"A few years back, I travelled to Vermont where a group of us gathered to apprentice under one of North America’s most renowned herbalists, Rosemary Gladstar. Our journey took us to the mountains in the middle of autumn, and because of this seasonal timing, a unique lesson stuck out for me as Rosemary taught us about Fire Cider… That when we prepare for winter, the colder months can be a pleasure, if we tune into our internal rhythms, and sync them with nature’s cycles.
Vermont was brisk, wet and cool – autumn had awakened there and my body, still hanging onto summer here, immediately shifted into that awakening. I noticed my interest in salad and fruit were quickly replaced by desiring warm soups, stews, root vegetables, hot teas, and warming whole grain cereals. I wore my wool long johns and cosy sweaters and felt absolutely fresh and sublime. I loved every minute and was prepared to meet nature’s cycle.
But not everyone was…
Some of the others in our group had mentalities and clothes that were still in sync with their warmer climates of southern California, and they were ill-prepared for Vermont’s shift. Their bodies responded, but not with pleasure. They suffered at night in the winds and rainstorms and held their bodies tightly as they walked from building to building. They resented the weather and begged for warmer days.
Does this sound familiar? Does it muster up any feelings you may have about our deep and severe Albertan winter (that lasts for so very long)?
How many times have we snapped back angrily at winter’s aggressive hold on our life? How many of us have cursed the length of our winter season? I’ve been there too – yet at this retreat, I realized it doesn’t have to be that way. We can shift our bodies to meet winter, to greet it with our warmth, and even be grateful for its time here – however long that may be…
When Rosemary spoke about this, every part of me was open to receive it. “Listen,” she said, “to what your body is telling you. It is “Saturn’s season” and it is the testing time of our strength.”
Winter’s grace is quiet. Most living creatures go dormant in winter; our human needs are no different. We too need to burrow into the warmth of our homes, cozied up with thick blankets and blazing fires. Winter is a time to dream or curl up and read books about subjects that hook us deeper into our passions.
Yet our schedules dictate differently. At the time when our bodies are telling us to slow down, we start speeding up. Our timetables seem to take on a life of their own. We wake up before the sun, and our extracurricular activities build to meet the demands of socializing, succeeding, communicating, and “staying fit & healthy.”
In response, our bodies and emotions tense up and fight back, and we often get sick during this time.
Sometimes when we get sick, it is our body pleading for us to slow down, to take refuge in nature’s cycle, and to learn from her great wisdom. To move at full force in spring, we must take winter’s time to accumulate our energy reserves, and build internal strength.
We, (including myself), often reply with “I can’t make the time” or “I don’t know how to slow down.” It may be true that we cannot change our schedules, but we can incorporate winter’s wisdom into our daily lives.
Allow me to explain… As nature prepares to go to sleep, it also releases medicines and food that help strengthen us. Autumn’s harvest provides many foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and immune system builders. These include such things as Elderberries, Rosehips, Dandelion roots, Horseradish, Echinacea roots, Burdock roots, Onions, Garlic and more. These herbs are often warming, beneficial to the immune system, anti-bacterial and/or tonifying to the body.
Elderberries, for example induce sweating which helps purify our system. It is especially immune enhancing when combined with Echinacea. Burdock is super rich in nutrients, is a tasty addition to soups and is one of the best liver tonic herbs we have. Dandelion is considered by many as the best tonic herb, period. It has a plethora of properties such as restoring health in the body, aiding digestion and is one of the beloved herbs for liver health. Think of how tenacious dandelions grow on our lawns; how they never give up – and will never be overtaken. This is the energy we want to bring into our body, especially during such a powerful season as winter.
Staying healthy also includes meeting winter face to face. We need to physically move in the winter. Play in her blanket of snow and enjoy the intensity she offers at this time. Kids do this so well. They toboggan, ski or snowshoe, and they do it because it’s raw, wild and fun. And those kids don’t come in and ask for salad – they ask for hot cocoa, so enjoy some of that too.
This Fire Cider recipe was given to us by Rosemary, and I am happy to pass it on to you. It is a folk remedy that is enjoyed by people all over the world. Everyone has their twist – so feel free to add helpful herbs and adjust the amounts I have below… Fire Cider is wonderful when you need some feisty warming energy.
Here’s to a yummy winter – bring it on!
Fire Cider is a warming, decongesting tonic / medicine that can be used daily to aid digestion, warm the system and clear the sinuses. It can also be taken in concentrated dosages for sore throats, colds & flu. I love the flavour and use it in my salads and soups too."
1L Weck Jar
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ¼ cup freshly grated horseradish
- ⅛ cup chopped garlic cayenne to taste, so it's warm (but not too hot to tolerate)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- ½ cup dried elderberries
- 2 tbsp ginger root
- 1 tbsp orange peel powder
- cinnamon sticks
After 4 Weeks
- Honey to taste, so it's slightly sweet (but no more)
- Grate and chop ingredients. Place in a glass jar and pour apple cider vinegar over the roots.
- Cover jar with a plastic lid, or if using a metal lid, make sure to place parchment paper between the glass and metal so the vinegar does not cause a reaction. Let sit for 4 weeks (and shake every once in a while).
- After 4 weeks, strain through a cheesecloth into another jar, sweeten to your taste with honey, and store in the fridge.