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Traditional fire cider recipe & benefits guide is the topic today where we are talking all about herbal remedies and their history and place now within our modern lives and healthcare.
Fire cider is a long held old fashioned remedy that is used to boost the immune system and to help aid the upper respiratory system.
The best part is, you can make it at home yourself using store-bought ingredients, or take it a step further and grow all of the ingredients at home! And it truly is a powerhouse of a natural remedy.
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #177 Traditional Fire Cider Recipe & Benefits Guide with Rosemary Gladstar , of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen and life you want for your family and homestead.
To help me talk about this today, I’m so excited to welcome Rosemary Gladstar. Now Rosemary has been practicing, living, learning, teaching and writing about herbs for over 45 years, and she is considered to be one of the pioneers of modern herbalism. Her book, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide to Herbal Remedies was the first book that I ever got back in the day when I started researching and learning more about herbs and using them in our home.
Rosemary is also the author and director of some popular herbal home study courses on herbal medicine. She also cofounded and was former director of the New England’s Women’s Herbal Conference, she’s the founding president of United Plant Savers and was the cofounder and original formulator of the Traditional Medicinals tea company.
Rosemary recently moved from her home at Sage Mountain -an herbal retreat center and botanicals sanctuary where she has lived, taught and worked for the past 30 years- to a smaller haven where she says she plants a small garden, dreams more, does less, and spends more time with the plants. So needless to say, she is an invaluable resource when it comes to all things herbal and I am so excited to share some of her wisdom and knowledge with you here today!
Melissa: Rosemary, thank you so much for coming on the Pioneering Today Podcast and sharing with us today!
Rosemary: Thanks Melissa! I’m delighted to be sharing with you and your friends today.
Melissa: One of the things that I’m most excited to talk about is one of my favorite things in our own natural medicine arsenal: fire cider. So, to start off, for anyone who has never heard of fire cider before, do you want to go over what fire cider is and its purpose in the home?
Traditional fire cider is apple cider vinegar infused with warming herbs like horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger and hot peppers, among other things.
Rosemary: Basically, the old fire cider recipe was a really simple household recipe that was developed in the late 1970s at the California School of Herbal Studies, which is a little old school that I started way back in 1974. This recipe -like many others- was just designed to be something that people could quickly make up at home from inexpensive ingredients that you didn’t really even have to go to an herb store to get, because back in those days herb stores were rare and far between. But you could just go to your grocery store and gather the items that are used in this formula.
Where I was living at that time, which was on the Russian river in northern California, it was really cold and damp. People got lots of colds, bronchial problems and circulation issues. So we decided to make this formula with something that was warm and decongesting to help with some of these issues, and the result was what we now call fire cider.
Fire cider is unique in the sense that it’s made from common everyday ingredients that you can go and get from the supermarket or even grow in your own garden. It’s both a tonic and a medicine. It’s very effective for warming the body, for mobilizing the immune system and even just to give you a shot of energy.
It’s made with hot, fiery ingredients, but it’s also pretty tasty, which is what many people loved about it. That and the fact that it is really simple to make and the ingredients were really common and easy to source. So fire cider quickly became very popular and sort of developed a life of its own.
Melissa: I know that what I loved when I first came upon it was that I could make it mainly with things that I already had growing in the garden or that I could make on the homestead, like homemade apple cider vinegar. And so I was thrilled because I didn’t have to go and purchase any special ingredients. Want my personal traditional fire cider recipe & guide? Click here to snag the FREE guide & recipe.
I also love that you can customize it with just about any herb, and it’s easy to swap out or substitute different ingredients.
But what really thrilled me is, I live in the Pacific northwest, so I totally get damp and cold. And my husband, he has weak lungs from contracting pneumonia as a teenager, so anytime he gets a cold it really settles in his upper respiratory system. But he’s also quite skeptical when it comes to herbal medicine and he will tell me if he doesn’t like something or if he thinks it didn’t work. I had made a batch of fire cider and I’d been trying to get him to try it for months. Well, eventually he got a cold that really took hold in that upper respiratory area, so I finally got him to try it. He was really surprised at how effective it was! So that’s when I really knew “hey, this stuff really does work.”
I have to say though, I honestly did not realize that it only had really only been around since the 1970s. I thought it had its roots much further back, so that’s really fascinating!
Rosemary: I would say that fire cider does have a long history. It goes back to how people were using apple cider vinegar and we had some very famous formulas, one of which was apple cider vinegar and honey, and another being apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper.
I would really almost go as far as to say that all herbal remedies and formulas are handed down and passed down through many generations. The information comes from ancient plant wisdom that really doesn’t belong to us, but it’s ours to use and to share. So this particular recipe is really based on ancient history.
It was just this particular configuration of herbs that made it unique back in the 1970s. The reason it became famous is because it’s very user-friendly and easy to make. Plus, it costs next to nothing to make a batch, especially if you grow those herbs and make your own cider vinegar.
This one recipe became very famous because it also became the poster child for the issue of trademarking traditional herbal formulas that have existed for decades and even for centuries. It became a very political issue and there’s been a huge amount on social media and in newspapers all around the country about what’s happening with traditional, herbal remedies in this regard.
I saw an article on fire cider and trademarking and all of this stuff and I thought, oh my goodness, people need to know about this one
Can you give us the kind of “nutshell” version of what’s going on with fire cider and trademarking and what’s all happening there?
Rosemary: Yeah, I think I can. So seeing that fire cider was something that everybody could make, and people kind of created their own recipes for about 35 years… Some people have sold it in local stores and there were some small companies that might just be making enough for there co-ops or whatever. It began to grow and people put their own stamp on it. And so it was: everybody owned it. All that was really fine, except that a young company eventually decided to trademark it.
It was really very unfortunate because all they had to do was to change the name. They could have called it by their company name or any other name really. And then they would have been hugely successful and we would all have been cheering them on because we all love to see everybody be successful making these herbal remedies.
But unfortunately they decided instead to claim the name and the recipe as their own, and in doing so have made it essentially illegal for any other business to create a product with that name, even businesses who were doing so for years already.
None of us thought that it was ever possible that you could trademark a name that was already really quite well known and had been already circulating and copyrighted in books. So it came as quite a surprise that, as it turns out, you can.
They were very sincere about the product they were making and very excited to grow the company that they did. And as I said, none of that was really an issue. The issue wasn’t their excitement over their own work, but that they forgot that lots of people also were earning a livelihood selling their own versions of fire cider. And once you trademark something, you have to tell everybody else that they can’t use the name. So that’s what they started doing, and it caused quite a stir out there in the herbal community.
I did get involved, you know, just to try to become a voice to say kindly, you know, whoa, whoa, wait a minute…This isn’t your product. We’ve been making this for years. I can account for when it was first made it, when it was first called fire cider and when it had been copyrighted in my books. And then in my first edition of my home study course from 1981 on.
But unfortunately they were unwilling to just make a simple name change.
They ended up suing three of the young women who are all farmers and herbalists for $100,000 saying that they were defaming their company, which wasn’t true at all. All of our posts were very respectful and they’re just trying to mobilize the herbal community and become a voice in the United States. That is legal to do, thankfully. But nonetheless they did push forward with their lawsuit. And so we’re in the midst of that now.
We have asked people to not purchase trademarked fire cider and to make their own or buy from companies that are non-trademarked instead.
The bigger issue here, by the way, is not so much that fire cider was trademarked, but that the amount of time and money and energy we’ve had to invest over the last four years fighting this would not have been worth it, except that it really will set a precedent for what happens to all the rest of our traditional products.
The issue here is selling, not making. We can still make it, but the fact that all the little companies that were making their own versions of fire cider would no longer be able to sell them, that is actually the issue. And that’s why we’re standing up for this so strongly, because we feel that herbalism is the one medicine that we have that’s still people’s medicine, and we really want to see it kept that way.
Melissa: I agree and I’m with you. I mean, I’m a small business owner as well and so I understand the purpose of trademarking. But I also see where it can become a danger, because once you have a trademark you’re responsible for protecting that trademark, which means if you see somebody using your trademark, you are supposed to go and ask them to cease and desist. If you don’t do that, then you can lose your trademark.
But I agree with you, when it comes to things and traditions that have been passed down for many years, and then someone tries to trademark that to monopolize and capitalize on it… I don’t begrudge anybody making a living, but when you try to shut out everybody else, especially when it has been a long time traditional thing, that’s where you think “there’s gotta be a better way guys.”
Let’s work to make sure that this doesn’t set a precedent, because then it would open the doors for all sorts of other things. I mean, could you imagine if elderberry syrup became trademarked? Because if it could happen with fire cider™, then it could happen with elderberry syrup or anything else too.
Rosemary: Yeah, it would change the way that herbalism has been practiced in this country for the worst. So that’s why we’re really asking people to make your own fire cider or buy from non-trademarked companies instead.
So getting back to the actual recipe, which is probably what your listeners are actually most interested in, what are the things that does make this recipe so great?
Rosemary: First of all, fire cider is made up of a few basic main ingredients. It uses apple cider vinegar as a base and then you infuse that with horseradish, garlic, onions, ginger and hot peppers. You can also add things like turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, rosemary and other herbs if you like. So like I said, it really is customizable.
In fact, you can alter the ingredients to make it so it’s family friendly. So if you have kids and they don’t like that really hot, fiery horseradish that’s in it, you can tame that down. You can add more honey. You can mix it with elderberry syrup so you can have half and half. You can even add it to bone broth to get a double whammy of health benefits, so to speak. You know, there are so many different variations on this recipe. It’s very adaptive to individuals and families.
Another one of the really great things about this is you can actually grow all of the ingredients and if you’re really clever, you can make your own apple cider vinegar. So yeah, it’s a pretty super recipe.
And for those people who don’t have gardens or don’t have the inclination to grow horseradish in their backyard, now these products are really easy to find at most supermarkets so you can still make it at home for very little cost.
But, like any good thing, it doesn’t work the same for everybody.
Sometimes fire cider is really helpful for people have heartburn, but it also can agitate heartburn because of the spicy ingredients.
Also, for someone with a hot constitution who just has a lot of heat in their body, like a really red tone or maybe someone who’s prone to anger or, you know, just a hot person, sometimes core cooling remedies are better than the fire cider.
We always have to find those things that work best for us. But I do find it particularly good for people who live in a cold, damp region or have reoccurring bronchial issues.
This recipe also seems to be really helpful for people who get really severe muscle cramps in their legs. And it’s also good for energy. The garlic, ginger and horseradish are all warming, stimulating decongesting herbs and all of those herbs really kind of energize the body. But again, you need to try different things and see what works best for you because every body is a bit different.
Melissa: I do appreciate you saying that it isn’t for everybody because even when we’re talking about herbal and natural remedies, we each need to know how different herbs and things work with our bodies.
I always use this example, but my daughter has a blood clotting disorder called Von Willebrand disease. So I don’t actually let her use the fire cider because it has ginger, which, along with some of those other herbs, can interfere with clotting. So if you’re on blood thinners or you have blood clotting issues, a lot of the herbs that help with the blood flow and that type of thing are actually ones that you need to use with caution.
I did want to ask you though, so for somebody that does have that really hot constitution, what would be something that you would suggest for them?
Rosemary: Watermelon juice. I like to put it in the blender and blend it and drink that. Cucumbers are also really cooling as well as things like lemons and grapefruit. Some of the leafy green vegetables are also very cooling and so is elderberry. Elderberry, elderberry syrup and elderberry tea, those are really excellent options.
Melissa: So Rosemary, for those who are just learning how to use traditional herbs and natural medicine, aside from fire cider and elderberry syrup, do you have any kind of advice or a good starting place for people to begin?
Rosemary: Start by learning a few simple herbs and try not to overwhelm yourself. I wrote a book called Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide to Herbal Remedies which is a simple introduction, but it gives a very deep grounding.
I also have a home study course that has been offered since the early 1980s. This is a great stepping stone for people. It’s a basic but very deep introduction. If you can find a local class, that’s also great.
And the other way to get started is just to get, like, 10 simple herbs (like in Melissa’s book, Hand Made) and start there. They can be the herbs in your kitchen cabinet or your herb garden. Do a little research on the medicinal properties of those herbs and then build your knowledge from there.
Plant some yarrow, some basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme and do some research as you grow them. Get to know them through your senses and through intellectual study.
In the beginning I don’t really suggest people use the internet to research the plants. There’s a tremendous amount of information, some of it really good information but also some very terrible information to sort through when you’re a beginner. So I recommend getting a few really good herbal books to start.
Melissa: Rosemary, thank you so much for taking the time to come on today. I think it’s so important that we get this information out there, obviously so that people are aware of things like the trademark issue, but really so that people can feel comfortable getting started with herbal medicine and with passing on these traditions so that the knowledge isn’t lost and continues to be passed down for generations to come.
Rosemary: Thank you Melissa. I’ve loved it. I just hope that all of you who are listening get to know those plants because first of all, they’re longing for us to recognize them again and they’ve been our friends literally ever since we landed on this planet. Right?
Plants have provided us with medicine and food and clothing and air and beauty.
They have so much to offer us and we have so much to offer them too, so it’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship that just seems to enrich all of our lives.
Melissa: I hope you guys are feeling as inspired as I am to do even more and to learn even more about using herbs and natural medicine and our home.
Now talking about starting off points, if you do not have a copy of my book, Handmade: The Modern Guide to Made From Scratch Living, you want to make sure that you get a copy along with the bonus that go with it because I’ve got a whole section on herbs and their medicinal properties.
If you’ve already got a copy, on page 138 is the common herbs chart and it goes in alphabetical order through the most common herbs, including their culinary and medicinal uses.
So you get that whole chart in the chapter along with how to make your own herbal tinctures, vinegars, infused oils, salves and balms. It’s the perfect place to begin or to add to your natural herbal medicine at home. But the really cool thing is, once you have the book, (or if you already have the book), you want to make sure that you go to handmadethebook.com and fill out the bonus section.
One of the bonuses is some custom labels that you can print for free. They’ve got the name of the herb/spice as well as the medicinal uses.
So for example, the one I’m looking at right now is Thyme, and it says “Thyme supports immune system and helps sore throat.” So I know what to reach for without even grabbing the book.
Again, head to handmadethebook.com to grab a copy and claim your bonuses.
Thanks again for joining me here today and let me know if you’ll be making my traditional fire cider recipe (you hit the free download button, right?)
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.