In the cold stillness of winter, stagnation may occur. We may feel the dampness in our bones, the cold in our hands and feet, the sluggishness in our digestion.
Our inner sun, our digestive fire, the flame of our solar plexus may be in need of some kindling. Take a moment to check in with the fire in your body.
A deficient fire may manifest as sluggish digestion, low energy, low self-esteem, and physical or emotional coldness.
A fire in excess may manifest as an overly aggressive or controlling personality, hyperactive energy, a very quick metabolism, or a need for power or to be right.
A balanced fire fuels our life with enthusiasm, will power, energy, joy, and drive to act with purpose in the world. It supports good self-esteem, warmth in personality, spontaneity, playfulness, and an ability to meet challenges with courage. Energetically, the fire in our belly is connected to the Solar Plexus Chakra.
Physically, it is connected to our digestive system. When our digestive fire is in balance it transforms food into energy for our cells, processes and removes toxins in food, destroys pathogens, hydrates the body, and eliminates waste.
Metaphorically, when our inner fire is in balance, we are able to process and digest experiences in our life, extract the lessons, and release the rest. This should be a thorough and efficient process, not one that is too rushed where the lessons are burned in a flaming fire, nor one where we hold on to undigested material allowing it to go rancid in our bodies.
Unless we have significant deficiency or excess, it is normal for us to experience fluctuations based on our social, physical and spiritual environment.
In the winter, it is particularly helpful to call on some fire medicine, to boost our immune system, warm our blood, stimulate digestion and move the fluids in our body.
The kindling needed by our inner fire in this modern day and age is no different than hundreds of years ago. Some of the oldest herbal recipes call on the power of plants that hold fire energy and antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The legendary Four Thieves Vinegar is one of these ancient fire medicine recipes. Legend says that during the time of the plague, four thieves in Southern France looted graves for treasures. They were caught carrying a medicinal vinegar that protected them from the pathogens their crimes exposed them to.
The extraction of warming, stimulating and anti microbial herbs in a vinegar is ancient folk medicine. Unlike harsher alcohol extractions, a vinegar extraction is food medicine – it is very safe, and can be used daily alone or integrated into cooking.
There are infinite variations of fire medicinal vinegars, another popular version being Fire Cider, coined by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Her recipe includes the following fresh grated or chopped plants: horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger and cayenne pepper.
Not only is Fire Cider incredibly medicinal and versatile, it is also a wonderful place to start in your medicine making adventures.
And while you can easily find thousands of recipes online, I invite you to use this opportunity to connect to a Shamanic practice of making medicine.
I share with you this medicine making challenge that I offered my apprentices as well as the beautiful photos they took documenting the magical variations they created.
A Shamanic Fire Cider Recipe
1) Begin by closing your eyes, placing your hands on your belly, and connecting to your inner fire. Reflect on the qualities of a deficient or excess fire center. Connect to your inner sun and ask yourself what it is that your fire needs. What does a balanced, beautiful, passionate, energetic flame feel like inside your belly? If your fire is in excess, this remedy could aggravate your fire and may not be appropriate for your constitution.
2) While in meditation, ask the spirits of the fire plants to come to you. Ask which plants want to be in your medicine. You can familiarize yourself before hand with the special qualities of some of the traditional fire herbs listed below, but ultimately, take your question to the plants and see which ones come forth. Trust that the fire plants you are most drawn to from this list are the ones offering you their medicine. You can also hold each one in your hand and ask the plant if it would like to be in your Fire Cider. (The herbal actions listed below are very abbreviated notes; each of these plants has enough medicinal properties to fill a book!)
Horseradish – Clears sinuses, decongests. Aids digestion. Moves fluids. Warming. Onion – Relieves Congestion. Boosts immunity. Anti-cancer properties.
Garlic – Heart and blood medicine. Increases circulation. Warming. Anti viral. Antibacterial. Antifungal. Stimulates immune system.
Ginger – Stimulates immune system. Anti-inflammatory. Warming. Stimulates digestion. Moves fluids. Relieves stagnation.
Cayenne or hot pepper – Powerful circulation stimulators. Antibacterial. Antifungal. Anti-cancer. Aid digestion. Lower blood pressure.
Rosemary – Increases circulation. Warming. Carminative. Aids digestion.
Turmeric – Powerful anti-inflammatory. Anti-cancer. Antioxidant. Antidepressant.
Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruit, or any other citrus – Vitamin C
Other possible ingredients: rose hips, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, dandelion greens, schizandra berries, etc.
3) Create a sacred space to make your medicine. Light some candles to call in the energy of fire. Put on some music if you like, turn off your phone, and set the intention to create a magical Fire Cider!
4) Scrub or peel the roots and rhizomes (horseradish, ginger, turmeric). Grate them or chop them finely. Chop the onion and garlic. These can make up the bulk of your recipe. Mix them together in a bowl.
5) Add any other ingredients you are drawn to (the citrus, herbs, peppers, etc.) Work intuitively, allowing the quantities of each plant to become evident as you handle them.
6) Mix all of your ingredients in a bowl, using your clean hands or a spoon. Pray to the plants, ask for this medicine to be powerful, healing, transformative, and loving. Pour your intentions and prayers into your medicine. If you are making it for someone in particular, you can pray for their healing. Always give thanks to the plants for sharing their medicine with you.
7) Loosely fill a jar with the chopped plants. Pour Raw Apple Cider Vinegar over the plant material. Make sure that all the plant material is submerged; you may have to poke it with a chopstick.
8) Unless your jar has a plastic lid, place some parchment paper under the lid so the vinegar does not touch a metal surface.
9) Label the jar with a powerful name for your Fire Medicine, listing the ingredients, the menstrum (apple cider vinegar) and the date it was created. Place it in a dark cupboard away from the sun, and shake it every so often. Or bury it in the earth for the duration of a moon cycle.
10) After 4-6 weeks or after the completion of a moon cycle, strain your medicine with a cheese cloth. Discard the plant material. Add some Raw Honey to your vinegar, to taste.
To use: Listen to your body. You can take a shot daily to ward off the cold and flu during winter months, to increase circulation, to recover from a viral, bacterial or fungal infection, to relieve congestion, to warm up your body, to stimulate digestion or to wake up your energy!