The legend of the Four Thieves is said to have begun with The Black Plaque, an outbreak of bubonic bacteria in 14th century Europe that is estimated to have killed 25 million people.
The story goes that a group of men would walk amongst the dead, stealing from the bodies and not getting sick themselves. Eventually they were caught and depending on the version of the story you are reading they either made a deal for freedom or a quick death if they shared their secret. It turns out one of the men had a connection to a knowledgeable women who understood plants and their properties and before the group headed out the door, they wiped themselves down with a vinegar mixture, made from protective herbs.
The idea of infused vinegars is not a new one and there are medicinal references back to the time of Hippocrates. You can choose to add plants purely for taste or for the added benefits of the qualities of the herbs.
The original recipe has been lost in time and you will find many versions on line, most containing some variation of wormwood, rue, mint, sage, lavender, and rosemary. Others include cinnamon, tansy, camphor, garlic, cloves and cayenne or black pepper, added or exchanged as people traveled and connected around the world.
Understanding the purpose of each herb, which ones have antibacterial properties and which ones are antimicrobial, antiseptic or antiviral will help you decide, in combination with which herbs are easily available, on the best combination for your purposes.
When mixing up a batch please consider whether your intention is for internal use. Some herbs are best avoided by pregnant women and others just plain taste bitter so mixing up some fresh salad dressing might not be your first best option if a more bitter combination is used.
From a magical perspective it is easy to understand why Four Thieves vinegar would be used for purification and protection.
For this batch I chose a mixture of wormwood, sage, mint, lavender, thyme, oregano and rosemary and I am planning on using it for external use.
Clip a few sprigs from each plant, thanking them for their contributions. Pay attention to any little nudges about which sprigs would be best to cut. Inspect and take away any pieces that are not fresh and healthy.
Fill the container with vinegar. I used apple cider. ( Using wine is also an option ). Label with a full ingredient list. Allow the jar to sit for four to eight weeks in a cool dark place.
Vinegar and metal can react together so keeping them separated is a good idea. I used a small piece of plastic wrap over the top of the jar before tightening the lid. Wax paper might work as well.
Shake every so often. You can see from the picture below the leaves will turn colour as the goodness infuses the vinegar.
Drain the liquid through a sieve or cheesecloth and store up to six months. I used a metal container to protect the volatile oils from light and so I could add a plastic spray top. Use one part vinegar to 3 parts fresh water for general cleaning.
As in all things, be discerning and see a doctor when needed. This is not intended as a substitute for medical care.
In the mean time here are some suggestions for using Four Thieves vinegar.
Around the home:
- kitchen counter tops
- lunch bags
- children`s toys
- cutting boards
- door handles
- air purifier
In the kitchen (when making a good tasting combination):
- combine with honey to boost immunity
- flavoured mayonnaise
- salad dressings
- diluted in beverages
- Insect repellant
- Diluted in carrier oil for massage
Four Thieves from My Kitchen Wand