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A cold remedy that uses ingredients grown in Alberta gardens

This past couple of weeks, I have been making a traditional cold remedy called fire cider with people who are looking for alternatives to over-the-counter cold medicine.

Fire cider is a remedy one makes in the fall, during harvest. All the ingredients but two (and if need be, these can be eliminated from the remedy) are grown in Alberta gardens.

Most herbal remedies use a liquid to extract the medicine from the plant. The liquid used in fire cider is apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is fermentation with significant health properties. It is anti-bacterial and anti-fungi. I have known a number of people who have cleared up candida infections with a couple of tablespoons of apple cider a day.

Apple cider vinegar creates an alkaline state in the body. Many pathogens prefer an acidic environment to grow. Changing the body’s environment to an alkaline state will limit the pathogen ability to replicate.

Apple cider vinegar is also a probiotic, helping healthy gut flora flourish, which in turn strengthens digestion and the immune system. Finally, apple cider vinegar encourages a weak digestive system.

Now when going out to purchase an apple cider vinegar to make medicine, it is important to pick one that contains its mother. The apple cider vinegar’s mother is a collection of microorganism that encourages fermentation. Be aware, the vinegar will be expensive, and medicine making requires a substantial amount.

So with apple trees drooping with fruit, why buy what is so easy to make? All that is needed is buckets of homegrown apples; they are covered in natural yeast necessary for fermentation processes. Store-bought apples, even organic ones, lack these helpful microorganism. They are too clean.

Cut up the apple into bite-size pieces. Some people like to leave the core and seeds in while others prefer to remove them. Then cover the cut-up apples with spring water. Chlorinated water will kill off the helpful microorganisms. For every cup of water, add a tablespoon or two of unpasteurized honey. Stir briskly, thinking good medicine making thoughts. Cover with cheese cloth. The bucket needs to be open to the air for the apples to become cider. Stir briskly as frequently as possible every day.

After a week or two, a feisty brew of apple cider will take hold. This is not what is used to make medicine. Keep stirring.

After about another week, the alcohol becomes vinegar. Strain off the apples, compost and pour the vinegar into a jar, put the lid on and put into a cupboard. Let it sit for a bit. The longer it sits, the stronger the vinegar becomes. A white milk substance will be seen floating on the cider — this is the mother; keep it to make all future batches.

When the garlic and onions are pulled from the garden, make fire cider. Here’s the recipe:

Fire Cider

4 cups of apple cider

2 heads of garlic

1 large onion

1½ cups of horse radish

4 inch piece of fresh ginger

1-2 chili peppers

Chop and grate the garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger and peppers

Add to apple cider vinegar in a mason jar

Seal and let sit for two weeks to one month

Strain out plants, add honey to taste.

1 tablespoon in a cup of water every hour while a cold arrives. Cold.

Let’s review the ingredients.

Garlic is a pungent anti-bacterial that will kill just about any nasty pathogen, including viruses. Because garlic’s stink contains its medicine, and garlic is notorious for causing bad breath, garlic’s medicine mingles with each exhalation of breath, disinfecting lungs, bronchi, throats and sinuses.

The onion is a very close cousin to garlic. While the onion also carries anti-microbial activity, it also helps break up congestion in the sinus and chest. Anyone who has sliced onions can attest to this fact.

Horseradish was traditionally used by herbalists to thin hard thick mucous. This makes the mucous easier to expel from the body. Horseradish’s irritant volatile oils will also help kill off any infecting organism.

Lastly, ginger and hot pepper warm a cold chest, further break up congestion and make breathing easier and freer.

Reading this recipe, one might think that this is probably the worst-tasting medicine in the world. With assurance, I can honestly say there are herbal remedies that taste much worse. With a little honey, diluted in water, fire cider can be pleasant even to a fussy palate.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit Arneson can be reached

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