Vinegar of The Four Thieves Health Tonic

rosemary plant Vinegar of The Four Thieves Health Tonic

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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Reader Comments

  1. Wego says

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

  2. Ryan says

    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!

  3. Ryan says

    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. Stef says

    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!

    • katy snodgrass says

      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

  5. Stephanie Warren says

    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.

  6. urba says

    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?

  7. Angela says

    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!

    • George says

      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 ;-)

  8. April Grow says

    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.

  9. Shannon Eichorn says

    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?

  10. Virginia Miner says

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

  11. Regina osborn says

    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!

  12. Barbara says

    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.

  13. Kat says

    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?

  14. Rachel says

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

  15. Monique says

    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?


  16. Antonia says

    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,

  17. Chris says

    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.

  18. Denise says

    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!

    • says

      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?

  19. Jodi says

    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!!

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