Nature's Cough Medicine – Fire Tonic

Want to avoid colds and flus? Want something that's natural and really works to kick germ butt when you get sick? Fire Tonics are traditional herbal preparations that have been used for centuries to treat and prevent colds and flus. This magical stuff powers up your immune system, kills germs, reduces inflammation, warms up the body and decongests. Think of it like Mother Nature's version of Buckley's cough syrup – it tastes awful and it works! 
Why not just buy some Buckley's or cough meds from the drugstore? Because along with the drugs, you're also getting toxins like parabens, genetically modified corn and artificial colours. Why do they add toxins to stuff we swallow when our bodies are weak? Good question. Read on and then let's make a batch of all-natural, works-like-a-charm-without-toxins, Fire Tonic! 

Toxic Medicine

Drugstore coughs syrups and pills contain a lot of wacky ingredients. Buckley's contains butylparaben and methylparaben. Parabens are estrogen-mimicing chemicals that disrupt our hormones. Benylin cough syrups contain sucrose, glucose liquid, sodium benzoate, artificial colours and artificial flavours. Allergic reactions to artificial colours and flavours has been well-documented. Sodium benzoate when mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) can convert to cancer-causing benzenes. Most cough syrups contain some form of sugar, (most of it made from genetically modified corn), and sugar suppresses our immune system. 

Another really questionable ingredient is dextromethorphan, (often abbreviated as DM or DXM), a cough suppressant that has caused deaths due to people taking it at high doses recreationally. Although there are often warnings on labels not to administer DM to young children, most cough syrups still use it as their active ingredient despite mounting public concern about its safety. What's worse is that some young children lack the enzymes to metabolize DM, meaning that even a small amount can be potentially harmful. 

Fire Tonic

The basic ingredients in a Fire Tonic are immune-boosting foods and spices infused in vinegar. If desired, you can also add raw honey. You can use whatever you have in your kitchen, but I'd recommend including some alliums (onion, shallot, garlic, leek), fresh ginger root, horseradish root, oregano, thyme, rosemary and turmeric.
Onion and garlic are really wonderful for supporting the immune system. Ginger and horseradish root are amazing anti-microbials and they also help to build heat in the body. Horseradish does wonders to clear the sinuses. Herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme are effective at fighting viruses, bacteria and even parasites. Turmeric is nature's anti-inflammatory which is great for reducing the aches and pains that can come with being sick. I often add lemon or lime, both for flavour and for antimicrobial power.  If your body is okay with nightshades, some type of hot pepper (jalapeño, chillies
) can help to kill germs, build heat and clear sinuses.  

Fire Tonic Recipe

1 medium onion, chopped (just remove the outermost skin, the layers closest to the outside are the most potent and beneficial)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated fresh ginger root
1/2 cup grated horseradish 
3 Tbsp ground turmeric (use more if you are grating fresh root)
1 tsp each dried rosemary, oregano and thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
juice and zest of 1 organic lemon (the skin and pith have the most antimicrobial benefit, so make sure to zest the whole rind and get some of the white pith as well)
raw apple cider vinegar to cover
optional: 1/3 cup raw honey

Since organic veggies have to fight off bugs, they'll be more potent than their commercial cousins, so if possible use all organic ingredients, especially for the lemon since we're using the skin.
I like to wear gloves to grate the ginger and horseradish, because I find it creates a lot of heat on my hands. Once you've prepped all the ingredients, add them to a clean glass jar and cover with apple cider vinegar, to within 1 inch of the rim of the jar. Give it a stir, then cover with a lid. You can place some parchment paper between the metal lid and the glass to prevent corrosion.
Set aside in a cool, dark place to infuse for 1 month, giving it a shake daily.
After 1 month, use cheesecloth to strain our your infused vinegar into a clean glass jar. You can keep the strained leftovers and add them to stir-frys and soups or you can compost them.  
If you like, you can add 1/3 cup raw honey to your strained vinegar and stir well to dissolve. Raw honey soothes the throat and buckwheat honey has even been shown to be as effective as cough syrup in reducing coughs in children. 

If you're looking to prevent colds and flus, have a spoonful daily. You can have it to start your day, helping to warm up the body on chilly mornings and to spark your digestion for breakfast. Or you can add the spoonful to foods. It works nicely in salad dressings, soups, or poured onto sauteed veggies. 
If you're sick, take up to 1/4 cup at the first sign of illness and then take 1 Tbsp every 4 hours. 

Recipe inspired by Erin McIntosh of Mountain Rose Herbs.