Elderberry Tonic and Fire Cider

The hubby and I recently attended a class on Herbal Medicine for the Cold and Flu Season at our local Community Center.  The class was given by Kim, who is a Master Gardener and has studied herbal medicines including teas, tinctures, infusions and decoctions. It is so true that the “old ways” are sometimes best and many people can avoid costly visits to their doctor if they were to try some of these “recipes”.

I recently have been reading Jean Auel’s series of books “Clan of the Cave Bear” and have been fascinated by the descriptions of the plants and herbs used by the ancient people  depicted in these books.  I have always known that most of our modern day medicines have been derived from plants, including aspirin, digitalis and morphine.  But, being a novice at herbalism, I have no real clue which plants to use for what, why and how!  That’s why this class was so interesting, knowing that we can grow many of our own medicines in our own backyard!

Roots and Rhizomes used as medicine

Roots and rhizomes used in healthful tonics and tinctures that can be grown in your own backyard – USDA zone permitting. I can grow these in my zone as long as I protect the ginger and tumeric rhizomes from freezing.

During the class we were introduced to Elderberry syrup, which is an antiviral/antimicrobial and therefore is good for immunity, colds and cough.  It keeps well in the refrigerator for several months.  Kim uses dried elderberry, elderberry flowers, cinnamon, ginger and honey to make the syrup.  She passed around samples of the syrup, and it actually tastes very good!  We also got to take home a cute little bottle of the syrup, which is now waiting in my fridge for that first sniffle!  When we went back to our future homestead after the class, Ray spied this little plant with blue/black berries.  Is it a baby elderberry bush? Right on our own property?

Baby elderberry bush

Does anyone know if this is a baby elderberry bush?

Next we got to taste her Fire Cider, which is a decongesting tonic, supports immunity and aids digestion.  This recipe starts with apple cider vinegar (with the mother), adding horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger, tumeric, rosemary and cayenne, all deconcocting in a quart mason jar in a dark cupboard for four weeks.  The infused vinegar is then strained.  You can add a touch of honey to taste, then store the Fire Cider in a dark jar or bottle on the shelf.  Let me tell you, when she passed around the sample to taste, I can certainly see how this would be a decongestant!  Hoo-wee!  But, add a little bit of olive oil, and this would certainly make a wonderful salad dressing with a bit of a kick! After the class I went home and googled for this decongesting tonic and found that there are quite a few variations of this tonic.  Some include this and others include that, but this is the recipe that was given to me at the class:Fire Cider Tonic

The two hour class also covered herbal teas, and she gave us a recipe (and another sample to take home) of Lemon Mint tea sweetened with Stevia.  This tea is heavenly, hot or cold!  It included lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemongrass, peppermint and stevia.  The pitcher containing the sample of this tea went around the classroom several times (it was that good) and I think we drained it! 😀

The last section of the class covered bath salts.  Bath salts not only smell good (aromatherapy is a very strong component of natural health remedies), but also warm the body.  Kim suggested that you soak in the tub of hot water infused with her recipe for bath salts and fresh ginger for 20-30 minutes.  Once you dry yourself off, wrap up in a warm robe or blanket for another 30 minutes.  She explained that the salts along with the ginger and hot water will bring greater circulation to the skin, giving a warmth that will probably make you sweat, which is good for the body.  Her recipe included fresh slices of ginger, along with the epsom salts that have been infused with eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, tea tree oil, and lemon oil.  The sample she gave each of us smelled out of this world heavenly!

Elderberry tonic and Fire Cider

Our three samples from class:   On the left is the heavenly Bath Salts, in the middle is the Elderberry Tonic and on the right is Lemon Mint Herbal Tea.

I know it sounds strange, but I am almost looking forward to that first sign of a cold!  I will take a hot bath with the bath salts, then afterward, while snuggled in a nice warm blanket, sip some hot, freshly brewed Lemon Mint tea!  Later, I will have a nice kale salad dressed with Fire Cider and olive oil!

Here is a picture of my Fire Cider just after I made it.  In about four weeks, I’ll let you know how it tastes! You can see the orange shreds of the tumeric and the green is the rosemary.

Fire Cider Tonic

Thanks for the class, Kim – I am looking forward to the next one!

PS:   Is the plant in the picture above an elderberry?  Leave a comment if you have an opinion, or even if you don’t! 😀



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31 thoughts on “Elderberry Tonic and Fire Cider

    • Yup – I checked out the link you provided and I think you are right! Too bad, because American Pokeweed is poisonous! Thanks for providing the link, Heike, and for your knowledge!

  1. You certainly have some great cold fighting ingredients in there with the ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric that I can’t believe it wouldn’t kick a cold real fast. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays Blog Hop.

    • Yes, when I did some research I saw that each ingredient was either anti-bacterial, anti-viral, full of vitamin C or had some other immune boosting property! Though I am not a doctor, I could see how this would really work! Thanks, Marla.

  2. Looks like elderberry but I am sure there are resources to double check. Sounds like an exciting class! On a side note, the Clan books are a fav, have read many times, don’t read the last one. Really. Actually after mammoth hunters the series really goes down hill and if I re-read the series, I don’t bother to read the last couple which is very unusual for me. Thanks for sharing 🙂 M

    • Good morning, Millie. I thought it was elderberry also, but then Heike directed me to American Pokeweed and, unfortunately, that’s what our plant looks like. Pokeweed is poisonous. 🙁 Oh well, we planned to buy some elderberry bushes anyway. As far as Clan of the Cave Bear, I have really been enjoying the books. However, after the umpteenth description of their “relations”, I skip those now. 😉 Of course, I have to read the whole series to feel complete, but thanks for the warning about the last book. Have a great weekend!

    • I think it’s pretty much for the head, but also for immunity. With all the horseradish, onion, garlic, etc., it’s going to clear your sinuses and phlegm real quick! Not being a licensed medical professional, of course, I can’t make the claim that it really works and is better than the stuff you buy at the store, but I can tell you from experience that this stuff will cut right through phlegm! Thanks for the question, Barb!

    • What’s funny about the fire cider is that I really like the taste! It’s a real wake up call the minute it touches your tastebuds – very spicy hot and vinegary – but I kinda like that stuff. Besides, I remember Dr. Oz saying that if you took 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with the “mother” every morning, it jump-starts your metabolism! I just got mine started, so I hope I don’t get sick for another month while the whole concoction is steeping. But, I am thinking of getting another batch started anyway, maybe in a week or so, to use as a salad dressing. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Sure! I’m not sure if this was from a book or if it was Kim’s recipe, but she uses 1 part Lemon Balm, 1/2 part Lemon Verbena, 1/2 part Lemon Thyme, 1/2 part Lemongrass, 1/4 part peppermint and 1/8 part Stevia. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Steep either fresh or dry herbs for about one hour. Tastes good hot or cold. At the class it was lukewarm and it was wonderful! In fact, when everyone was pouring from the pitcher into their sampling cups, the whole room became fragrant. Enjoy!

  3. It’s Pokeweed.

    My hair dresser and her 10 year old daughter use the Pokeweed berries for nail polish. I have no idea if that is safe or not, but they don’t seem to have any ill side effects.

    • This reminds me of that song Poke Salad Annie! I’m dating myself, but I remember my sister Machell playing that song over and over again when were girls living at home. Funny, I never knew this grew in California! I did some research and found out this stuff is actually poisonous when ingested, but some have used it for cancer and arthritis in limited doses. Nail polish? That’s a new one! 🙂

  4. Hello again, Vickie. OK, pardon my ignorance but, either I am the only one who doesn’t get it – or the only one who will admit it 🙂 but, what does apple cider vinegar with “the mother” mean?

    My teenage son is so into herbs and flowers. He can tell you what every flower means and does. He always smirks when I plant red geraniums every spring because that particular flower means stupidity. He wants to know just what kind of statement I am trying to make. Not the one his wise-acre self means, the little smartie pants! 😉

    And as an addendum, thank you once again for going to class for me. I learn so much through you!

    • Hi – glad you asked! The “mother” is the actually acetic acid bacteria (called mycoderma aceti) and is a cellulose-like, sometimes gelatinous substance found in unfiltered apple cider vinegar, that through the process of fermentation turns alcohol into acetic acid. When you look at a bottle of the unfiltered apple cider vinegar, you can usually see some “stuff” at the bottom. That is what is called the “mother”. You can actually take this mother and put it into some apple cider to kick start the process of turning it into your own home made vinegar. I think that because you can use this to make more, that’s why they call it the “mother”! In making ginger ale, we call the fermentation products (yeast, ginger, sugar) a “bug”. In making Kombucha, it’s called a “scoby”. I think I will just end up calling mine Henry and Charles. 🙂
      It’s great that your son is into flowers and herbs. I am so happy to hear that the newest generation hasn’t been completely lost in technology. I must be ignorant about red geraniums having the connotation of stupidity – never hear of that one before! Good to hear from you, and never be embarrassed to ask a question!

      • Ha, ha! Henry and George! You are too funny. So are you going to try to make your own vinegar or maybe you have made it already? If you do, again, I would love to gleen from your knowledge.

        As far as my son goes, I told him he should work at a florist while he goes to college. He said there was no way he could do that. He would go crazy making flower arrangements for people as they ordered their flowers having no idea what they were actually saying in doing so. I read a book once called the Language of Flowers. it was really good. It was part of what made my son love flowers so much. Heck, he even ended up doing a year of FFA. He wasn’t going to ever be a part of that country stuff. He loved it! I’m afraid I don’t remember who the author was, however.

  5. Wow, that class was definitely worth your time!
    I have heard of fire cider, but I have never tried it myself….might have to, eh?
    What a shame it’s not an elderberry. I have some rogue young berries if you want them 😉

    • Yes, it was worth every penny! It will be interesting to see how effective these natural remedies will be this winter. I am actually looking forward to using the bath salts – I’m saving them for cold weather. Yes – it is a shame the plant isn’t an elderberry, but we had planned to buy some bushes from our favorite nursery anyway. They have the variety suited for our growing zone and climate. Nice to year from you! You haven’t posted for a few weeks, so it’s good to hear from you and know you are okay!

  6. I’ve had GREAT success with the “Cold Kicker” recipe from Keeper of the Home online. It really works and knocks a cold right out of you! Just a tad different from the Fire Cider which I can’t wait to try. Thanks for your awesome article!!!!! Blessings to all!!

  7. I would love to attend your class too! I am having so much fun learning about herbs and doing detective work on our farm with our plants. Thank you for sharing your recipes on the Art of Home-Making Mondays. I will save them for the future 🙂 Have a lovely week! And I do hope you have elderberries on your place! I just purchased 100 seeds on ebay for $3… if not.

  8. Pingback: Mountain Woman Rendezvous #65 Featuring Canning Asparagus, Peach Ginger Butter, Vanilla Spiced Zucchini Bread and Fire Cider - Trayer Wilderness

  9. Fire cider comes from Rosemary Gladstar, and then Mountain Rose Herbs. They add two ingredients: the zest and juice from a lemon, and 2 chopped jalapenos.
    You can find more info, and other ingredients to add for extra punch on their website.
    I have made this for three years now, and I take a shot of it (got several shot glasses at my local goodwill) every morning. Haven’t had flu or cold since I started. I also kept the strained mix and froze it and I add a small amount to soups and stews. (Instead of chopping the herbs and roots, I used my blender and got it all very fine, so adding it to stews and soups you will hardly notice). I sometimes add it to my scrambled eggs. So there is NO waste. I also use the finished fire cider and put it in smoothies, as a dressing for salads, rice or pasta. I love the taste!

    • So THAT’s where the recipe came from! It was given to me in that class, and I think the instructor got it from another, so the source was unknown to me. I have one of Rosemary Gladstar’s books on order right now, so I suppose I might read her original recipe in the book. I like the way you re-use the veggies in the cider! I’m sure it would give a wonderful zip to a stew or soup, so I can’t wait to try it. Thanks, Carol, for the information!