice

2 chillies or 1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey


Place horseradish, ginger, garlic, onion, lemon and chillies/cayenne into a 750 ml or one litre bottle or jar. Pour in apple cider vinegar so that the herbs are covered and the vinegar reaches the top of the jar. Seal and let sit in a dark, cool place for four weeks, shaking daily.

After four weeks, strain the herbs from the vinegar and add the honey. Store in the fridge.

Immune oxymel


100 g horseradish, chopped

100 g garlic, minced

100 g ginger, minced

500 g raw honey

450 ml apple cider vinegar


Place horseradish, garlic and ginger into a 750 ml bottle or jar, before covering with apple cider vinegar. Add honey before sealing and shaking well. Leave it to sit on a bench for a week, shaking daily, before straining. Store in the fridge for up to two years.

Thyme cough syrup


2 cups water

3 tbsp fresh thyme

1 cup raw honey


Bring water to boil in a small saucepan before adding thyme. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes before straining thyme and whisking in the honey. Store in fridge for up to two months.


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