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The Vinegar of the Four Thieves

December 15, 2003

Lately, with all these awful threats of plagues in the news, I have been spending my free time reading medical reports and ancient history books that discuss the times of the great plagues.
The most famous and interesting story of healing coming out of the great Black Death plague was the story of the four thieves and their amazing concoction that came to be known as The Vinegar of the Four Thieves. History records that the four thieves were arrested for stealing from the homes of the many dead victims. After their arrest, they were taken from prison and forced to bury the dead with the promise that if they lived, they would go free. One of the thieves was an herbalist, whose herbal wine vinegar purportedly kept the four thieves alive all during the Black Death. As their resistance to the disease became obvious, others started using their Vinegar tincture—reportedly with great success. They lived to credit the vinegar potion for their survival.
The old records document several recipes that are very much alike. I looked up each of the herbs comprising the tincture and marveled at how effective the tincture would be in place of today’s insect repellents. Of course, superstition was rampant during those times, and disease was not understood, so the old history books confuse superstition with herbal healings. Common sense and more recent medical understanding have made it possible to comprehend why this herbal vinegar worked so well.
Rosemary, being a strong antiseptic, was one of the choice herbs. Wormwood and rue are the bitterest of herbs. Both are antiseptics and vermifuges (kill worms.) Wormwood has been used internally but can cause convulsions. Lavender and peppermint are high in volatile oils, hence excellent ingredients for a very good insect repellent, as well as being pleasant smelling. Sage, among other good things, is a lymphatic, which is an important fact to remember in case of a bubonic-type disease outbreak. Of course, garlic, as the king of herbs, is a wonder drug. Within its paper-thin wrapping is found a host of beneficial properties, far too many to list. But it does have specific properties that are antiseptic, antimicrobial, antibiotic and, antifungal—chemicals that kill parasites. If I were ever lost in a sick, hostile world, I would not take medicine; I would take garlic. Always keep a sack in your kitchen, and go to the library to learn how to use it.
The Vinegar of the Four Thieves is a super-strong insect repellent. It should be diluted with water to half strength if you spray it directly on your skin. This repellent can be used many ways. Splashed on your socks or shoes will discourage ticks, chiggers, and mites. An herbal cloth kept in your pocket and rubbed on your skin every hour or so would be very beneficial during outdoor work or recreation. Or, a nightly bath with a little herbal vinegar and oil will keep it on your skin for many hours and could prove helpful for families who live in the country or while out on camping trips.
Vinegar of the 4 Thieves
2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lavender
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons wormwood
2 tablespoons rue
2 tablespoons mint
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped garlic
Combine dried herbs (except garlic) and vinegar in a one-gallon jar with lid, and soak in the sun for 2 weeks, shaking often. Then strain out the used herbs, and retain the herbal liquid mixture. Add several cloves of crushed garlic, and close lid. Let soak for three days, and strain out the garlic fiber and discard. This liquid tincture needs to be stored in a cool place, like the refrigerator, or it can be preserved by canning. Fill canning jar with boiling liquid tincture to within one-half inch of top. Cap with rubber seal canning lid, tighten ring, and turn hot jar upside down; leave it undisturbed until it cools to room temperature. This will cause the jar to seal. Don’t forget to date and label it.
These herbs are available pre-mixed from The Bulk Herb Store, 1010 Pearl Road, Pleasantville, TN 37033. Write and ask for a free catalog at address above or visit
Please don’t send herbal questions to No Greater Joy, and don’t mix your herbal orders with No Greater Joy orders. The two are not related and have different addresses.
Debi Pearl

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One comment on “The Vinegar of the Four Thieves”

  1. wondering if you have heard of young living oils. they are incredible. one oil is called thieves, same reason as noted above. you can also get a desk ref. to go with your oils so you can get every beneift from them. also the oils come with the bible ref. in the desk ref. you may want to check it out! thanks for all you do and GOD bless you all!