Boost your Immune System with Fire Cider

Fire cider is a time-honored herbal remedy that has its roots in ancient and folk medicine. Although it has seen many variations over the years, the basic recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, turmeric, lemon, honey, hot pepper, and aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage. The result of this combination of powerful botanicals is a warming and stimulating tonic that promotes vigor and overall well-being. It aids digestion, increases energy, raises body temperature, and – most importantly – boosts immunity. 

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients to better understand the immune-boosting benefits of Fire Cider!

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is high in minerals, especially potassium, which makes it a good regulator of acid/alkaline balance in the body. In general, it is harder for disease to exist when the body is in an alkaline state, so promoting alkalinity has direct benefits for the immune system. Its main constituent, acetic acid, is primarily excreted by the lungs, kidneys, and skin, so apple cider vinegar will also act as a mild expectorant, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Lastly, apple cider vinegar is antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory (it decreases the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6, the same molecules released during the “cytokine storm” of SARS-CoV2 infection!). 

 

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion have similar medicinal properties since both are in the Allium family of vegetables. The medicinal properties are largely attributed to the sulfur-containing compound allicin, a powerful antimicrobial effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Allicin has an affinity for the lungs and digestive tract so it is useful in the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections like colds, flus, sinusitis, and bronchitis and digestive infections that involve unwanted microorganisms. Garlic and, to a lesser extent, onion also reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, so they can be effective for preventing some of the cardiometabolic diseases that predispose individuals to more severe or more frequent infections (including more severe SARS-CoV2 infection).

 

Horseradish

Horseradish is a powerful antimicrobial plant that also stimulates expectoration and thins phlegm and sticky mucus. It has a high affinity for the upper respiratory tract and is very effective at preventing or treating sinusitis and other upper respiratory conditions characterized by stagnation and congestion. Lastly, it stimulates circulation and promotes sweating, which augments the immune system and helps the body cope with fevers.

 

Ginger

Ginger is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial. Although it is typically associated with the digestive system, its heating quality and ability to stimulate blood flow to tissues make it good at dispelling diseases associated with cold, like upper and lower respiratory tract congestion and inflammation.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is by far one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant botanicals there is. With its additional antimicrobial action, turmeric is a go-to for quenching the inflammation associated with acute and chronic infections and injuries to tissues like the muscle, joints, brain, liver, intestines, kidney, heart, and blood vessels. Turmeric can also lower cholesterol and prevent the oxidation of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol involved in plaque formation), making it effective at preventing some of the cardiometabolic diseases that predispose individuals to poor immune function.  

 

Lemon

Lemon pulp and juice are high in vitamin C, an immune-boosting rockstar. Vitamin C contributes to immune defenses by supporting mucosal barrier function against pathogens in our digestive, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts; aiding in microbial killing; and exerting high antioxidant activity. Lemon, like apple cider vinegar, promotes alkalinity, thus warding off disease. It’s very useful in treating fevers, sore throats, colds, flus, bronchitis and any other respiratory condition characterized by excessive phlegm.

 

Honey

Honey is more than just a tasty treat! It has medicinal properties that add to the healing power of any herbal preparation. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, and soothing. Honey is also highly nutritious. It contains proteins and carbohydrates, minerals like iron and manganese, and vitamins like vitamin B2 and B6. Raw honey confers an additional advantage because it contains vital enzymes, nutrients, and traces of pollen that are destroyed in the pasteurization process, making it far more nutrient rich. All these factors make it a great immune system support. 

 

Cayenne Hot Pepper

Cayenne’s medicinal properties are largely attributed to the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin is antimicrobial and antioxidant. As a circulatory stimulant and diaphoretic, it enhances blood flow and increases body temperature to aid in expelling infections and cleansing the body. Enhanced blood flow means immune cells can be better distributed to peripheral tissues to do their important jobs of surveillance and defense!

 

Aromatic Herbs- Rosemary, thyme, sage

Rosemary, thyme, and sage all contain volatile oils that have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Commonly used in steam inhalations to thin and expel mucus from the upper and lower respiratory tracts, these aromatic herbs are staples for combatting respiratory infections and inflammation

 

Although it’s sold in stores, the great thing about Fire Cider – besides all its health benefits, of course – is that it can easily be made at home from common kitchen ingredients. So go ahead and make a big batch from scratch to carry you through COVID-19 season and beyond! (You can find a recipe, inspired by master herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, here). 

Take Fire Cider by the spoonful or add it to salad dressings, marinades, stir-fries, juices, or teas and cheers to your health!

Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou

 

Sources: 

Yagnik D, Serafin V, J Shah A. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. Published 2018 Jan 29. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x

Immune System Support

It’s that time of year again when many of us tend to get the sniffles, fevers, coughs, sore throats and feel down-and-out for a few weeks. The best way to protect yourself against the common bugs of the fall and winter seasons is to strengthen your defenses. Here are some lifestyle factors and nutrients that will help keep your immune system strong all season long!

 

Immune Supporting Factors 

  1. Diet: Avoid dietary factors that depress the immune system, like refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, food allergens, and alcohol. Emphasize a whole food, plant-based diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats.
  2. Sleep: Get adequate, restful sleep every night. For adults, this means 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool; create a relaxing bedtime routine; and avoid bright light, particularly LED or blue light, for an hour or more before bedtime to encourage melatonin production and restful sleep.
  3. Stress management: Chronic stress dampens your immune response. Engage in daily activities to calm your nervous system and lower stress – diaphragmatic breathing, warm Epsom salts baths, soothing music, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, prayer, time in nature, and other activities that bring you joy.
  4. Healthy microbiome: About 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. It even has a special name – the Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). The health of your gut directly impacts the health of your other mucosal tissues (i.e. your respiratory tract). By feeding and supporting the good bacteria in your gut, you are directly benefitting your immune system and protecting your respiratory tract! Include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, tempeh, natto, kefir, and yogurt in your daily meal plans. Also include adequate amounts of dietary fiber, which will feed your gut bacteria and promote a diverse microbiome. Supplementation with probiotics, specifically Bifidobacterium and Bacillus strains, can also be very beneficial when your microbiome and immune system need an extra boost.

 

Immune Boosting Nutrients

  1. Zinc: Zinc is crucial for the function of your natural killer cells that are responsible for killing virally infected cells. Oysters have the highest zinc content of any food, but meat, dairy products, beans, whole grains, and nuts are also good sources. Additional supplementation with 25-40 mg of zinc daily may be beneficial for some people.  
  2. Selenium: Selenium is another nutrient that your immune system relies on for proper function. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. Aim for 200 mcg of selenium daily, which is about 3 Brazil nuts per day.
  3. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to your immune defenses and aids in microbial killing. Infection is a major cause of inflammation in the body that in turn leads to free-radical damage and oxidative stress. Vitamin C helps mitigate much of this inflammation. Foundational dosages for adults are between 1,000-3,000 mg per day in divided doses, but can be increased during times of acute illness. 
  4. Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is an immune system regulator. Deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections and even autoimmunity. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 daily in the darker months of the year can be beneficial. Make sure you have your levels tested to determine the dose that’s most appropriate for you. 
  5. Antioxidants: Other antioxidants like glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha lipoic acid are also beneficial nutrients that help your immune system stay strong in the face of inflammation and oxidative stress caused by infections. 
  6. Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, chaga, shiitake, maitake, and agaricus are powerful immune system modulators that can help your body be resilient in the face of viral infections. Using these mushrooms in culinary or supplemental form will offer you a broad spectrum of immune support.

Supplementation should always be done under the supervision of a doctor. Give us a call to find out ways we can help you create a personalized plan to support your immune system and overall health!

 

Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou