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.


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

  1. Pa Pro Avatar

    Waste of time and money for insect repellent. Smells horrible.

  2. Natalia Avatar

    Therefore, when applied to the skin, it could eliminate bruises to spots on the skin. However, the researchers comment that it has not been possible to show that vinegar can have such effects, nor has it been shown that it is capable of providing other benefits.
    1. Does it remove age spots?
    Some studies argue that the alpha hydroxy acids in apple cider vinegar, in certain doses, can provide some benefits to the skin. However, it would be necessary to delve into this topic and carry out more clinical studies.
    For now, the use of apple cider vinegar as a facial toner (diluted or not, alone or in combination) is not recommended.
    2. Does it reduce acne and pimples?
    Although it is believed that this liquid can ‘cleanse’ the face and ‘sweep away’ excess oil, it does not really help reduce impurities (or prevent future ones) . In reality, what it does is mistreat the skin, irritate it and further expose it to various discomforts.
    Therefore, despite popular claims, apple cider vinegar is NOT a miracle cure for acne or oily skin . The benefits attributed to malic acid are not scientifically proven or endorsed.
    3. Does it stimulate circulation?
    Applying apple cider vinegar to the face will not activate circulation , improve blood flow, or rejuvenate the face in any way. This is all a myth.
    Keep in mind that if there were compounds in apple cider vinegar capable of providing skin health benefits, they would not work in any way. There should be certain conditions for them to be able to act in a specific way.

  3. Carolyn Avatar

    Why do you strain the herbs out of the large container when you put the tonic for the Four Thieves Vinegar Recipe in smaller jars? Can you just pour the tonic in the smaller jars with the herb still in the tonic?

  4. Emily Avatar

    How long does this store for after the 6-8 weeks of “brewing”?

    1. Lisanne Avatar

      anything that strengthens your immunity helps your body combat any virus…

  5. Marie Avatar

    Do you just make this in a quart jar and cover with vinegar? That would be less than 4 cups of vinegar so I thought I’d ask. Though there’s probably a lot of flexibility with this recipe…

  6. Jennifer Avatar

    I have those herbs as essential oils, I’m assuming it would work the same way but without needing to sit for any length of time first…. has anyone tried it with essential oils? And in what amounts? Thanks ?

    1. Tricia Avatar

      That’s what I was thinking to , at first, but then I remembered essential oils are OILS and don’t mix with water. bUT, Do oils mix with vinegar? I doubt it, I know they didn’t when I made Italian salad dressing,,

  7. Laura Avatar

    I have all of these growing in my garden now. Can I use them fresh and if so what quantity would I use instead? Thank you.

  8. Marilyn Avatar

    Katie, first of all, I love your posts and recipes! I can’t tell you how many I have made and absolutely love. I trust your knowledge and expertise. However I do need to question one thing that I am confused about. According to your 4 Thieves vinegar recipe, the ingredients do not match that of the “common” Thieves essential oil. In fact in seems quite different. The oil consists of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary.
    Is this a different “Thieves” recipe? Legend of the thieves (I thought) were them using the ingredients mentioned in the oil. Just curious as I do swear by the oils ingredients, and I am wondering if I am just mistaken. Thank you again for your wonderful recipes and posts

  9. Machaela Avatar

    I added some local,unprocessed Honey and now we have spoonable medicine that isn’t as bad tasting ! BRAVA! Thank you for this recipe!

    Machaela T

  10. Elenore Avatar

    I just wanted to say thank you for all your recipes and the research that goes along with them. I have been interested in plants and natural living since I was a kid and make most household and baby items myself. I feel like I can always trust your recipes and often recommend them to friends and family. There are plenty of good blogs out there but I appreciate all the time you take to research products and add references to posts. I find myself visiting pages on your site regularly. Thanks again!

  11. Teal Avatar

    The recipe mentions adding the vinegar with “the Mother”. What would “the Mother” be? I am new to sour jars and I want to make sure what I do is correct.

  12. Mary Avatar

    I am making the 4 theives recipe and wondering if it would be ok to add oregano and or echinacia?

  13. Michele Avatar

    does the four thieves tonic need to be refrigerated after strained or can I leave it on the countertop?
    please help because I am making some today.

  14. Megan Avatar

    How long does this last for? and does it need to be stored in the fridge?

  15. Dee Avatar

    I would like to add a comment/caution. Please don’t use this for everyday cleaning nor for using for any and everything. This is a very potent medicine as the story tells. I use the dosages as posted but limit the taking for when a contagious illness hits. See, when used daily or not taken judiciously, then those ugly bugs which make us ill build up their immunity to it and it won’t work for the serious diseases. Remember how so many antibiotics don’t work now?
    Let’s keep this for serious contagions like this current flu which seems to have become deadly.
    Just my nickel’s worth.

  16. Dee Avatar

    From experience, if you use fresh, You need to be very watchful. If all those fresh herbs aren’t fully covered in vinegar, the moisture in the fresh herbs can mold and the whole batch is wasted.

4.18 from 17 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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