When it comes to boosting immunity, fire cider is as powerful as it sounds. The spicy, herbal concoction features a blend of potent plant-based ingredients: traditionally, this includes turmeric, ginger, garlic, herbs and plenty of ACV. The cider steeps for a few weeks and then will become your go-to for kicking cold bigs and staying vibrantly healthy all season.

We love the following recipe from Heirloom by Sarah Owens, a horticulturist, baker and cook with a deep reverence for the healing power of plants. Whip up a batch of this fire cider and save your sick days for something better…

People often solicit health advice from me, especially those who have had digestive and immune issues similar to my own. The suggestions are often the same and quite simple: get more sleep, cut out unnecessary stress in your life, remove processed foods from your diet, and move your body (and mind!) in purposeful ways. Yet knowing this, I still struggle with the modern hustle that seems to conspire against a healthy lifestyle. When I catch myself desperately digging through the glove compartment in search of calories in any form I can swallow, I know it’s time to hit the reset button and participate in a more mindful activity.

To stay healthy, I try to find a rhythm that can help me anticipate times of stress and busyness that would otherwise prevent self-care. Being a freelancer makes predictability unlikely, and life of course always springs the unexpected. But one thing I can count on is the seasons. I know that come winter, I need to take more proactive measures to boost my immune health regardless of how much I am traveling or how many orders I have to fill.

How Fire Cider Boosts Immunity

The below recipe is one of the most powerful tonics using Western herbs and plant medicine you can make at home. It is a folk remedy and, as such, is highly adaptable and can utilize any manner of ingredients, but there are a few key ingredients that pack the punch needed to make fire cider a potent tonic.

Before frost, you can harvest rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, lemongrass, winter or summer savory, or whatever else tickles your tummy and thrives in your climate. Do you live in a place abundant with vitamin C–rich rose hips? Include a few of those as well. This is all about blending to suit your needs and connect with the generosity of the plant world around you. Nature provides us with exactly what we need to live healthy and happy lives. It is we who need to take the time and energy to harvest and cultivate this connection. Fire cider is powerful, so be sure to consult with a natural healer if you have undergone any recent health crisis before dosing, in particular if you have kidney or bladder issues. I like the bright bitterness grapefruit adds, but you can substitute orange and lemon, lime, or any combination of them.

If you can time it just right, make a double batch of this tonic and let it steep in several jars. Wait for at least a month, or up to six if you have the time and space, and strain each jar as you need it. Once strained and mixed with a little honey if you like, you can bottle with affectionately decorated labels and give them to friends for the holidays. Or just take a swig a few times a day to warm your bones, stimulate digestion, and energize your body as you watch the snow fall outside your window. It is also excellent in salad dressings, sprinkled over rice, or added to a Fire Cider Bloody Mary either fortified with gin or not. You can recycle the spent shredded veggies as an ingredient for cocktail sauce or as a zippy condiment with roasted meats or vegetables.

When making fire cider, throw the windows open and drink deep the fresh air—the ingredients, in particular, the horseradish, will clear your sinuses in a hurry! It is helpful to have a cross-breeze going and all of your ingredients, jars, and nonreactive lids clean and prepped and a pair of kitchen gloves to protect your skin from the stain of the turmeric and the fire of the chilies.

Fire Cider Tonic
Makes about 6 cups


one 8-inch piece horseradish, grated
3 large fresh turmeric roots (about 4 ½ ounces), peeled and grated
one 9- to 10-inch fresh ginger root (about 4 ½ ounces), peeled and grated
3 small fresh ginseng roots (about 1 ½ ounces; optional), coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium heads (16 cloves) garlic, finely grated
2 large grapefruits, halved and cut into 3-inch wedges
1 to 2 habanero chilies (or chili of choice), coarsely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle
about 6 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw honey, or to taste


In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the vinegar and honey using gloved hands. Toss well, then transfer to jars. Pour in vinegar to cover and cover with nonreactive lids.

Leave to sit for at least 4 weeks or up to 6 months, depending on your desired strength. Strain and add honey, if desired.

The tonic will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

From Heirloom by Sarah Owens © 2019 by Sarah Owens. Photographs © 2019 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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