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We’re in the throes of sick season but this easy-to-make tonic made from apple cider vinegar and other immune-boosting superfoods called fire cider could help keep you from getting ill.

Fire cider—the throat-stripping, sinus-clearing, hot-spiced, thoroughly modern cider vinegar concoction that devotees down in daily shots—has its roots in very old traditions. Debates rage about who truly created fire cider, and about whether anybody has a right to trademark the term. The concept is old, but the contemporary version has a widely accepted creator. Herbalist, teacher, and author Rosemary Gladstar developed the spicy vinegar in the 1970s and published a recipe in 1994.

Oxymel has been around for ages. The word comes from the Greek “oxymeli”. Oxy means acid; meli, honey. Certainly honey was used in medicine by Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Islamic healers. For as long as vinegar and honey have been around, people have combined them to soothe sore throats, ease queasy stomachs, try to speed colds on their ways, and serve as a base for herbs and spices to combat maladies. We’re catching up with our elders. These days, raw and local honey are widely held to be particularly beneficial, as is cider vinegar.

Known to have antibacterial properties, honey is an excellent preservative, but when it comes to extracting flavors and other properties, vinegar has an edge. Combine them, and you get the best of both, plus a tart-sweet balance that’s easier to swallow than either on its own.

Making fire cider can be as simple as hitting the corner market and making use of a big glass jar. Layer the ingredients, and it looks handsome while it’s steeping. Put onion slices at the bottom, to form a flavorful base. Shred, mince, or coarsely cut ginger, and pile it on. Garlic next, then slices of turmeric for flavor, health, and color. If you’re packing in oregano, sage, or rosemary, then put it here, setting green against orange. Top it with chunks of lemons, limes, or oranges–one, some, or all of the above. Buy organic, because you’re going to use all of the fruit. The pith is packed with nutrients.

Pack it down and cover the layers completely with a mixture of honey and cider vinegar. For vegan fire cider, swap maple syrup for honey. Don’t worry about getting the tart-sweet balance just right; you’ll have plenty of room for tinkering once the fire cider has been strained.

ACVHow (and Why) to Incorporate Apple Cider Vinegar Into Your DietStick the jar in a cabinet for a month, checking periodically to make sure the solids are completely submerged. After four weeks, strain the cider-honey mixture into a non-reactive container, pressing to get all of the flavors and nutrients from the herbs and spices, put it in storage vessels, and set it in the refrigerator.

Regular users advocate taking a single shot of fire cider on a daily basis, increasing the dosage and doses when colds or cases of flu strike. If you’re feeling too grotty to swallow your cider, then pour some into steam and give your sinuses a clear-out. Inhale, and remember what it is to breathe.

From mixing to storing, when you’re making something that acidic, kitchenware matters. For fire cider, choose nonreactive containers. You don’t want metal leaching into your cider or your cold cure killing your culinary gear. Steel is fine, as long as it’s stainless. Pyrex and Glasslock are excellent. If you like jars, then avoid those with metal lids. Kilner jars, with their rubber gaskets, are perfect for canning and cider. Pickling weights are made for keeping ingredients below the waterline. For storage or gift-giving, pick up Chef’s Star’s gasket-capped bottles.

Find some immunity-boosting fire cider recipes to try at home. Or if time is of the essence, try these great pre-made fire ciders to buy online.

Fire Cider Recipes

Original Fire Cider

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Rosemary Gladstar’s original fire cider recipe gives plenty of “to taste” leeway. Its backbone is formed of horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Gladstar encourages readers to tailor the blend to taste, and to add turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, or whatever else fits your get-well nature. Get the Original Fire Cider recipe.

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Hyssop Oxymel

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If you need a gentle remedy for a sore throat, make this simple hyssop oxymel. With only three ingredients, it could hardly be simpler. Measure, mix, cover, and add a dose of time. Get the Hyssop Oxymel recipe.

Immune-Boosting Fire Cider

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Use honey or maple syrup to sweeten this fire cider. Straining through cheesecloth gets it extra-clear, and gives you a chance to squeeze all of the goodness from the herbs, spices, and fruits. Get the Immune-Boosting fire cider recipe.

Homemade Fire Cider

A combination of fresh and powdered ingredients make Mountain Rose Herbs’ Fire Cider easy to prepare. Scroll down Mountain Rose’s page to find optional ingredients and tips on how to use the leftover fruits and spices. Get the Easy Homemade Fire Cider recipe.

Golden Fire Cider Tonic

For this immune-boosting fire cider use the best quality ingredients you can like organic citrus, fresh ginger, and quality turmeric. Get the Golden Fire Cider Tonic recipe.

Header image courtesy of Getty Images.

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