The Vinegar of the Four Thieves
by Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy Ministries
The last great plague of 1664-1665 covered all of Europe, Turkey, India, and China. It is estimated that at least one-half of the population of those areas died. The people knew the disease was somehow related to the rats and mice, because as the rodents died off, so did the people. They just didn't understand it was the fleas leaving the dead carcasses of the rodents and finding human hosts that was spreading the disease.
The latest insect-carrying virus that could prove to be a nightmare plague is the West Nile Virus. When we welcomed in the year 2000, the West Nile Virus was almost unheard of. After all, it only concerns people living around the Nile River, right? It is now in almost every state of the union. It kills over 2% of those who get infected. Thousands upon thousands of dead birds, dogs, horses and chickens are being found infected with this exotic killer. Mosquitoes carry it from mammal to mammal to mice to people to pets, and from pets back to people. Thousands of people here in the USA were infected last year. A simple mosquito bite is no longer an unimportant little red spot. A quick research project is to look at a map posted on the web displaying infection rates; it is quite sobering.
In reading personal accounts of the different plagues, I noticed some important points. There were usually 3 completely different expressions of the plague: bubonic (swelling glands), pneumonic (lung congestion with flu-like symptoms), and septicemic (pathogenic bacteria in the bloodstream). Often nurses, doctors, and those who buried the dead never contracted the plague. The survivors telling their stories never agreed upon a preventive, yet I noticed several different authors mentioning vinegar and smoke as a possible defense against the plague.
I read of one old couple who served the sick and never got ill. They strongly believed their immunity was the result of the use of herbal vinegar, which they put on their hair, clothes, and even a vinegar-drenched rag placed in front of their faces when they were attending the sick. They lived to tell their stories and to promote their preventive.
Many families survived by staying in their homes at all times and creating acrid smoke in their homes every 3rd day. They thought the smoke was purifying the air of disease. The smoke was made by burning a variety of things, from gunpowder to Rosemary. They suspected that the rats and mice might be carrying the disease, and by creating the strong odor, they believed it would drive the rodents and fleas from their homes.
Burning Rosemary, which is a pleasant odor, proved to be so effective in ridding homes of pests that its use has continued down through the years. Even as late as World War II, Rosemary incenses were burned in the hospitals of France to "cleanse the air."
The most famous and interesting story of healing coming out of the great Black Death plague was the story of the four thieves and their amazing concoction that came to be known as The Vinegar of the Four Thieves. History records that the four thieves were arrested for stealing from the homes of the many dead victims. After their arrest, they were taken from prison and forced to bury the dead with the promise that if they lived, they would go free. One of the thieves was an herbalist, whose herbal wine vinegar purportedly kept the four thieves alive all during the Black Death. As their resistance to the disease became obvious others started using their vinegar tincture, reportedly with great success. They lived to credit the vinegar potion for their survival.
The old records document several recipes that are very much alike. I looked up each of the herbs comprising the tincture and marveled at how effective the tincture would be in place of today's insect repellents. Of course, superstition was rampant during those times, and disease was not understood, so the old history books confuse superstition with herbal healings. Common sense and more recent medical understanding have made it possible to comprehend why this herbal vinegar worked so well.
Rosemary, being a strong antiseptic, was one of the choice herbs. Wormwood and Rue are the bitterest of herbs. Both are antiseptics and vermifuges (kill worms). Wormwood has been used internally but can cause convulsions. Lavender and Peppermint are high in volatile oils, hence excellent ingredients for a very good insect repellent, as well as being pleasant smelling. Sage, among other good things, is a lymphatic, which is an important fact to remember in case of a bubonic-type disease outbreak. Of course, garlic, as the king of herbs, is a wonder drug. Within its paper-thin wrapping is found a host of beneficial properties, far too many to list. But it does have specific properties that are antiseptic, antimicrobial and antibiotic, as well as antifungal substances that kill parasites. If I were ever lost in a sick, hostile world, I would not take medicine; I would take garlic. Always keep a sack in your kitchen, and go to the library to learn how to use it.
The Vinegar of the Four Thieves is a super-strong insect repellent. It should be diluted with water to half strength if you spray it directly on your skin. This repellent can be used many ways. Splashed on your socks or shoes will discourage ticks, chiggers, and mites. An herbal cloth kept in your pocket and rubbed on your skin ever hour or so would be very beneficial during outdoor work or recreation. Or, a nightly bath with a little herbal vinegar and oil will keep it on your skin for many hours and could prove helpful for families who live in the country or while out on camping trips.
- 2 tablespoons Rosemary
- 2 tablespoons Rue
- 2 tablespoons Sage
- 2 tablespoons Lavender
- 2 tablespoons Wormwood
- 2 tablespoons Peppermint
- 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped garlic
- 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
Combine 12 tablespoons of the premixed herbs and 2 quarts of vinegar in a sealed glass jar, and steep in the sun for 2 weeks or so, shaking daily. Then, strain out the used herbs, and retain the herbal liquid mixture.
Add several cloves of crushed garlic, and seal again. Let soak for three days, and strain out the garlic fiber and discard.
This liquid tincture needs to be stored in a cool place, like the refrigerator, or it can be preserved by canning. Fill canning jar with boiling liquid tincture to within one-half inch of top. Cap with rubber seal canning lid, tighten ring, and turn hot jar upside down; leave it undisturbed until it cools to room temperature. This will cause the jar to seal. Don't forget to date and label it.
NOTE: This is the original article, but we suggest following the directions, which vary a little, on the Vinegar of the Four Thieves product page.
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Did You Know?
Cayenne powder has been used by researchers in Antarctica to help them bear the extremely cold temperatures. The cayenne powder is sprinkled into their boots before putting them on. As the powder slowly comes in contact with the skin through the socks, it will draw blood to the feet, thus bringing much needed warms to the extremities. The one draw back is the red powder stains light colored socks. From our readings, it seems the stained socks were a small price to pay for the great benefit of being able to feel your toes after a little while out in the blistering cold! After trying this on a number of occasions during the winter near Lake Superior, I'm also convinced the stained socks are worth it.
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