In addition to chilly weather and the smell of wood smoke in the air, there’s another aspect of winter that can be counted on year after year: the inevitable cold that everyone seems to come down with. Fortunately, there are some great tonics that can boost your immune system so you can fight off colds and such more easily, and one such tonic is Gila Harvest Cider. Created by master herbalist and writer Kiva Rose of Bear Medicine Herbals, this variation of Fire Cider is as delicious as it is good for you, and can give your body the boost it needs to fight off winter bugs.


Gila Cider, Gila Cider tonic, gila cider, cider, fire cider, ingredients, ginger, sliced ginger

Between temperature changes, closed windows, and people being stuck in close quarters with one another for extended periods of time (subway rides? SO germy!) result in the dreaded ‘lurgy being passed around like last year’s fruitcake. In addition to eating well and getting plenty of sleep, immune boosters can be of great help when it comes to fighting colds and flus, or even warding them off entirely! This gorgeous cider recipe of Kiva’s is a mainstay around our home, especially since it doesn’t have the intense, searing burn that other fire cider recipes have. It’s warming and nurturing, increases circulation, and can do wonders for strengthening your immune system.

Related: How to Make Your Own Herbal Tinctures

Gila Cider, Gila Cider tonic, gila cider, cider, fire cider, gila cider tonic ingredients, garlic, sundried tomatoes, basil

Ingredients and Supplies:

Aim for organic ingredients whenever possible, if you can find them. We get most of our organic dried herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, but most health food stores should have a decent selection as well.

  • 1 clean 1-quart glass canning jar, with lid
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh turmeric (roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh ginger (grated or finely chopped)
  • 1 head fresh garlic (minced)
  • 2-3 tablespoon fresh rosemary (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small handful sundried tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  •  2 tablespoon coriander seeds (crushed in a mortar and pestle or powdered)
  • 1 small handful dried hawthorn berries (whole)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh grated orange peel
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil (Tulsi could also be used)
  • 1 whole red chile
  • Approximately 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • raw honey to taste (after it has cured for six weeks)

Chopped Herbs

Making the Cider

It’s quite lovely if you make this in layers, beginning with the turmeric or ginger and working your way upwards, but you can also toss everything together in a bowl first and then spoon it into a jar. Go whatever route feels best to you. If you find that these measurements don’t fill the jar completely, feel free to adjust the ingredient amounts to suit your own tastes*. Once all the solid ingredients have been added, pour in the apple cider vinegar to cover it all. Use a chopstick or canning bubble remover to press down and through all the ingredients to release any bubbles and settle everything, then top up the cider to fill the jar completely.

Let this sit in a cool, dark place for approximately six weeks, then strain, preserving both the liquid and the now-soggy solid ingredients.

Add raw honey to the cider one teaspoon at a time until it’s sweetened to your own taste. I like a slightly more savoury cider, but you might have more of a sweet tooth. The herbs can be used again for another (slightly weaker) cider, and you can also top it up with more fresh herbs, spices, garlic, etc.

Related: How to Avoid Colds and the Flu with Natural Immune Boosters

Gila Cider, Gila Cider tonic, gila cider, cider, fire cider, apple cider vinegar

This tonic can be used in many different ways, so try it out over your favorite veggies, stirred into soup, or any other way that piques your curiosity. I like to take it by the spoonful, but I’ll also drizzle it over salad as a dressing, or add a bit to juice blends like beet/apple/carrot juice, or as a spicy agent in cucumber/carrot/lemon/celery juice.

Remember that this is the basic recipe to work from, but it can be adjusted to suit taste or dietary restrictions. For example, since I can’t eat nightshades (which include tomatoes and peppers, sadly…), I use a bit of grated horseradish instead of the red chile, and a bit of tamarind or umeboshi plum in lieu of the sundried tomatoes. I also like to add some chopped onion, and I reduce the rosemary a little bit while increasing the basil. Experiment to see what you like best!

Kiva Rose is a master herbalist, the co-director of the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference, and co-editor of Plant Healer Magazine. (Many thanks again for sharing this recipe with us!) For those of you who are interested in learning more about herbal healing, check out Kiva’s website: The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

+ Bear Medicine Herbals

+ Plant Healer Magazine

All images by Kiva Rose, with permission