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Four Thieves / Fire Cider

Both Four Thieves Blend and Fire Cider are traditionally used by herbalists for winter health. Both recipes allow for variations and I like to make some version of these in the fall. You don’t have to use a recipe, but use what you have. Because they are both similar, I combine the two. Fire Cider typically relies more on spices like garlic, onion and hot pepper, where Four Thieves relies more heavily on herbs. By combining the two, I think it gives a more potent and palatable blend.

Fire Cider Story

The name Fire Cider became popularized in the 1980’s after well known herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, taught the recipe in her herb school (California School of Herbal Studies). While it has been made by many herbalists over the decades with a number of variations in 2012, Shire City Herbals trademarked the term for a product they were selling. They sent out notices to other herb companies selling Fire Cider demanding them to stop. 

This action brought together the herbal community who thought the term ‘fire cider’ should remain a general term able to be used by anyone.  Herbalists united and a movement formed. Three particular herbalists (The Fire Cider Three) were sued by Shire City Herbals in 2014 and a court battle began. 

The suit went to court in 2019 and after several months Judge Mastroianni of United States District Court of the district of Massachusetts, ruled in favor of the herbal community determining that anyone can continue to use the term Fire Cider. The phrase Tradition over Trademark was coined.

This is a very brief description of the events. If you want to learn more here are some good resources.

Free Fire Cider

Fire Cider Goes to Court

It is called fire cider because of its blend of hot, spicy and sweet flavors. Here is a recipe for the original Fire cider made by Rosemary Gladstar. But any variations can be made and a benefit is that the ingredients are readily available at a grocery store. 

Four Thieves Story

Four Thieves has an interesting story behind it set in France during the 17th Century plague. This Black Death, or bubonic plague is still with us today and caused by a bacteria known as Yersinia pestis. In the US it is occasionally found in animals such as rodents and transmitted to humans disposing of those dead animals. It is more easily treated today with antibiotics than it was in medieval Europe. But it is said that thieves would raid graves and houses of people afflicted with plague and not get sick themselves. When they were finally caught, the judge said he would let them go if they told him the secret of how they were prevented from getting sick. They said they would wash themselves with this 4 thieves blend. We know that the ingredients to this blend include many immune stimulating and antibacterial ingredients.

An essential oil company has trademarked this ancient term and applied it to a blend of essential oils they sell. This blend does not reflect the original 4 Thieves. But like Fire Cider, herbalists believe that the term 4Thieves should be used by all and not trademarked. So far, this trademark has not been enforced, but if it is, surely herbalists will again unite against it. 

Four Thieves / Fire Cider Recipe

Here is how I made my combination Fire Cider / Four Thieves Vinegar. I like to use things that I grow, so I harvested these from my gardens:

  • hot peppers; both jalapeno and hot aji crystal peppers
  • Horseradish root
  • Lavender buds/stems
  • Oregano
  • Fennel
  • Mint
  • Lemon balm
  • Hyssop officinalis
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

From the store I bought:

  • Ginger root
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Into a pint jar I cut into pieces and put:

  • About 2 inches of a horseradish root, cut
  • 3 garlic bulbs, smashed
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • One inch piece of ginger root, chopped
  • Several stems of the herbs mentioned above
  • Added apple cider vinegar to cover

Note that this is not a hard and fast recipe. I recommend using what is available to you. The traditional recipe is sweet and spicy and calls for honey which can be a good addition. First look to your garden as to what to put in this and then source whatever else you want from the grocery. Some common additions would be echinacea root (which may affect the taste negatively), lemon peel, turmeric root, anise and cinnamon. Some people will substitute hot pepper powder from their cupboard for the fresh hot pepper. 

Let your jar set for 2 weeks and strain if you like. I typically will just keep mine full of herbs and pour off as needed.

You can use your fire cider/ thieves blend for a number of things. I like to use it in salad dressing. You can take a spoonful of it at a time if you like the flavor. You can add it to tea, marinate vegetables in it. It’s a perfect tonic for winter health.

Have you made a version of Fire Cider/ 4 Thieves blend? Comment below with what variations you like.

I recently made a video about making Fire Cider/ 4 Thieves blend on Facebook. Here is the link to that.

Posted by Colorado Aromatics on Saturday, October 10, 2020
Making Fire Cider / 4 Thieves Vinegar