Trying to ward off a cold? TikTok’s wellness gurus swear by fire cider, (also known as fire tonic), a spicy concoction made of veggies, herbs and other spices. They say it has preventative properties, with the ability to keep illness at bay.
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But does it actually work? Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD, explains what fire cider is and whether it’s worth trying.
What is fire cider?
Traditionally, herbal tonics are medicinal drinks meant to invigorate you and help you get or stay well. Throughout history, various cultures have turned to tonics to promote general wellbeing.
But what is fire cider, specifically? This spicy swill blends all-natural ingredients said to have immune-boosting properties. The thinking is that when these healthy ingredients band together, they create a super-beverage of sorts — a mega-healthy drink that can prevent you from getting sick.
But there’s a catch: There’s no evidence that it works.
“There’s nothing to show that fire cider is beneficial. Food fads like this always come back revamped and tweaked a little to make them look more sensational,” Czerwony says, “but the bottom line is that they just don’t really do anything for you.”
The benefits of fire cider — or not
People who sing the praises of fire cider say it can build a healthy immune system and help fend off sickness, but there’s no research to confirm that belief. None of the ingredients in fire cider have been proven to have the power to prevent illness.
“Many of the ingredients have been shown to have health benefits independently,” Czerwony says, “but there’s no greater health benefit when we add these products together.”
The ingredients themselves are healthy and, as such, they do have known health benefits. But you’ll get more benefits from consuming them on their own, rather than in daily shots of fire cider (and again, none of them can prevent you from getting sick).
Apple cider vinegar: ACV, which is essentially twice-fermented apple juice, is thought to lower blood sugar, calm acid reflux and boost weight loss, though there’s not enough data to confirm those claims.
- Garlic: This delicious, smelly superfood has anti-inflammatory properties and improves cardiovascular health, among other benefits. It’s also associated with a lowered risk of colon cancer.
- Ginger: Studies show that this pungent root, which is loaded with vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, is associated with pain relief, nausea reduction and blood sugar regulation.
- Honey: This sticky substance can make you feel a little better if you’re already sick. Honey has been shown to soothe sore throats, minimize coughing and sweeten up the warm herbal tea that tastes so good when you’re sick.
- Jalapeno peppers: Are spicy foods good for you? That’s a hot debate (pun intended) among medical professionals. Capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, is associated with reduced inflammation and improved heart health.
- Turmeric: This bright-yellow pantry staple can tamp down inflammation, relieve pain and fight free radicals. But turmeric has not been shown to boost immunity or prevent colds.
Negative side effects of fire cider
Fire cider is made with a number of spicy, acidic foods that may upset your stomach, particularly if you’ve got a sensitive digestive system.
“Honestly, it’s probably going to cause more harm than good,” Czerwony says. “If you have health issues like acid reflux or indigestion, this combination of ingredients is likely going to make it worse.”
If you’re dead-set on drinking fire cider, though, tamp down the spice by diluting it with water or following it up with a bit of milk (which will also relieve the burning-mouth feeling that spicy foods can cause).
Doctor-approved ways to avoid getting sick
If you looked up fire cider hoping to prevent illness, you may be a little disappointed right now. But don’t be: There’s still plenty you can do to boost your immune system and stay well this winter and beyond. To start:
- Get vaccinated: Vaccines are the single best way to boost your immunity against illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu.Stay hydrated: Getting enough water is vital to a healthy lymphatic system, which plays a major role in your immune system. Get enough sleep: Sleep allows our immune system to recharge, giving our body the strength it needs to fight off illness.Follow a healthy diet. Eat immunity-boosting foods and avoid ones that negatively impact your health. “This will allow you to get all the nutrients that actually help with immunity,” Czerwony says.Quit smoking: Smoking exposes your immune system to toxins, which can increase your likelihood of getting sick.
Don’t count on fire cider to give your body any kind of true immunity boost. For that, you’ll need to take a more holistic approach to your wellness.