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.  

 Photo by Meaghan Eady

Photo by Meaghan Eady

Fire Tonic Recipe

For a 1 litre jar:

½ cup grated ginger root
½ cup peeled and grated horseradish root
¼ cup grated turmeric root (or 2 Tbsp dried powder)
½ chopped onion
2-6 Thai chilli peppers, chopped (seeds removed for less heat) or other hot pepper
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 whole lemon, quartered
2 Tbsp dried herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, parsley)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
Raw apple cider vinegar to fill jar
optional: 1/4- 1/3 cup raw honey

Since organic veggies have to fight off bugs, they'll be more potent than their conventional cousins, so if possible use all organic ingredients, especially for the lemon since we're using the skin.
Please be careful when grating horseradish, it’s very pungent. You may want to wear gloves when handling it and the hot peppers and ginger root.
Add all your ingredients to your  jar and fill to the top with apple cider vinegar. Place a piece of parchment between metal ring and jar to prevent corrosion and seal tightly.
Shake your jar daily and allow to infuse for at least one month. 
Once infused, use a fine-mesh strainer, several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag to strain out pulp. Press or squeeze tightly to extract as much infused vinegar out of the pulp as possible. 
Pour your fire cider into a clean jar for storage. You can add raw honey at this point to make a milder fire cider and add a touch of sweetness. If adding raw honey, begin with 1/4 cup. Stir well to dissolve into vinegar and taste. Add more as need to achieve desired sweetness.  Raw honey soothes the throat and buckwheat honey has even been shown to be as effective as cough syrup in reducing coughs in children. 

Using Your Fire Tonic

You can have fire cider straight, taking a spoonful daily as a preventative. You can also mix it with fresh cold-pressed juice or make a tea out of it. For tea, add 1 or 2 shots of fire cider to hot water, lemon and extra honey. You can use it in salad dressings or add it to stir-frys. Some people will marinate fish and other meats in fire cider.

Serving ideas:

Fire Cider Spritzer: Add 2-3 Tbsp fire cider to the juice of 1 large orange and top with carbonated water

Fire Cider Tea: Add 2-3 Tbsp of fire cider to the juice of 1 lemon and top with hot water. Add extra honey if desired. For easing coughs, buckwheat honey is the most therapeutic.

Fire Bombs (idea courtesy of Hilbilby Cultured Food): Drop 1 shot glass of fire cider into your favourite cold-pressed juice. Down it!

What to do with the pulp: 

You can use your pulp as a marinade for meats, tempeh or veggies, blending it into oils. You can add it to homemade veggie and bone broths. You can even dehydrate it and grind it into a powder to flavour homemade crackers, chips and popcorn!

Recipe inspired by Erin McIntosh of Mountain Rose Herbs.