My husband and I came home from a mediocre work party one night in the fall of 2009 and spent the next day wondering how it was possible that we were so hung over. It turned out that we had swine flu and we spent the next several weeks quarantined to our tiny apartment watching every sci fi movie I had managed to avoid for the first several years of our relationship. To this day Star Wars still makes me feel nauseous.
During this same year, my Mom’s cancer had recurred and she was going through treatment again, and my older sister had had her first baby. I couldn’t see either of them for over a month and it was the worst.
I have no doubt in my mind it was my stress levels that lowered my immune system and left me (and Wes) wide open to catch H1N1. I had been going to all of my Mom’s appointments and she kept getting worse and even if you’re generally pretty good with stress management, something like this takes some time to climb on top of. I’m pretty sure we were watching the wrong movies too. Where was Trainwreck during this time!?
We know that the immune system can help to fight cancer and that the immune system of a healthy person will actively eradicate rogue cancer cells before they even become detectable. Traditional cancer treatment (along with stress, a poor diet and environmental factors) can contribute to a weakened immune system. This is why someone going through cancer treatment is more susceptible to catching every virus that is going around. The common cold can quickly become something more serious in someone with a weakened immune system so it is extra important for someone going through cancer treatment to take precautions to avoid getting sick.
I think we can all agree that prevention is the best medicine. This applies to those of us who want to prevent cancer as well as to those who don’t want to catch anything else because they are already actively fighting cancer and don’t need pneumonia on top of that.
Sometimes we can’t help the fact that we are going through cancer treatment, or we feel the stress in our lives is going to take some time to learn how to manage. In the mean time something that we do have control over is our clean, antioxidant-rich diet, our vitamin D drops and fire cider.
Have you heard of it? I only started making it a couple of years ago, and I take it all through the colder months now (or when I feel something coming on) as a form of prevention. I feel terrible (and pretty silly) telling a client who is valiantly busting their way through cancer treatment, that I can’t cook for them for the next week because I’m getting a cold. So it is part of my (and Wes’) daily routine and I’m pretty sure is one of the main reasons that despite snot-filled niece and nephew hugs and kisses we manage to avoid the worst of it.
It’s really easy to make on your own and it might even make you feel like you attended Hogwarts (or at least have a Herbalist friend). It is technically a tincture and the solvent that is used is raw apple cider vinegar. You literally grate a variety of immune-boosting foods (be careful, this part will make you cry unemotional horseradish tears) put them in a jar, pour the vinegar over top, give it a stir, make sure nothing is floating, cover it and leave it for 4 weeks. The vinegar will draw out the hidden talents of these powerful plants and once you are ready to strain it, you have your very own immune-boosting tonic.
The unexpected part? It tastes awesome. As in if it wasn’t a health-promoting beast, I would still make it just to add as a flavour-boost to different recipes. It is spicy (hence the name) in all of the ways that horseradish, raw garlic, raw ginger and chili peppers each can be on their own, but you can adjust the recipe to make it work for you.
Fire cider is most effective taken on its own as a shot, preferably on a relatively empty stomach (pre-meal is ideal because it also aids digestion –part of it’s immune boosting power). That being said, taking it after a meal because you forgot, or in a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice because it’s too strong for you (or your kids) is better than not taking it at all. You can also add raw honey to it to taste, which despite its sugar content contains its own powerful enzymes and immune-boosting properties.
Speaking of shots, It also replaces alcohol surprisingly well in savory cocktails. This bloody mary recipe is a good example but think about other non-sweet green juices or even a beet bloody mary (replace the tomato juice with a fresh beet/celery juice). You can even warm the tomato juice up and add the shot at the very end (it is most effective when raw) for a cozy immune-boosting mug of soup. Try adding it to salad dressings in place of the acid (like here or here), salad roll dips, homemade mustard or pouring it over cooked grain and veggie bowls.
It makes a great gift too. Either to make for yourself in a form of self-love for your body, or to actually give homemade fire cider to someone who has cancer (depending on the person, you may get mixed reactions). If you are supporting someone through cancer, not getting sick yourself (no, you don’t have cancer, but you’re sure stressed out, right?) and being able to continue to be there for them is a pretty nice gift too.
- (or just equal parts of everything)
- 2 c Red Onion, grated
- 2 c Fresh Horseradish, grated (unpeeled)
- 2 c Ginger, grated (unpeeled)
- 1.5 c Turmeric, fresh (3 Tbsp if using dried), grated (unpeeled)
- 1.5 c Garlic, grated
- 1.5 c fresh Chilies (jalapeno, cayenne, serrano), remove stem and grate
- 1.5 c Burdock Root, grated (unpeeled) (or chopped, fresh rosemary and/or thyme)
- 3 Tbsp Black Peppercorns, crushed (squish under a pot on a cutting board)
- Enough Raw Apple Cider Vinegar to cover it all by several inches
- (If there are any of these ingredients you can't find, just make it with the ones you can) (besides the raw ac vinegar -you need that)
- 1.5 c Tomato Juice (either freshly juiced/blended tomatoes or water down some organic jarred tomato purée (passata)
- 3 Tbsp Fire Cider (or more)
- Celery and a fresh Lemon wedge for garnish
- Ground Black Pepper to rim the glass (to enhance turmeric absorption)
- A pinch of Sea(weed) Salt to taste (optional)
- Grate all of the ingredients together (the easiest way is by putting it all through the grating function on your food processor) (I hope you have one...)
- Put in a glass jar or crock.
- Cover with apple cider vinegar and give it a good stir.
- Lightly press ingredients down.
- Weigh down the ingredients with some kind of fermentation weight (or a cabbage leaf).
- Cover the top of the jar with a plastic lid or a piece of parchment and a clean kitchen towel with an elastic band, and let sit at room temp for 3-4 weeks.
- Check every day to make sure nothing is floating above the vinegar (remove the floaties with a fork if there are any).
- Strain the solids out through a fine mesh sieve, and press them well (with a spoon or the back of a ladle) to make sure all of the liquid is extracted.
- Discard solids (some people say to save them to use in recipes, but much the health-promoting properties have been drawn out out already so it would be better to cook with fresh versions of the ingredients rather than the leftover solids from your fire cider)
- Store in a jar or bottle at room temperature for up to a year.
- If serving cold:
- Rim a glass with the ground pepper (wet with the lemon wedge and dip into the pepper)
- Drop some ice cubes into the glass and pour the liquids over top.
- Stir with some celery and garnish with a lemon wedge.
- If serving warm:
- Warm the tomato juice in a saucepan.
- Pour into a mug.
- Add the fire cider and stir together with a celery stick.
- (you can still garnish with lemon, it will taste good and vitamin C has a pretty solid immune-boosting reputation of its own)