Herbal Fire Tonic

This recipe comes from folklore dating back to Medieval Europe. Legend has it that four thieves used a concoction of vinegar with garlic, herbs and spices to protect them from the plague as they robbed the houses and graves of those who fell victim to the deadly disease. In fact, it is believed that many people used this powerful medicine, including priests, doctors, those who had to retrieve the bodies of the dead, and the gravediggers.

 

The recipes for this ancient concoction are as varied as the stories about them. They have been passed down for hundreds of years under names such as Marseilles Vinegar and Four Thieves Vinegar. The most recent name, which was introduced in the 1980s by renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, has been called Fire Cider. She began teaching students this old remedy in her herb school and thus revived the tradition in the US..

Today, we use this as a daily tonic for the many systems of the body that these various herbs support. Our recipe consists of raw, unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar,  infused for a minimum of two months with 12 different organic herbs and spices. We then strain off the vinegar, bottle it, and then use the remaining "pulp" to make our Herbal Fire Spice. So, you get the whole plant!

We have included brief vignettes of each herb, below. Spend some time learning about these plants, and their ability to work in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle to provide real health benefits, and you will enjoy this delicious tonic even more!

Apple Cider Vinegar

Double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled, prospective clinical trials, evaluating the impact of apple cider vinegar are not something we've come across. However, there are a lot of claims about the health benefits of this delicious drink. ACV has been credited to aide in everything from weight loss, reduced join pain, blood sugar control, hair and skin repair, PH balance in the body, a cure for acid re flux, an astringent for the skin, all the way to being an anti-septic for cleaning out wounds. Many people the world over can say, anecdotally, that these things are true for them, they have seen results and they feel better when getting a daily does. That matters.

Vinegar has been used, well, since someone accidentally let some fruit wine ferment for too long and then realized that the resulting liquid tasted pretty darn good. Many people enjoy a shot of ACV in different ways and at different times of the day. For some, it's first thing in the morning for a nice, zingy wake up, for others, it's before and after meals to help with heart burn. Some prefer to take a shot in the evening before bed so it can work it's magic while asleep. Regardless of when you prefer to take your daily dose, we recommend you take it with a bit of water as vinegar can be hard on the teeth and back of the throat.

Horseradish Root

Botanical name: Armoracia rusticana, Cochlearia officinalis

Family: Brassicaceae

 

Although the origins of this root are a bit uncertain, it is thought to come from western Asia and Europe. It found it's way across the continents as a condiment and as a medicinal remedy. This root has been used by herbalist for centuries, both externally and internally.

The volatile oils are released when the root is heated or desiccated so we chop it before adding it to the mixture. The chief active constituent of this root is Allyl isothiocyanate, which is the oil responsible for the pungent taste of radish, horseradish, mustard and wasabi.

It is know for being a stimulant for digestion, promotes secretion of saliva, as a diuretic and diaphoretic, a source of Vitamin C, anti-microbial, has been used externally as a rubefacient, and as a heat producing/pain relieving compress.

Garlic

Botanical name: Allium sativum

Family: Liliaceae

Garlic is such an ancient plant that there is no real evidence of it's origins. However, there is speculation that it is indigenous to south-west Siberia. This pungent herb has a history of magical powers in spells and potions, has been used as a sacred object upon which to make an oath in ancient Egypt, gave strength to Roman armies and even gave way to the belief that if chewed on while running a race, no would be able to pass.

Garlic's medicinal qualities are not only the stuff of legend, but also of much research. Luckily, we have more to go on besides fanciful folklore with this powerful herb. It has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments from high blood pressure to worms, as an expectorant, stimulant, antiseptic, diaphoretic and diuretic. The active powers depend on the pungent, volatile, essential oil, which is a sulfide of the radical Allyl. Garlic is the main ingredient found in the original accounts of the Four Thieves, or Marseilles, Vinegar.

As a side note, research has been conducted on the best ways to enhance the medicinal value of garlic, especially when cooking, and studies show that if you chop or smash it, then let it sit for 10 min before using, the medicinal Allyl is increased exponentially.

Ginger

Botanical name: Zingiber officinale 

Family: Zingiberaceae

Ginger has been used for hundreds of years for both medicinal action and culinary enjoyment. It started to come into prominence when Francisco de Mendosa transplanted it from the East Indies into Spain, where Spanish -Americans cultivated it vigorously. By 1547 they had exported almost 247,000 lbs of it to Europe! Nowadays, we see it most prominently in culinary uses. However, as a medicinal, ginger is used to soothe digestive issues, ease motion sickness and nausea, and is effective as a mild stimulant, promoting circulation.

Onion

Botanical name: Allium Cepa

Family: Liliaceae

"What plant is most often depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings? What plant did the Greeks and Romans come to have a love-hate relationship with, both praising it's healing properties and damning it's rank odor? What plant did Alexander the Great feed to his troops to give them strength for battle?

The humble onion." - Rodale's Encyclopedia of Herbs

Additionally, onions are known for unproven folkloric applications such as a cure for baldness, to treat sunburns, and even erase freckles! This pungent plant has similar, although a bit less potent, components that are found in garlic, that are known to be anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The same is true for onions that we know about garlic: if you chop or crush it, then let it sit for 10 min before using, the medicinal value of the beneficial Allyl is increased exponentially.

Turmeric

Botanical name: Curcuma longa

Family Name: Zingiberaceae

 

From old ideas as a cure for jaundice, to modern day use as an anti-inflammatory, this powerful plant is just at the beginning of it's modern day limelight. Historically, this plant's primary use in medicine was as a dye. However, recent research has sparked much interest and new understanding of the benefits of this herb, beyond that delicious curry. It can now be found in popular, natural remedies for pain and inflammation. We are likely to see more exciting studies showing the positive health benefits of this beautiful perennial in the coming years.

Jalapeño

Botanical name: Capsicum Annuum

Family: Pepper

We use the jalapeño chili pepper for it's stimulating warmth and peppery flavor. This plump, thick skinned chili has been known to date back to the Aztecs who possibly used it for smoking purposes. We, instead, choose to infuse it's mild heat into our medicinal concoction.

Lemon

Botanical name: Citrus Limonum

Family: Rutaceae

This fruit comes from a small evergreen tree known to have it's roots (ha, get it?) in Asia. The claims for health benefits are wide and varied. Most commonly, lemon is used as an anti-bacterial and alkalizing agent. Lemons are loaded with vitamins and minerals which may be the reason so many people anecdotally find benefit from this sweet and sour little ball of happiness. In culinary uses, lemon is often used to balance flavors and even draw out subtle flavors that may otherwise be lost in the mix.

Rosemary

Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis

Family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae

Little known facts: if a rosemary bush is found thriving and lush in a family garden, you know the woman is head of the household. The bush will not grow taller than 6 feet within a 33 year period so as not to stand taller than the Christ. Sprigs of rosemary hung in the door way of your house will ward off evil spirits, and if you wear a crown of it, your memory will improve greatly!

O.k., so maybe folklore may be more a more appropriate word than “facts,” there. Meh. These rich stories found in the history books add to the mystic quality of this beautiful, herbaceous plant. A true fact is that this richly scented herb has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy for a host of ailments. What we know from the herbalist who have used this plant to treat their patients is that the medicinal actions of rosemary are far and wide and have been consistently used far beyond the kitchen. Currently, there is even research being conducted using this herb to improve cognitive function. We’ve included it in our modern concoction, not only for the medicinal value, but also for it's harmonizing flavor!

Thyme

Botanical name: Thymus vulgaris

Family: Labiatae

According to Rodale's Encylopedia of Herbs, "The herb's name has been traced to a couple of possible sources, one impressive and one quite homely. Thymus was Greek for 'courage,' as might be considered appropriate for an herb that is invigorating to the senses. But the name may also derive from the Greek's term to 'fumigate,' and again this would be fitting, as the herb was burned to chase stinging insects from the house. A bed of thyme was thought to be a home to fairies, and gardeners once set aside a patch of the herb for them, much as we provide birdhouses."

Once again, the folklore may be more magical and interesting than the reason we chose to use it. Given thyme's extensive presence in the medicine chest of practicing herbalists as a cough suppressant , and it's fantastic flavor, we chose to include it.

Black Peppercorn

Botanical name: Piper nigrum

Family: Piperaceae

We use black pepper in this recipe for the flavor, it's stimulating action on the digestion system, and the research that has been done on it's action in helping the body better absorb and use curcumin (the active medicinal ingredient in turmeric). It's also been used traditionally for vertigo, nausea, paralytic and arthritic disorders. We love the little hint of spicy black pepper gives our tonic.

Mustard Seed

Botanical name: Brassica nigra

Family: Cruciferae

Black mustard is the variety that is thought to date back to biblical times and is also mentioned in those ancient texts. The medicinal properties were valued by the ancient Greeks, and the Romans were known to pound the seeds with white wine to make a version of mustard. The biggest action that herbalist use this spicy herb for is as a cure for the congested chest. It's also been used to relieve various soreness and stiffness caused from ailments such as arthritis and rheumatism. The active ingredients, glycoside sinalbin and myosin are responsible for it's most common medicinal uses. Plus, it just tastes great!

Star Anise

Botanical name: Illicuim verum

Family: Magnoliaceae

Star Anise is so named from the shape of its fruit. It is often chewed in small quantities after each meal to promote digestion and sweeten the breath. We've tried this, and... well, we don't recommend it. Wow. It's powerful. It is often used interchangeably with regular Anise, but the two come from completely different plants. However, their medicinal action is relatively the same. We use such a nominal amount, merely for a hint of flavor, that the traditional uses as an expectorant or carminative (relieving gas) would not be prominent enough to make note of it in our concoction.

Please reload

Sources: 

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Published by Rodale Press, Inc. 1987

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve,  Dover Publications, 1971

Herbal Medicine, Classic Edition, by Rudolf Fritz Weiss, M.D., 2001 Georg Thieme Verlag