Fire Cider ~ A tradition, not a trademark
“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’” ~ Margaret Mead.
A spicy hot deliciously sweet vinegar tonic, Fire Cider was first concocted in the kitchen at the California School of Herbal Studies in the early 1980’s. Intent on teaching my students how to make herbal preparations that were as much food as they were medicines, I was constantly experimenting and concocting all manner of medicinal herbs into a variety of recipes. Those that turned out well were shared freely with my students and our community. The idea was to bring medicinal herbalism back into people’s kitchens, as part of their food and as a way of being, not just for medicinal purposes. Fire Cider was among those early ‘cross over’ recipes ~ part medicine, part food ~ that was made and shared freely. I taught hundreds of people how to make it at the California School of Herbal Studies, which I directed and taught at from 1978 thru 1987, and also as I traveled about the country teaching about medicinal plants in conferences, schools and various events.
At the time (early 1980’s), there weren’t any other Fire Cider recipes available and no products specifically named Fire Cider. There were some great old apple cider vinegar recipes that circulated, such as the popular Apple Cider Vinegar, maple syrup (or honey) and cayenne tonic that Dr. Jarvis, an old Vermont Doctor advocated for and made famous in the 1950’s. Another excellent product out at the time, similar to Fire Cider, was Cyclone Cider, which contained a blend of hot spicy herbs, apple cider vinegar and honey. A popular product, Cyclone Cider was sold in natural food stores during the 1980’s and for all I know, may still be available. There were also early herb vinegar formulas such the oxymel made famous by the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, and the equally well known 4 Thieves Vinegar that supposedly kept 4 grave robbers from catching the plague during the middle ages. While these herbal formulas consisted of vinegar, honey and herbs they contain primarily mild culinary herbs and not the hot, fiery pungent blend of with its well balanced blend of hot, spicy, and pungent flavors steeped in apple cider vinegar and finished with the rich sweetness of honey, Fire Cider is pleasantly delicious, and also, a wonderful blend of medicinal herbs. The original formula contained garlic, onions, horseradish root, ginger root, hot peppers, sometimes turmeric, and often echinacea; all powerful immune enhancers that help ward off infections, colds, flus, and bronchial congestion. We found we could use Fire Cider during the winter, a tablespoon or two a day, to help keep the immune system healthy and to ward off infections. All this, and it tasted good too!
It was great to see Fire Cider, as well as many of my other favorite recipes, gain in popularity. That was the whole idea; to transform America ~ and our health care system ~ one kitchen at a time, through herbalism! Lots of people started making these recipes, adapting them, changing an ingredient and making it ‘theirs’. Several small herbal companies started up during this time and began packaging and selling Fire Cider in their local stores and farmers markets. I was also making it and selling it at my herb shoppe in the small town I grew up in northern California. It was wonderful to see the way people were so eagerly responding to herbal medicine. It was if they were hungry for it, and were ready to embrace herbal medicine again. Fire Cider was part of that herbal revolution; it was a medicine we could make in our kitchens, share with others, and bottle, label, sell if we chose to and empower.
So, what’s all this fuss about Fire Cider?
• Shire City Herbals, a young upstart company, trademarked the popular herbal product and name, Fire Cider. Shire City Herbals stated that there was no public opposition to their filing, but they fail to mention that they didn’t send their notices out to herb companies until after the Public Opposition period was over. Their Public Opposition was filed on April 2012 and was over on Dec. 2012. The first notice to stop selling Fire Cider was sent to an Etsy business after the Public Opposition was over. Until that notice, no one had been informed that the popular Fire Cider name had been trademarked (pirated) so we had no opportunity to ‘protest the trademark’.
• As soon as it was noted that Fire Cider, a popular herbal item that had been being made and sold for over 30 years, had been trademarked there was an out roar. Within a few days over 9,000 people signed a petition to Free Fire Cider from its Trademark. In a record 24 hours, we had over 60 companies from all over the country sign on to our logo campaign in support of the Free Fire Cider campaign. Their logos are now proudly displayed on the freefirecider.com website, and the logos keep pouring in supporting this movement to remove the trademark from Fire Cider.
• Shire City accused Free Fire Cider of instigating a movement against them, and claimed we were making unreasonable and false demands. In fact, the movement happened without us; people were outraged without any prompting from the Free Fire Cider team. Our only ‘unreasonable demand’ has been to suggest they use their own name on their label (i.e. Shire City Fire Cider), and that they drop the Fire Cider trademark so that other people, most who had been in business far longer than them, could also continue to sell Fire Cider.
• Shire City claims they are a small business, and that Free Fire Cider is out to ‘put them out of business’. Go to Shire City’s website to see how ‘small’ they really are. Unless they’ve taken down their pictures, you’ll see their ‘small’ includes a warehouse, national distribution with several distributors, and many national outlets. Their ‘small’ is several times larger than the small companies they’ve forced to stop using the name Fire Cider. According to their recent lawsuit against Free Fire Cider, they have sold over 300,000 bottles of Fire Cider. To most of us, that’s a ‘large’ business.
• Shire City claims we’ve made ‘nasty mean’ comments about them and to them. All of the Free Fire Cider letters to Shire City & our public statements are available to read at www.freefirecider.com. We have been generous, respectful and thoughtful in our communications with them. We have never demanded or asked that they stop making Fire Cider, only that they drop the trademark and/or sell it under their own name of Shire City. The only ‘false statement’ that we made was to call the letters that Shire City Herbals sent to businesses to demand they stop selling Fire Cider, ‘Cease & Desist’ letters. We were unaware that this was a legal term and removed it once we realized our mistake. However, they have since sent official Cease & Desist letters to herbal businesses as well as lawsuits to three.
• Shire City claimed that this was one of the owner’s family recipes and that his grandmother taught him to make it. This claim is included in the original letter that Brian Huebner, senior owner of Shire City, wrote me. It is also included on their website. But they also state that they got the name and recipe from ‘the herbal underground’.
• Shire City has claimed on national TV (the Dr. Oz show) that ‘their’ formula was based on an ancient herbal recipe. However, there is no record of an ‘ancient Fire Cider recipe’. We have done extensive research and from all accounts that we’ve been able to produce, there was no Fire Cider recipe or formula before 1970’s, when Rosemary made it in her classroom kitchen at the California School of Herbal Studies. Though there have certainly been other apple cider vinegar recipes, including Dr. Jarvis’s famous apple cider vinegar/honey/cayenne tonic, Hippocrates oxymel which consisted of vinegar, honey and various herbs, and 4 Thieves Vinegar. There was, also, another popular product, Cyclone Cider, that was very similar to Fire Cider that was sold in natural food stores during the 1980’s.
• Fire Cider appeared in the first edition of Rosemary Gladstar’s home study course in 1981 and has been copyrighted in her books since 1991 (copyright and trademark laws don’t overlap, which is why the copyright law doesn’t prevent a product from being trademarked). Fire Cider has also been copyrighted in several other authors’ books as well, and has been featured on numerous videos. The Recipe has also been shared at herb classes and herb schools by herbalists over the past three decades. There is plenty of proof that Shire City did not create the recipe, but pirated a popular herbal legacy.
• Shire City proudly proclaims they are not telling anyone they can’t make their own Fire Cider and encourage others to make it themselves. That’s very good of them, however, they fail to mention that they actually don’t have the right to tell people that they can or can’t make an herbal recipe. What they are doing and doing quite well, is telling others they can’t use the name Fire Cider. They bought the right to something they had no right to buy, and have forced numerous small businesses’ to stop selling Fire Cider, even though most of those businesses were in existence selling Fire Cider far longer than Shire City. What seems most incongruous, is that Shire City can force others to stop selling a product that we, an herbal community, created, made popular, and sold for decades before these people were even born.
• Shire City also proudly claims they are doing “good deeds” by spreading Fire Cider to thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. This statement is very naïve and self serving and fails to take into account the hundreds of herbalists and small businesses that were already doing this and had been doing it far longer than SCH had been in existence.
• Furthermore, we don’t need one ‘big business’ to make Fire Cider for everyone in the country; a much more sustainable model is for many small businesses to supply their local stores, farmers markets and communities. Fire Cider is an emblem, a trademark, for that model of doing business.
• Shire City is mounting its attack against the herbal community and has continued to hassle small herbal business’s, has begun to send Cease & Desists letters to small herbal business’s, and has forced several of them to stop using the name Fire Cider. Shire City has most recently filed a lawsuit claiming damages of $100,000 against the Traditions Not Tradmark team, suing the individuals who are on the front line fighting to Free Fire Cider. Though I fully believe in trademarks and recognize the need for business’s to lay claim to products and titles they’ve created and invested small fortunes in, I find it unjust that someone can lay claim to a name/product that without question has been circulating in the world, in the marketplace, in books (copyrighted since 1991), and articles long before the company SCH was even started (the company is four years old). Quite clearly, the trademark lawyers didn’t do a good job in their investigations and made an error in granting a trademark to a name/product that was in such free circulation.
Is it worth the effort?
If this were about just one herbal product and/or a name, would it be worth the time and effort? Those of us who are advocating to free Fire Cider are busy with our own vibrant lives; we have students, classes, events, and our own small businesses to run. Who has the time to fight this thankless battle? However, if Shire City Herbals is allowed to ‘own’ a product that they neither created nor named, it sets a precedent in the herbal community. What happens to all our other popular legacy herbal recipes? Zoom Balls, Kava Chai, Chaga Chai, Pesto, Nesto (nettle pesto), Kloss’s Liniment, Miracle Grains, or even Elderberry Syrup. What will prevent other “Shire City Herbal’s” from trademarking these popular herbal products, which prevents others from using the traditional terms in commerce?
We’ve been told legally there’s nothing that can be done to protect the legacy of herbal products; one has to be Coca Cola or Camel Cigarettes to have that liberty. However, as an herbal community we can create a special category, a Safe Haven, for ‘Herbally Owned’ legacy products; popular herbal products that have been made, used, and sold for decades. We can protect our traditions and we can start by freeing Fire Cider from its trademark. Fire Cider is a tradition, not a trademark. Though we’re told legally there’s nothing that can be done to create a safe haven for herbal terms, we feel there is something and we’re willing to do it. We continue to ask Shire City Herbals to change their name to reflect their company, Shire City Herbals Fire Cider. They can continue to make their brand of Fire Cider, as can everyone else. This product was created for everyone to make, use, and sell as they please, and we will continue to stand firm on our principles to see that that happens.
Show Your Support
I’m a firm believer in those famed words of Margaret Meade that clearly proclaim, that, as committed citizens we can make a difference and change the world and, indeed, we often are the only thing that ever has. We are asking people who believe in our collective herbal heritage and knowledge and who wish to help preserve our herbal traditions, to make a difference by helping to lift the trademark from Fire Cider.
- Don’t buy Pirated Herbal Products; it hurts everyone.
- Make your own Fire Cider. It is simple, fun and easy to make. Recipes are numerous and can be found on blogs, in books, online, on videos’. Or visit www.freefirecider.com for recipes.
- Sign the Free Fire Cider Petition. The petition will be used to present to the US trademark office during the cancellation petition.
- Join the Fire Cider boycott by asking your local natural food and herb stores to discontinue selling SCH Fire Cider until the trademark is removed. Please note: Shire City has done a good job convincing store owners that the herbal community is misinformed and that they, Shire City, are the victims of a ‘few angry herbalists’. You might have to do a little educating of your local store to convince them that they are carrying a Pirated Herbal Product. See our website for more information on contacting stores. We have letters and material available to help you.
- Become involved by visiting the Free Fire Cider website at www.freefirecider.com.
- Send us your business logo to appear on the Free Fire Cider website to show your support.
The good news is that you can still make your own Fire Cider. It’s fun, simple, and easy to make. There are hundreds of variations on this recipe. Here’s the original:
- ½ cup grated fresh horseradish root
- ½ cup or more fresh chopped onions
- ¼ cup or more chopped garlic
- ¼ cup or more grated ginger
- Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper ‘to taste’. Can be whole or powdered. ‘ To Taste’ means should be hot, but not so hot you can’t tolerate it. Better to make it a little milder than to hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.
- Optional ingredients; Turmeric, Echinacea, cinnamon, etc.
- Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover tightly with a tight fitting lid.
- Place jar in a warm place and let for three to four weeks. Best to shake every day to help in the maceration process.
- After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs, and reserve the liquid.
- Add honey ‘to taste’. Warm the honey first so it mixes in well. “To Taste’ means your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”
- Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry. But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you’ve room.
A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic Or take teaspoons if you feel a cold coming on.
Take it more frequently if necessary to help your immune system do battle.
Here are a couple of new Fire Cider Recipes I developed this winter. Do try
them! They’re both fabulous! Lets just pray that the ‘herbal pirates’ don’t try to
trademark these, too!
Fire Cider Chutney:
Strain the herbs (the mark) from Fire Cider after 4 weeks. The herbs should still be somewhat firm and flavorful. Add the herbs to a Cuisinart or blender, and grind coarsely (don’t blend into a smooth past, but only until coarse and crunchy). If too dry, add a little of the Fire Cider Vinegar to the mix. You might wish to add a little more honey and cayenne to taste. Your finished Fire Cider Chutney should be sweet but not too sweet, hot but not too hot, and just right for your pleasure taste! This delicious chutney is great on toast, mixed with rice, veggie dishes, is a favorable addition to soups, or enjoyed right from the spoon. It’s the perfect winter
Honey Onion Syrup w/ Fire Cider Chutney
My husband got the ‘grunge’ this winter while I was away with my mother on a little holiday to Mexico! My Mother’s 90 and still loves to travel. When I arrived home, Robert pretty bad cough, sore throat and a flu that had lodged in his lungs. I have a number of favorite recipes I knew would do the trick, but one that I always fall back on for sore throats is Onion Honey Syrup.
- Slice yellow onions into thin half moons and place in a pot.
- Cover with honey, and with the lid slightly ajar (just enough to let a little of the steam out) slowly heat the onions and syrup. The heat should be low enough so that honey is warm, but not simmering or boiling.
- Cook for about 30-40 minutes over low heat, until the onions are very soft and the honey is deeply infused with onion juice.
- This make s a very tasty syrup that is very effective for deep bronchial coughs. You can further enhance by adding garlic with the onion for even stronger syrup.
- For an Added Punch, add Fire Cider Chutney.
The syrup was a little too sweet for Robert. Since I had just finished straining the Fire Cider and making my first batch of Fire Cider Chutney, I decided to try adding some of it to the onion syrup. To make a nicer syrup consistency, I blended the Chutney into a finer paste, and then added the paste to the onion syrup. It was divine!!! Sweet and soothing, with just enough fire and spark to make it elegantly delicious and healing.
I’m a firm believer in those famed words of Margaret Meade that clearly proclaim, that, as committed citizens we can make a difference and change the world and, indeed, we often are the only thing that ever has. We are asking people who believe in our collective herbal heritage and knowledge and who wish to help preserve our herbal traditions, to make a difference by helping to lift the trademark by supporting our legal defense fund.
Thank you sincerely,