Vinegar of The Four Thieves Health Tonic

rosemary plant

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 an 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 like Mountain Rose Herbs]

How To Make the Vinegar of The Four Thieves:

  1. Put all the dried herbs and garlic (if using) into a large glass jar (I used half gallon)
  2. 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.
  3. Leave in a cool, dark, place for 6-8 weeks (for health tonic recipe) shaking daily if possible.
  4. 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!

What is your best natural health remedy? Will you try this herbal vinegar? Share below!

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  1. Thisis great! It’s in my favorites… I’m going to try this over the summer. Thanks for posting and keep ’em coming!

    • My apple cider vinegar, with the mother, is unpasteurized and is supposed to be kept in refrigerator. Do the herbs in the vinegar at room temp for 8 weeks keep it from going bad? You do state to put finished product in frig after it is made. I have been making my own Thieve’s spray from essential oils this past year.
      Katie I love your website. It is so addicting. I have made many of your recipes and copied the rest down to make as I get to them. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Wow! This sounds fantastic! I will have to get on this right away.

  3. I’m going to try this! I’ve heard of the Four Thieves before, and have seen VERY expensive essential oils made from it, so I am excited to be able to make something similar myself and pay way less! This will be very helpful next time one of us gets sick! And to try as a bug spray!

  4. I’m going to try this! I’ve heard of the Four Thieves before, and have seen VERY expensive essential oils made from it, so I am excited to be able to make something similar myself and pay way less! This will be very helpful next time one of us gets sick! And to try as a bug spray!

  5. I am excited to make and try this. My husband and I do a lot of mountain hiking, and can’t keep the bugs off us! I get to the point that I don’t care about where we are, or what we’re doing, I just want to get away from the bugs! We’ve already gone through a whole can of the strongest deet bug spray we could find (and I hate to think about what that garbage is doing to my body!). I want to get started brewing this today!

  6. I have these herbs growing in my garden, can I use fresh herbs instead?  

    • Absolutely! Just make sure they are completely covered in the vinegar mix…

  7.  WHAT DO U MEAN WHEN U SAY APPLE CIDER VINEGER WITH “THE MOTHER”

    • It will actually say that on the label and be organic and unfiltered… The mother is a colony or beneficial bacteria

    •  The Braggs brand has “the mother”

  8. I have cancer and was wondering how this might help with chemo?

    • I haven’t tried it for that, but wouldn’t think that it would hurt… definitely check with your doctor though!

    • Did you try it while on chemo? Did you ask your doctor, if so what did they say? I have a friend on chemo and thought about suggesting it to them. Please let me know as soon as you can or if anyone can answer please do my friend is getting worse physical and mentally. Thank you

      • Most doctors will tell you “no”. They are afraid of ANYTHING not chemical and RX.
        My mother’s doctor even told her NOT to take vitamins when she had a gut issue, and I was trying to tell her to take magnesium and other normal vitamins/minerals!!!
        Just be aware that when you ask a doctor to take something they have not ‘prescribed’, they will almost 100% say no.

        • Carol, you are absolutely right about that! In October 1999 I was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer and the Dr’s don’t want you to take anything because the chemo destroys everything and they don’t want you to build your immune system. I guess I went rogue because against Dr’s orders I made Essiac tea and took Juice+ capsules, because I wasn’t able to eat much during chemo. All I know is the Dr’s told me to go home and “put my house in order” because they didn’t expect me to live until Christmas, let alone thrive! When the cancer started shrinking almost immediately they didn’t know what to think. To this day they say that I’m a miracle! But I know the truth. It was God and the herbs that He supplied and taught me how to use!

          • Thank you for this.

          • I agree. Most Doctors they don’t want us to take Natural Remedies. Why? They are not going to Make money. its all about Money. When we take those prescription Medication that they prescribes., There was a lot of Bad Side Affect. it sad to Day. We have to help each other Spread the Good News about using Natural Herbs that God Created for His Creature. This is the best alternative than Synthetic. I’m Glad I found this Website. Coz, I Love Naturals Remedies for my Family. thank you Wellness Mama for your Website. I start making recipes from your website. I love it.

  9. I was wondering if you could use this to spary your baseboards and entryways for a preventative bug repellant to replace the need for an exterminator.

    • I’ve used it that way before… smells strong for a few hours but seems to work well.

    • For insect control for our home and property, we make a garlic spray each spring. We boil a few pounds of minced garlic cloves in a huge pot of water for an hour, drain, then we put it in pure five gallon back pack sprayer, and spray the whole property heavily! Stinks for a day or so, but no mosquitos all summer! And we live by a lake!!!

      • Do you boil 5 gallons of water or just a gallon for the garlic and then add more water in the back pack I m so trying this I have been bit over 50 times this month! Thank you for posting this!

        • I just boil the water in a stock pot, so probably just a gallon. I add the rest of the water after I strain it and put it in the sprayer.

        • does it work with flies?

  10. I made the bug spray based on your earlier post and sent my daughter to camp with it. HOWEVER, the earlier recipe didn’t include the garlic. What up with that?

    • I don’t even remember when I added that. Completely optional though.

  11. For the first year ever…we have a big successful garden. We have an abundance of all these herbs.  Excuse me if this sounds like an obvious question – but how do you dry out fresh herbs? Or can they be used fresh? Thanks!

  12. I wonder if I could use over-brewed kombucha instead of vinegar with the mother……?

    • Thought of that myself – know this reply is two years later – but since the kombucha colony ferments to vinegar, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be a reasonable alternative to apple cider vinegar with mother active. Anyone else care to comment? Imagine the kombucha would be even more effective taken internally. *not intended to diagnose treat or cure any disease! not FDA reviewed… Lol 😉

  13. would this be effective to use for fleas ? 

    • It probably would, though I’d dilute it some if using directly on an animal’s skin.

      • it is effective against fleas BUT do not apply directly — put it on the pet collar away the the nose since it is so strong. I’ve been using this on two dogs and some of my friends have also for 3+ years.

  14. I’ve been experimenting with essential oils. I was wondering if anyone knows if I just mixed the oils in the same proportions, would I apply it topically, put it in water and drink it? Might be easier to get on kids if I could just apply it to their feet instead of trying to convince them to drink the vinegar.

    • Look up 4 thieves oil… you will get alot of websites with EO recipes for this. 🙂

  15. Would it work to use essential oils to make this?

  16. I’m moving and wanted to use this vinegar as a powerful cleaning agent to rid off any lingering bacteria etc from the former family and their pet, however I don’t have the 4-6 week time frame. Are their any other combinations or oils that would be as beneficial for this type of disinfectant / cleaning project?

    • You can use the vinegar alone or add the essential oils of the herbs instead…

  17. Can you take this when you are pregnant?

  18. Could this be used directly in the ears for an ear infection, or is that inadvisable?

  19. I use tea tree oil as a main ingredient for bug spray for us and our animals. I just mix 1/2 tea tree oil 1/2 water, put it in a spray bottle. Since it will separate, I just shake it up before each use. We close our eyes and I will use my hand to cover the animals eyes, then just spray it all over from top to bottom. I first tried this last summer and it worked on mosquitoes, tics, gnat’s and other biters. My husband doesn’t like the smell, but the rest of us don’t mind!

  20. Sadly, this didn’t work against the little black flies of the Ecuadorian Andes, where I live. They love my blood! I tried adding more stinky repellant herbs, such as rue, but no luck. Just wanted to let you know.

    • you might try adding some ghost peppers or a variant of capsacin annum.

  21. How long does this last and does it need to be kept in the fridge? I made some several months ago, but I never strained the herbs out of it, it’s still “curing” on my counter. Would it still be good to take by mouth?

  22. Will this work to fight illness if it hasn’t been six weeks?

  23. How long does this last once it has been strained and put in a jar to store? Does it last longer in the refrigerator?

    • It lasts a really long time since vinegar and dried herbs are shelf stable. I have some that is months old.

      • I have this on my counter but after 6+ months I still have NOT strained the herbs out, is it still good, is it still safe to take internally or should I just pitch it?

        • It should be good still. Tinctures actually get stronger with time. Just make sure it doesn’t smell like something besides the ingredients. It won’t smell good normally, just make sure it smells vinegarry still

  24. When you say it can be taken for illness…exactly what kinds of illnesses do you mean?

  25. I was wondering exactly what kind of illnesses you would use it internal for?

  26. For the disenfenct, what part viniger is used with the one part water?

  27. I was wondering, I already brewed the herbs in the apple cider vinegar for 3 weeks now, but only saw now that it needs to be Organic (with the Mother).
    What difference will it make if I didnt use Organic (with the Mother) apple cider vinegar?
    I stored it on my counter top and not in a dark cupboard, but not in direct sunlight and I mixed it everyday.
    All of the herbs were dried, except for the lavender which I let out to dry out a few days and it was the lavender leaves not the flowers.
    Do you think it will be fine?

    Thanks,
    Monique

    • I buy ordinary apple vinegar and it’s worked for me since I started making it. Have also made it with my own homemade apple vinegar—both work well. I’ve just recently recovered from Bacterial Pneumonia and once the prescribed meds were taken, it still hadn’t cleared up so I took a teaspoonful morning and night. I was amazing how well it clears up. At least 4 people who I’ve shared this recipe with taken as soon as they start feeling poorly, it works.

  28. I am 94 years old & I have made & used that vinegar for years to rub on aches & pains it is very good too, I used bio cider vinegar (without the Mother) it is ok ,
    it keep very well in dark btls in cupboard,

  29. Anyone tried it and feel like it works? Don’t see many comments about efficacy. Im alittle skeptical of the story of inspiration. Those with the gene for cystic fibrosis were found to be immune to the plague, it’s thought that’s why CF is so common nowadays in Caucasian populations. So the thieves could’ve just as easily had CF.

  30. Hi Katie! I love your recipes! I recently made the vinegar of the 4 thieves. It has been stored in a dark, dry pantry for about 4 weeks now. We have been shaking the jar and also have been sampling on occasion. I used Braggs with the mother and organic herbs. It is in a glass 1/2 gallon jar with a plastic lid. Last night I noticed there was a film on the top with what looks like mold! Yikes, did I ruin my vinegar some how? Do you suggest tossing, or straining and refrigerating? Thanks for any tips!

    • Is it definitely mold? It can form a culture like “the mother” of vinegar as it sits. I’d see if you can tell for sure if it is mold and if not, strain and refrigerate. Was there anything sticking up above the level of the liquid?

  31. Any thoughts on this being OK to have when pregnant?

  32. This sounds great! I Made my own Thieves oil and am looking for unique applications. I absolutely love the idea of creating a tonic from the actual herbs I grow, though! This recipe is a super cool mash up of two of my favorite hobbies. Herb gardening and making chemical free alternatives,

    Thank you so much, Katie!!

  33. I would like to use this next week, and just now came across the recipe. Do you have any suggestions for expediting the process for it? Would something like gently simmering the herbs with a small amount of vinegar for a bit, let it cool, then add to larger amount of vinegar until next week? Or would this interfere with efficacy?

    • You could make it and start using it next week and just add more vinegar as needed

  34. I am HIGHLY allergic to garlic (and onions). Would this work without it? Thanks

    • I am super allergic to garlic also!I use regular cloves instead! Works great!

  35. Hi would you know if this recipe can be made using 100 proof alcohol instead?

  36. I had a horrid infection on the top of my right foot. I tried everything and the Doctors gave me Penicillin. NOTHING worked, the best I could hope for was to cover it up and try and ignore the pain. I had made four thieves vinegar and I found some that I had seeped all summer long. When I applied it full strenght the Sting was beyond belief. after about 5 minutes it went away, I let my feet air dry when I got up this morning I could not believe my eyes, the infection was a dull grey. (Dead skin I guess) but it was no longer hot to the touch, or painful or weeping. This stuff is borderline magic!

  37. Ho I have constance sores up in my nose for about 4months and I’m wondering could this work?

  38. I used a lot of herbs in my four thieves recipes and kept the sun tea container filled with the stuff in a cool place in the basement and checked on it once in a while. worked great~

  39. I just purchased your book, “Herbal Remedies Handbook”, which I adore! I went to make this recipe from the book, and it says 48 cloves of garlic instead of 4-8 cloves of garlic. Yesterday I purchased 48 cloves of garlic (my kiddos counted them out), and my hubby happened to find this recipe on your site before I made it. Ha ha! Thank goodness! That would have been a very very different product. Now I just need to figure out what to do with my extra 44 cloves of garlic. I have a feeling no one in this house will be getting sick for a long, looooong, time!