What is and how is the vinegar of the four thieves made?

What is and how is the vinegar of the four thieves made?

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In Europe in the 17th century, people were dying from the Black (bubonic) plague. There was no knowledge about antibiotics, there was no sewage management or hygiene, and cities were full of mice and fleas.

In France, where the prescription originated, half the population died within a few weeks, hospitals were overcrowded, and the situation caused uncontrollable panic throughout the region.

In the midst of this situation, a small group of people had constant contact with the corpses, but (according to popular history) they never got sick. The legend says that they were grave robbers who decided to take advantage of the resources that were left free with the death of so many people.

One source even says that they went to the houses of the sick and killed them to steal their property. When the police captured them for their crime, they were sentenced to the stake. The thieves then offered the secret recipe in exchange for a less painful punishment: the officers took note of the four thieves' vinegar recipe and then hanged them.

Whether or not this popular story of the origin of the recipe is true, the vinegar of the four thieves came to be used widely throughout Europe for its reputation for warding off disease. The recipe is said to have originally consisted of four herbs, one for each thief, but there are many variations in the European home tradition.

The recipe was kept for many years in a pharmaceutical formulary within the magisterial recipes, making improvements and variations of said vinegar, thanks to this, we can still continue to know this remedy and its history. Even in some places in France this vinegar is still sold so as not to get sick.

Uses and benefits of the vinegar of the four thieves


  • When we are already sick we can take a tablespoon several times a day in adults and in the case of children a teaspoon several times a day, in all cases it will dissolve in water, juice, tea, etc. It will help us recover faster.

External use:

  • Both in a preventive way and if we are already sick, we can add a little of this vinegar in the bath water, this will help us to recover or avoid getting infected.
  • In spray we will use it as a disinfectant for our home. We will use it both in case of prevention or when someone in the family is already sick. We can also use it in clothing, bedding, etc.
  • It is very useful in case of mycosis, eg. nail fungus. Apply a little of the vinegar in water and let the feet soak for 20 minutes.
  • It is an effective insect repellent. We must mix a little of the vinegar in a spray with water, 1/4 of vinegar in 500 ml. of water approximately. We will apply it to clothing and skin. Be careful with the mucous membranes.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 500 ml. of apple cider vinegar or white wine.
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves.
  • 2 tablespoons of rosemary leaves.
  • 2 tablespoons of sage.
  • 2 tablespoons of lavender flowers.
  • 2 tablespoons of mint leaves.
  • 4 to 8 cloves of garlic.


  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 cloves.
  • 1 bay leaf.


  1. In a glass jar, add the plants, garlic and spices, then add the vinegar.
  2. We close the pot and let it marinate for several weeks, approximately 3 weeks is recommended. We must leave it in a dry place without humidity.
  3. Shake the container every day, so that all the ingredients are mixed well.
  4. After three weeks we will filter the mixture, the resulting vinegar will be stored in a glass jar, if it can be dark in color.

In order for the "vinegar of the four thieves" to last a long time, it is recommended to store it in a dark and dry place.

Recipe variations

There are many variations of the original recipe which is as follows:

1 part lavender
1 part rosemary
1 part thyme
1 part sage
4 parts vinegar

Mix all the ingredients and let them rest for a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of two months. Strain and bottle.

In the recipe we can use both fresh and dried plants. If we use fresh plant we must wash it properly and cover it properly with vinegar so that the preparation does not spoil.

We must bear in mind that it depends on the recipe we want to make, some of them cannot be taken orally, for example, some recipes have camphor or plants that are toxic internally.

With information from:

Video: How to Make Four Thieves Vinegar (January 2023).