Oxymel: A Traditional Elixir of Health

Oxymel: A Traditional Elixir of Health

An oxymel, derived from the ancient Greek word oxymeli, meaning "acid and honey," is a time-honored concoction crafted from a harmonious blend of honey and dilute acetic acid. This elixir has a rich history, documented since the age of Hippocrates, and has served as a significant folk remedy in both European and American pharmacopoeias.

One notable manifestation of the oxymel tradition is the renowned Fire Cider, a popular herbal remedy embraced by herbalists globally. Rooted in a base of fresh garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and chile peppers steeped in apple cider vinegar, Fire Cider has evolved over time, much like the beloved chicken soup. This potent elixir is renowned for its ability to warm the body, act as a stimulant, and serve as an antimicrobial during the cold and flu season.

The Fire Cider recipe, as championed by Rosemary Gladstar, the esteemed "Queen-of-All-Herbs," emphasizes seven core ingredients: garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, honey, and apple cider vinegar. These ingredients contribute to the elixir's immune-boosting, circulation-enhancing, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Each component of Fire Cider plays a unique role in promoting health:

  1. Garlic stimulates white blood cell production, enhancing the immune system.
  2. Onion, rich in allicin, aids immune function and contains quercetin, which reduces inflammation.
  3. Fresh horseradish, with its pungent heat, promotes blood flow, digestion, and acts as an antibacterial agent.
  4. Ginger, described by Gladstar as "wonderfully warming and decongesting," reduces inflammation and soothes various ailments.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar, unpasteurized, supports gut health with probiotics and offers antioxidant benefits.
  6. Peppers, particularly cayenne, provide heat to loosen congestion, stimulate circulation, and serve as an expectorant and pain reliever.
  7. Honey, added after infusion, balances the spiciness and soothes the throat while offering potential allergy reduction.

Beyond the core ingredients, herbalists often get creative, incorporating additions like citrus for extra vitamin C, turmeric for antioxidants, and a variety of fresh herbs for diverse flavors. The recipe is highly customizable, allowing individuals to experiment with locally available and seasonally appropriate ingredients.

Crafting your Fire Cider is a simple process involving chopping and layering ingredients in a jar, covering them with apple cider vinegar, and allowing the infusion to mature for 3-4 weeks. The final touch involves adding raw honey to sweeten and enhance the herbal benefits.

Fire Cider can be enjoyed as a daily preventative measure throughout fall and winter, with increased doses during illness. Its versatility extends to being used as a zesty salad dressing or even encapsulated for those adverse to tea.

In conclusion, embrace the tradition of oxymels, especially the beloved Fire Cider, and stay blessed on your herbal journey. Whether sipped daily or used as a flavorful addition to your culinary creations, this elixir is a testament to the power of nature's remedies.

Fire Cider Elixir Recipe

Ingredients (Per Quart Jar):

  • 1 medium onion, chunked
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 3 to 4 tbsp fresh grated horseradish
  • 3 to 4 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
  • Raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (ACV) with the mother
  • Raw honey, preferably local (added later, see instructions below)
  • Peppers (Cayenne, Chili's, or preferred hotness)

Optional Ingredients:

  • 2-3 teaspoons turmeric powder or freshly chopped turmeric
  • 1 lemon and/or orange, per quart (rinds removed for a less bitter taste)
  • Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, or lemongrass, to taste
  • A pinch of peppercorns or a few dashes of ground pepper to each jar


  1. Chop & Fill Your Jars: Begin by chopping the onion into chunks and smashing the garlic cloves. Grate the horseradish and ginger root. Fill your quart jar(s) with these ingredients, layering them nicely to minimize air pockets.

  2. Add Peppers: Include your preferred peppers (Cayenne, Chili's, etc.) to the jar(s).

  3. Pour Apple Cider Vinegar: Fill the jar(s) with raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, ensuring it covers all the plant materials.

  4. Cover Your Jar: Place a piece of wax paper over the top of the jar before securing it with a metal mason jar lid. This prevents corrosion.

  5. Shake Daily: Store your jar(s) at room temperature and shake them daily until the infusion is ready. Allow 3-4 weeks for the mixture to reach its potent and flavorful state.

  6. Strain and Store: After the desired infusion period, strain the liquid and store it in a clean sterile jar away from heat to ensure longevity.

Pro Tip: If you've chopped your ingredients, consider placing them in a dehydrator for a ready-to-use Fire Cider Tea.

  1. Final Touch - Honey: Add up to 1/4 cup of raw honey to each quart jar to sweeten and enhance the herbal benefits. Adjust the sweetness to your preference, lowering it to a few tablespoons if you prefer a less sweet elixir. Herbal remedies are highly customizable, so feel free to experiment.

Enjoy your homemade Fire Cider Elixir as a daily preventative measure during fall and winter or increase the dose when needed. Shake the bottle before pouring to ensure you get all the goodness that may have settled. Embrace the herbal tradition and stay blessed on your health journey!

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