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Back on the Scene by AnnMarie Tedeschi

Fire Cider   

Back on the Scene by AnnMarie Tedeschi

What Is Fire Cider?

 Fire Cider, a spicy vinegar, is a traditional folk remedy used for colds and flus that has been passed down for centuries of generations of grandmothers and healers. It came back on the scene once again in the 1970’s through the writings and teachings of Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, when she coined the term “Fire Cider” to describe the remedy.


How Do I Make Fire Cider?

Fire Cider is prepared like a tincture made with vinegar that is infused with your choice of spicy herbs, peppers and roots. Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is recommended as the menstrum.  Common ingredients are garlic, onion or chives, ginger, horseradish, your favorite variety of hot pepper, black pepper, oregano, etc. You can also add honey, lemon, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, nettle, burdock root or any of your favorite medicinal herbal loves. Since it is a folk remedy, there are no specific measurements and you can personalize it to your taste, needs and fancy! It was traditionally meant to be made in every household with whatever you have growing or available.


One of Many Recipes:

½ cup fresh grated ginger root                            1 TBSP turmeric powder

½ cup fresh grated horseradish root                    unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

1 medium onion, chopped                                  optional: ¼ cup raw local honey to taste   

10 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped              optional: 1 lemon, chopped                       

2 cayenne peppers, chopped                               optional: 1 orange, chopped

2 TBSP rosemary leaf                                        optional: nettle leaf, burdock or dandelion root


Prepare all of the ingredients and place them into a quart sized jar minus the honey if you are choosing to add it. Completely cover ingredients with apple cider vinegar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal. Shake daily. Stain after 3-4 weeks using a metal strainer lined with cheesecloth. If you are adding honey, now is the time to stir in until you reach the desired sweetness. Bottle in an airtight container and enjoy this fantastic traditional remedy!

*Keep out of direct sunlight and heat. Does not require refrigeration.


Medicinal Uses

The purpose of this remedy is not only to boost the immune system and ward off colds, but also as a digestion and circulation tonic. It’s great for keeping warm on those chilly winter days.  It’s also a fantastic way to perk up if you need some energy. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and decongestant properties. Apple cider vinegar in itself is a digestive tonic and has many medicinal benefits such as helping to balance the PH of your body, as well as blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Take a teaspoon of fire cider every few hours at the first sign of feeling run down.

On top of all that, it can be used externally (diluted with some water if the smell is too strong)  as a natural hand sanitizer, a strong smelling but highly effective insect repellent, a soak/spray for foot or nail fungus, and as a dandruff remedy.  It can also be used as a natural house cleaning agent!


Culinary Uses

One of the best ways to incorporate fire cider into your daily life is to use it in your food.  It makes a zesty salad dressing when mixed with a little olive oil and it is great added into veggie juice, rice, stir fries, or on your eggs in the morning. You can add it into anything savory to add a little “kick!” You can also add it to your cocktails such as a bloody Mary or margarita.




Sometimes called the “modern day plague tonic,” fire cider stems from the Four Thieves Vinegar recipe that emerged during the bubonic plague or “black death” that broke out in Europe in the early 1300’s and reoccurred all the way until the 19th century. The bubonic plague was responsible for the deaths of somewhere between 75 and 200 million people, 30- 60% of Europe’s total population during its peak in the 14th century.  Four Thieves Vinegar got its name in the 18th century and became known as the mysterious remedy that prevented the black plague.  Here’s the story:


During a major outbreak in France in the early 1700’s, death was happening so rampantly that they couldn’t keep up with burying the bodies. Four imprisoned thieves, who had previously been arrested for stealing from the homes of the dead were conscripted to help bury the infectious corpses. One (or in some stories all) of the thieves had a mother who was an herbalist; she made an herbal vinegar that the men used on a handkerchief over their mouths and noses while they robbed the dead. In some versions of the story, they drank it as well. She continued to supply more of the same as the men took on their assigned tasks. They survived without catching the plague, which was a mystery to French government. So the magistrates offered them a deal: the thieves could divulge their secret and go free or be hung “for their crimes.” So, they gave up the recipe, which was then posted on the walls of Marsielles, France, giving access to many others to use to survive the plague.


The original recipe for this vinegar has almost as many variations as does its legend. But here is the Four Thieves Vinegar recipe that was supposedly posted on the walls of Marsielles, France (used externally only):


“Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram & sage, fifty cloves (garlic), two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelica, rosemary & horehound &*three large measures of camphor. Place mixture in a container for 15 days, strain & express, then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears, & temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim.” (Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy (CW Daniel Company, Ltd. First published in Paris, France in 1937 by Girardot & Cie.), 85-86.)


*Note: Camphor can be toxic in large doses both internally and externally, therefore it is tightly regulated in the United States today. In medicine compounds, camphor is only allowed to account for 11 percent of the medicine's total makeup. So if you attempt to make this at home, do not use “large measures” and avoid using this recipe internally.


Four Thieves Oil

Since vinegar can have such a potent smell, for external antiseptic purposes, a lot of people have translated the Four Thieves vinegar into Four Thieves oil. The modern-day oil version is simply a blend of several essential oils that are known for their infection-fighting properties.

The five essential oils most commonly used in modern blends are clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Other antibacterial essential oils that can be used are Tea Tree, Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lavender, Juniper Berry, Hyssop or Bay Laurel. When making your blend, you can use equal parts of each oil or experiment according to your sense of smell. I usually will use slightly less of the more potent oils such as Clove or Tea Tree.

The oil version is especially good to use in your oil diffuser to purify the air, to add into a natural hand sanitizer, or to add into homemade cleaning products for extra disinfecting power.

*Keep in mind that you never want to use these essential oils straight on your skin. They are highly concentrated and can cause irritation.


Four Thieves Hand Sanitizer Recipe

In a 4 oz spray bottle, add 30 drops of your essential oil blend and fill the rest of the bottle with ¾ rubbing alcohol plus water and the optional ingredients of aloe vera, witch hazel & a splash of vinegar.

*Please note that the CDC recommends using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to be effective against viruses.