Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe

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four thieves vinegar tincture
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe

I mentioned the Vinegar of the Four Thieves when talking about natural bug spray alternatives, but this health tonic is so much more! This herbal tincture is easy to make and works for so many purposes (more on that below). We use it both internally for illness and externally for a natural insect repellant.

The Legend of the Four Thieves

And if you’re wondering about the name…

According to legend, the Vinegar of Four Thieves came from a specific combination of herbs used by four thieves during the Bubonic Plague.

The story goes that four thieves, one of whom was an herbalist, robbed the homes of many who had died of the plague. Eventually caught and brought to trial, the thieves were released in return for the recipe for the tonic that they credited with protecting them from the plague.

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.

Uses for Four Thieves Vinegar

This recipe centers around herbs that have been known for their antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and antifungal properties for centuries (and science backs it up). Just combine with apple cider vinegar and let sit until it reaches potency.

Here are a few of the ways I use it:

  • Insect Repellent – As I mentioned before, this vinegar makes a very effective (though strong smelling!) natural 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.
  • As a Soak – I’ve had some people report really good success using this vinegar as a soak or topical spray for foot or nail fungus.
  • Illness – 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 teaspoon several times a day (well diluted in water/herbal tea).
  • Room Disinfectant/Freshener – When a family member is sick, dilute this with 1 part water and put in a spray bottle to make a potent disinfectant to be used on surfaces or sprayed in the air.
  • Dandruff – Diluted and used on the scalp, this remedy is also said to be effective against dandruff.
  • Cleaning – This vinegar makes an effective natural disinfectant spray for use in house cleaning. But be warned… it’s not a subtle scent!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: the Vinegar of the Four Thieves smells awful and tastes almost as bad, but it is very effective against a variety of ailments. My kids complain (a little), but they know it will help get them feeling better fast!

four thieves vinegar tincture
4.18 from 17 votes

Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe

A potent recipe for an herbal remedy, insect repellent, and disinfectant spray.
Prep Time10 minutes
Infusing Time42 days
Author: Katie Wells



  • In a large glass jar, combine all the dried herbs and garlic, if using.
  • 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, shaking daily if possible.
  • After 6-8 weeks, strain the herbs out using a small strainer and store the tonic in smaller jars for easy use.


Most herbs can be found locally, but are also available online.

Need More Natural Remedies?

Here is my list of favorites I do make myself and always keep on hand:

Add this strangely named vinegar remedy to your list and enjoy its potent benefits!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

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

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


101 responses to “Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe”

  1. Barbara Avatar

    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.

    1. Dee Avatar

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

    2. cat Avatar

      VANILLA (real vanilla no sugar, I make my own): It is the only thing that works for for black flies as least for me, I make a spray adding the usual essential oils (for the other bugs) and water. I carry a bottle of this around all summer as I too am a bug magnet. If I am only going out on the porch for a few minutes I dab straight vanilla on my temples, behind ears and on wrist. The positive is you smell nice too 🙂

  2. Regina osborn Avatar
    Regina osborn

    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!

  3. Virginia Miner Avatar
    Virginia Miner

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

  4. Shannon Eichorn Avatar
    Shannon Eichorn

    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?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

      1. Caroline Avatar

        Hi Katie !
        If I use the essential oils of the herbs (or even just one of them, I have all the herbs on hand except lavender so I wanted to substitute lavender EO), how much of each EO would you put in the vinegar? And is it still safe to drink in case of illness? Thanks a lot, your post is wonderful!!

        1. Vicki Avatar

          To take internally for sickness you say to take 1 tablespoon diluted in water. How much water do you dilute it with? Thanks!

          1. lisanne Avatar

            5 stars
            2 oz of water (less if you tolerate the strong taste).

  5. April Grow Avatar
    April Grow

    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.

    1. Nysia E Avatar
      Nysia E

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

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

      1. Dee Avatar

        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.

  6. Melissa jean shirley Avatar
    Melissa jean shirley

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

    1. George Avatar

      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 😉

  7. Angela Avatar

    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!

  8. urba Avatar

    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?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

  9. Stephanie Warren Avatar
    Stephanie Warren

    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.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

    2. katie Avatar

      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!!!

      1. Holly Hillman Avatar
        Holly Hillman

        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!

        1. katie Avatar

          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.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

    2. katy snodgrass Avatar
      katy snodgrass

      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

      1. Carol Avatar

        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.

        1. Adrianna Avatar

          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!

          1. Bing Avatar

            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.

          2. Jayne Avatar

            Please can you say what juices and capsules you took?

  10. Alton Avatar


    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

    2. Jennifer Avatar

      Thanks for this recipe . We have a lot of mosquitoes in my neighborhood, will try this and revert !!

  11. Anniem Avatar

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

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

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

  12. Stef Avatar

    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!

  13. Ryan Avatar

    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!

  14. Ryan Avatar

    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!

  15. Emily Avatar

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

  16. Wego Avatar

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

    1. Nancy Avatar

      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!

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