As cold and flu season approaches, try making your own fire cider, a traditional herbal remedy with a little heat and a lot of immune-boosting power.

In his later years (decades ago now) my grandfather took a sudden interest in drinking apple cider vinegar on a regular basis. He took his doses straight up from a glass and swore by its preventative powers. This was many years before immune-boosting, detoxifying, balancing properties of the vinegar were the stuff of mainstream news. In our ignorance, we chalked my grandfather’s enthusiasm for apple cider vinegar up to a quirk of aging and, aside from some gentle ribbing, never gave it much thought (and certainly never tried it ourselves).

But in recent years, we’ve come to a realization: not only was my grandfather (who lived to six days short of his 90th birthday) tapping into a long history of healing, he was ahead of the popular curb. While I’m not hardy enough to drink vinegar by itself, during cold and flu season, I’ve been converted to the power of Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider Zest.

At home, a gallon jar filled with sharp-smelling liquid occupies a prominent place on our kitchen counter. To open the lid and sniff the contents makes our eyes water; to sip the stuff makes our mouths pucker. But sip it we do, in shot glass-sized quantities. We offer it to guests and anyone who asks about it. Its sweet-sour heat is too much to be drunk more than once a day (think spicy, potent pickle juice), but wow, does it make us feel like we could take on the world.

Knock on wood, so far this winter, I’ve been untroubled by cold or flu. And with every sip of Fire Cider, I quietly nod in gratitude to my grandfather for opening my eyes and to Rosemary Gladstar for her recipe for this very special concoction.

Fire Cider Zest

A warming energizing concoction, Fire Cider Zest is designed to light your fires. It can be added to salad dressings, used to flavor steamed veggies, and sprinkled on steamed grains.


  • ½ cup chopped ginseng root, fresh or dried
  • ¼ cup freshly grated ginger root
  • ¼ cup freshly grated horseradish
  • ⅛ cup chopped garlic
  • Cayenne to taste
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey


  1. Place the herbs in a glass jar. Pour in enough vinegar to cover the herbs by an inch or two, then seal tightly. Let sit for 4 weeks.
  2. Strain the herbs from the vinegar. Sweeten with honey to taste.

Recipe excerpted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health © 2001, 2008 by Rosemary Gladstar. All rights reserved.

Emily Spiegelman

Emily is the editorial production manager at Storey. Though she has deep New England roots, she currently makes her home on a regenerative bison ranch… See Bio

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Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

by Rosemary Gladstar

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