Posted on: May 5, 2016 at 6:12 am
Last updated: September 14, 2017 at 5:03 pm

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Switchel: The Fermented Drink that Benefits Your Gut

Before there were sports drinks to rehydrate after intense physical labor or sugary drinks designed to boost energy levels, there was switchel, an all-natural drink similar to lemonade that’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

Currently a favorite in markets and upscale cocktail bars, thanks to its numerous health benefits and great taste, this centuries-old beverage is primed to become the next kombucha or kvass. Get ahead of the curve, and start sipping on switchel today.

Switch What?

Made from apple cider vinegar, fresh ginger, maple syrup and then cut with water, switchel’s arrival to America is hazy. Some say it came from the West Indies, where molasses was used instead of maple syrup. Others say it’s derived from oxymel, an ancient Greek medicinal elixir made from vinegar, honey and water. Wherever its origins, by the 18th century, “haymaker’s punch” was being guzzled down by American farmers during long work days to keep cool and stay hydrated in the heat.

At the time, people thought throwing back warm drinks during hot days was better for the body, as it supposedly maintained the body’s equilibrium with the weather. And because farmers couldn’t drink alcohol while working on the fields, benefit-rich gingerwas a safe second bet, as it produced a similar feeling to alcohol’s burn while going down.

While their reasoning might not have been totally sound, it turns out these farmers were onto something. Here’s why switchel should be your new favorite drink.


5 Benefits of Switchel

1. Ease inflammation

The ginger that makes up a key part of switchel is a natural inflammation reducer. Inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases, causes physical symptoms like skin problems and digestive issues. So keeping inflammation at bay with the ginger found in switchel can have other unexpected, welcome side effects, like clearing up acne.

Additionally, because it reduces inflammation, which also counts pain as a side effect, ginger is also a powerful pain fighter. In fact, one study found that consuming a small amount of ginger is more effective at reducing pain symptoms and inflammation than painkillers. Next time you feel a headache coming on, skip that painkiller and reach for switchel instead.

2. Get an electrolyte boost

Electrolytes are nutrients or chemicals in your body that help it perform specific functions, like regulating your heart beat or telling your legs it’s time to get moving. But after undergoing intense physical exertion (like running a marathon), getting sick, eating a poor diet or even taking certain medications, electrolytes imbalance can occur. Signs that your electrolytes need some replenishing include constantly feeling thirsty, frequent headaches, fatigue and nausea.

But because of the maple syrup and apple cider vinegar found in switchel, potassium-rich electrolytes, particularly potassium, are replenished, making it an excellent alternative to sugary drinks like Gatorade. Pour a glass after a tough workout on a hot day to feel refreshed and give help your body restore its electrolyte balance.

3. Enjoy a dose of apple cider vinegar

By regularly drinking switchel, you’ll get all the terrific benefits of apple cider vinegar,including healing compounds, like potassium, magnesium and probiotics.

Thanks to the many uses of apple cider vinegar, it’s one of my favorite natural remedies. It balances your body’s pH levels and, as a liver and lymphatic tonic, detoxes your body. Not bad for one of the most common household items!

4. Go gaga for ginger

This root is packed with health benefits. Ginger is a fantastic digestive aid, soothing upset tummies and easing bloating symptoms. It also boosts your body’s immune system, helping it fight off disease. Additionally, ginger root benefits include breaking down the accumulation of toxins in the body, another way it boosts immunity.

5. Reap maple syrup’s sweet surprises

If you’re using sweeteners, maple syrup is one of the top natural sweeteners. When used in moderation, it is an excellent alternative to cane sugar. Maple syrup affects blood sugar levels less than regular table sugar and includes trace antioxidants and minerals that regular sugar lacks.

Because maple syrup is made from tree sap, it’s also much less processed than refined cane sugar. It also steers clear of many of sugar’s harmful effects.

How to Make Switchel


Switchel, unlike other trendy drinks like kvass or kombucha, is quite easy to make at home. We’ve included a recipe below to whip up your own batch.

Note that, while many recipes use maple syrup, it’s also possible to substitute benefit-rich raw honey. If you’re drinking switchel regularly, it’s a good idea to alternate between maple syrup and honey to enjoy the benefits of both while keeping your sugar intake down.

If you want an after-work cocktail, give it a nutrient boost by using switchel as the base. It combines well with alcohol, especially whiskey or gin. You can also use seltzer water instead of regular H2O to give the drink a fizzy, soda-like sensation while keeping it alcohol-free.

Because there are such few ingredients involved in making switchel — apple cider vinegar, water, maple syrup (or your choice of sweetener) and ginger — it’s important to choose the highest quality of each.

Opt for raw apple cider vinegar and, when choosing maple syrup, choose one that has pure maple syrup as the primary ingredient, preferably an organic variety. Steer clear of varieties with unnatural high-fructose corn syrups; these maple syrup imposters run rampant at grocery stores.

Make sure you don’t miss out on ginger’s benefits; use fresh slices each time instead of powdered. Freezing the ginger root beforehand can make slicing and dicing easier.

To make this drink extra refreshing, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint, lemon wedges or berries.

Classic Switchel Recipe



Serves: Makes 2.25 Quartz
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


  • 1 cup ginger, chopped
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (or raw honey)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice


  1. Fill a 2-quart saucepan 2/3 with water and add ginger.
  2. Bring water to a boil and allow ginger to boil for about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let ginger steep for 20 minutes.
  4. In a 2-quart pitcher, add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice.
  5. Strain ginger as you are pouring into pitcher.
  6. Stir and mix all ingredients well.
  7. Can be served warm or on ice.
  8. *Add more water to dilute if needed.


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Josh Axe
Doctor of Natural Medicine
Doctor of Natural Medicine at Exodus Health Center Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine , and he's also the founder of , one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.

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