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. Monica Avatar

    Can essential oils be added to the Four Thieves Vinegar Tonic to make is smell better?

  2. Nicole Avatar

    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!

  3. Holly M. Avatar
    Holly M.

    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~

  4. MOYRA O'NEILL Avatar

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

  5. Holly Mattson Avatar
    Holly Mattson

    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!

  6. tamara Avatar

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

  7. Betty Dotson Avatar
    Betty Dotson

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

    1. katie Avatar

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

  8. Ashley Avatar

    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?

  9. Jodi Avatar

    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!!

  10. Denise Avatar

    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!

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      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?

  11. Chris Avatar

    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.

  12. Antonia Avatar

    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,

  13. Monique Avatar

    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?


    1. Dee Avatar

      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.

  14. Dee Avatar

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

  15. Dee Avatar

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

  16. Rachel Avatar

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

      1. Kate Avatar

        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?

        1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

          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

  17. Kat Avatar

    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?

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