The story of The Four Thieves. Four Thieves Vinegar, Also refereed to Marseilles Vinegar.
Researching the history/story of The Four Thieves and it’s original recipe you will find as many different variations as if you looked up the history of the original pizza. Everyone claims to be the first to the discovery and have the best recipe. So I have taken bits and pieces of history and folk tale to conclude my beliefs of the famous story.
Legend goes; during the bubonic plague in the 1700’s four corpse robbers were caught and faced certain death. They were given a punishment of burying the deceased knowing they would contract this deadly plague and justice would be served. Upon completion of their sentence they were disease free and ordered to divulge their secret from escaping this highly contagious plague. The Four Thieves Vinegar recipe was born.
Herbs have been used for thousands or years and provide hundreds of medicinal properties. A few to mention are; antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiviral, anti-infectious and they offer respiratory and immune system support. Bacteria have not been able to adapt or become immune/ resistant to the use of herbs as they have antibiotics.
In an era that Super Bugs’s are born, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and incurable airborne deadly viruses, it is important to equip ourselves with every natural remedy in our arsenal. In addition to adding the four thieves recipe to your regime it is important to eat whole foods, exercise daily, avoid synthetic chemicals and practice good hygiene.
The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Notes and Queries,
published in 1901, list the recipe as: Rosemary, Sage, Lavender, rue, Camphor, Garlic, Cloves, and Distilled Wine Vinegar.
In the 1600’s during the plague doctors wore a costume that many would think is more associated with Halloween then for treating patients. The beaks were stuffed with herbs and spices that the doctors would breathe and the cloaks were doused with oils and vinegar’s infused with the same for protection against disease and sickness.
Recorded vinegar history starts around 5000 BC, when the Babylonians were using the fruit of the date palm to make wine and vinegar. They used it as a food and as a preserving or pickling agent. Vinegar residues have been found in ancient Egyptian urns traced to 3000 BC. As well, recorded vinegar history in China starts from texts that date back to 1200 BC.
During biblical times, vinegar was used to flavor foods, as an energizing drink, and as a medicine, and it is mentioned in both the old and new testaments. For example, after working hard gleaning barley in the fields, Ruth was invited by Boaz to eat bread and dip it in vinegar. (Ruth 2:14)
In ancient Greece, around 400 BC, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed apple cider vinegar mixed with honey for a variety of ills, including coughs and colds.
One study , provided by the founder of Young Living essential oils (who also bought the TM of Four Thieves Oil) ,supported the benefits of the mixture
Effect of a Diffused Essential Oil Blend on Bacterial Bioaerosols
Author: S. C. Chao, D. G. Young, and C. J. Oberg
Journal: Journal of Essential Oil Research 10, 517523 (Sept/Oct 1998)
Location: Weber State University, Ogden, UT
Abstract: A proprietary blend of oils containing cinnamon, rosemary, clove, eucalyptus, and lemon was tested for its antibacterial activity against airborne Micrococcus luteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, andStaphylococcus aureus. The bacteria cultures were sprayed in an enclosed area, and Thieves was diffused for a given amount of time. There was an 82% reduction in M. luteus bioaerosol, a 96% reduction in the P. aeruginosa bioaerosol, and a 44% reduction in the S. aureus bioaerosol following 10 minutes of exposure.
Conclusion: Diffusion of the oil blend, Thieves, can significantly reduce the number of aerosol-borne bacteria
The herbs used in the original recipe contained strong anti-bacterial properties which were said to protect people from succumbing to the disease. How the recipe was “invented” is open to discussion as there seems to be various stories told about its origins. Many variations and adaptions of the “original” ingredients also developed. In addition, remember that this recipe was based on herbal use, not the essential oils which we use today, so properties of the plant may vary in different formats.
Today, the following essential oils are in popular use for creating an oil based version of Four Thieves vinegar; you can either dilute the essential oils in vinegar or use undiluted as advised below. Basically, if an essential oil has either antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, you can use it in this blend to protect against bacteria, germs and disease.
This post is not a definitive guide to all the essential oils used to create a version of Four Thieves Vinegar; other essential oils include sage (Salvia officinalis), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and mint (Mentha spp.).
Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is a member of the Lauraceae plant family; it is tropical tree which is native to Sri Lanka, southern India and Indochina. Cinnamon has traditionally been used as a spice. However, it has also been used medicinally since ancient times in the treatment of colds, flu and digestive problems.
Cinnamon essential oil is also a potentially toxic oil if not used correctly and in moderation. However, it has strong antiseptic and anti- microbial properties. The essential oil is extracted from both the bark and the leaf of the plant, with a difference in the percentage of chemical components.
Clove Essential Oil
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) belongs to the Myrtaceae botanical family. The clove tree is cultivated in tropical places such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Common as a spice, clove has traditionally been used as a tincture for skin and digestive problems, in addition for the treatment of intestinal parasites.
Clove essential oil is a potent essential oil and should be used with care in aromatherapy practice; use in low dilution and be aware that it might cause skin and mucous membrane irritation in some individuals.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
There are various species of eucalyptus essential oil which are used in aromatherapy practice; Eucalyptus radiata and Eucalyptus smithii are two of the most common species used. Eucalyptus is native to Australia and belongs to the Myrtaceae plant family.
Eucalyptus oil is predominately used for its antiseptic, anti-viral and and anti-bacterial properties in aromatherapy practice. According to Valerie Ann Worwood, inThe Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, the disinfectant properties of eucalyptus oil actually improve with age.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon (Citrus limon) belongs to the Rutaceae plant family. The lemon tree is native to Asia but is now found in many different places, such as the Mediterranean region, South America and some states of North America.
Lemon has traditionally been used in Europe to treat many types of infectious diseases. It has been used for malaria, typhoid and to treat scurvy on English ships. Franchomme and Penoel, 1990, state that lemon essential oil has anti-viral properties (Price and Price).
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) belongs to the Lamiaceae botanical family. It is an evergreen bush or shrub that has pale blue flowers and silver-gray leaves shaped like needles. It flowers in the spring.
Rosemary has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. In Medieval times, sprigs on rosemary were hung in doorways and carried for protection against the Plague, a devastating epidemic that wiped out millions of lives.
Rosemary essential oil is used for its anti-microbial, antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties, amongst others. Rosemary was effectively used in a blend with pine, thyme, peppermint, lavender, clove and cinnamon oils to purify the air and reduce the existence of pre-existing microorganisms in a laboratory test (Valnet 1980) (Price and Price).
This recipe is from Mountain Rose Herbs ( a very trusted company for organic herbs and supplies) is for making Four Thieves Oil Blend.
Mountain Rose Herbs Four Thieves Oil Blend
The recipe for this blend is believed to have originated from thieves during the 15th century. According to popular theory, the concoction was created by a group of four thieves® and grave robbers to protect themselves from contracting the plague while robbing the bodies of the gravely ill and deceased. When apprehended, the thieves admitted to using the formula and disclosed the recipe in order to receive a less severe punishment for their crimes.
Whether or not this story is true, the essential oils in this blend are antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-infectious. They will stimulate the immune system, circulation and respiratory system, and help protect against the flu, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, sore throats, cuts, and more. Modern testing has shown the effectiveness of this blend and studies have found it to have a high kill rate against airborne bacteria.
This is a classic recipe, but you can customize it by adjusting the quantities or adding other antibacterial essential oils such as Tea Tree, Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Ravensara, Lavender, Juniper Berry, Hyssop, Bay Laurel, or Scotch Pine.
- 40 drops organic Clove Bud essential oil
- 35 drops organic Lemon essential oil
- 20 drops organic Cinnamon Bark essential oil
- 15 drops organic Eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops organic Rosemary essential oil
Mix all essential oils together in a dark glass bottle.
This essential oil blend is very strong and must be diluted! The essential oil content should only account for 1 to 2% of the total formula. This means that up to 6-12 drops of essential oil can be added per 1 oz of carrier oil or other menstruum. For more information about diluting essential oils, please refer to our Dilutions & Conversions Guide
There are many ways that you can use the blend, here are some of the most common applications:
– To sanitize and purify the air in your home or workplace, place 2-3 drops of the essential oil blend in a diffuser, nebulizer, or in a pot of simmering water on the stove. Diffuse for approximately 20-30 minutes. This is especially beneficial if someone in your home or workplace is sick.
– Make an antibacterial all-purpose spray for cleaning and disinfecting your home or workplace. This is perfect for office spaces and shared areas! Fill a spray bottle with water and add the essential oil blend at a 1-2 % dilution rate. Spray on counter tops, desks, and on other surfaces. Make sure to shake before using as the oil and water will naturally separate.
– Use a 1-2% dilution rate of the essential oil blend in a base of water or alcohol, and spray onto insect bites, poison oak, and poison ivy rashes to help reduce inflammation, itching, and irritation.
– Mix the essential oil blend at a 1-2% dilution rate with organic Jojoba or Olive oil. Use as a massage oil for sore muscles, the lower back, neck, and feet. It can also be dabbed on skin throughout the day for general cold and flu prevention and immune support.
– When congested, mix a 1-2% dilution rate of the essential oil blend with organic Jojoba or Olive oil, and rub under the nose or on the chest. Or, place 1-2 drops in a bowl of hot, steaming water and inhale the vapors under a towel to relieve congestion.
* Essential oils are highly concentrated, strong, and powerful liquids that can be harmful if not used carefully and properly. This is an especially potent blend of essential oils which could cause irritation when applied to the skin, even in diluted amounts. We advocate caution when using them, and do not recommend using essential oils internally. Please keep essential oils out of reach of children. We do not advocate usage of this recipe on babies, toddlers, or children
Thieves® is a registered trademark of Young Living Essential Oils, LC. Mountain Rose Herbs is not affiliated with Young Living Essential Oils, LC in any way.
I mentioned the Vinegar of the Four Thieves last week when talking about natural bug spray alternatives, but this health tonic is so much more!
This recipe centers around herbs that have been known for their antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and antifungal properties for centuries. The most famous mention of these herbs in this specific combination was by four thieves during the Bubonic Plague.
According to legend, four thieves, one of whom was a herbalist, robbed the homes of many who had died of the plague. They were eventually caught and brought to trial. One version of the story recounts that they were sentenced to bury the dead but would be set free if they survived. Another version tells that they were released in return for the recipe for the tonic that they credited with protecting them from the plague.
Either way, the thieves survived, as did the legend and the recipe for their herbal vinegar. Though we hopefully won’t ever need this remedy for anything as serious as the plague, it still serves as a valuable remedy against many illnesses and is a powerful disinfectant and bug spray.
Vinegar of the Four Thieves Ingredients:
- 2 TBSP Thyme (dried)
- 2 TBSP Rosemary (dried)
- 2 TBSP Sage (dried)
- 2 TBSP Lavender (dried)
- 2 TBSP Mint (dried)
- 4-8 cloves of minced garlic (optional)
- One 32-ounce bottle of organic Apple Cider Vinegar with “the Mother”
[Note: Most herbs can be found locally, but are also available online at places likeMountain Rose Herbs]
How To Make the Vinegar of The Four Thieves:
- Put all the dried herbs and garlic (if using) into a large glass jar (I used half gallon)
- Pour the Vinegar over the herbs and garlic and seal tightly. The vinegar is strong enough to corrode some metal lids, so in this case, consider putting plastic wrap or a plastic bag on top and then putting the lid on.
- Leave in a cool, dark, place for 6-8 weeks (for health tonic recipe) shaking daily if possible.
- After 6-8 weeks, strain the herbs out using a small strainer and store tonic in smaller jars for easy use.
Uses for Four Thieves Herbal Vinegar:
- As I mentioned before, this vinegar makes a very effective (though strong smelling!) insect repellent. If you make it to this strength, just put 1/4 cup of the vinegar in an 8-ounce spray bottle and fill the rest with water. Spray on skin, clothes, etc. when in heavily insect infested areas. We store in the fridge to minimize the vinegar smell and make more refreshing.
- In cases of illness, the Vinegar of the Four Thieves is very helpful in quick recovery. Adults can take 1 TBSP several times a day (dilute in water!!) and kids can take 1 Tsp several times a day (well diluted in water/herbal tea).
- When a family member is sick, diluting this with 1 part water and putting in a spray bottle will make a potent disinfectant that can be used on surfaces or sprayed in the air.
- I’ve had some people report really good success using this vinegar as a soak or topical spray for foot or nail fungus.
- Diluted and used on the scalp, this remedy is also said to be effective against dandruff.
- This vinegar makes an effective natural disinfectant spray for use in house cleaning.
The Vinegar of the Four Thieves smells awful and tastes almost as bad, but it is very effective against a variety of ailments! Plus, its healthier and cheaper than antibiotics
Anytime you mix together the medicinal properties of herbs, vinegar, garlic you are going to end up with a powerhouse concoction to be used in a multitude of ways. I myself use the oil blend in a spray anytime I travel or know I will be exposed to contagions. The vinegar blend I take internally when needed for preventative or treatment of illness.