The Vinegar of Four Thieves
Cures for the plague and other useful ancient recipes
By Christopher Nyerges 07/08/2010
Iread an interesting story in a past issue of the Forest Voice, newsletter of the Forest Preservation Society of Southern California. It seems that some centuries ago, during an outbreak of bubonic plague in France, four thieves managed to loot empty plague-ridden homes without contracting the dreaded plague.
That immediately caught my attention, since our society, for a variety of reasons, always has the potential for such an outbreak of disease. If a widespread outbreak of plague were to erupt here in Los Angeles County — or anywhere in the US, for that matter — would we be able to rely on doctors and hospitals? Some accounts from the Middle Ages tell us that during some of the worst plague outbreaks, the dead outnumbered the living and could not be buried fast enough. If that were to happen to us, who would operate the 911 phone line? Would the paramedics be able to handle the emergency? What would happen to basic law and order? Well, it wouldn’t be a pretty sight!
Anyway, these four thieves were arrested by policemen and were brought before a judge in Marseilles. Wondering aloud, the judge asked how it was that these four thieves managed to resist the plague, especially since they had been in and out of so many plague-infested homes.
“We drink and wash with this vinegar preparation every few hours,” they answered. The judge made a shrewd bargain. The thieves would be given their freedom in exchange for their “anti-plague recipe.”
This recipe is recorded in Dian Buchman’s book, Herbal Medicine. Buchman writes, “This recipe has been used for centuries, but legend has it that it was discovered during a devastating bubonic plague.”
Karin James, the editor of the Forest Voice, told me that the vinegar recipe can be used for washing floors, walls and windows. It will also offset smells in the home. It helps to deter bugs if you rinse your hiking gear in it. She also saves the herbs when she strains them out of the vinegar, and places them where ants come into the kitchen. “It works,” she states. “No more ants!”
We posted this recipe on our Web site and got many responses from readers. One suggested that the vinegar is the primary reason this recipe worked. I have used raw apple cider vinegar (in my drinking water, in ratio of about 2 teaspoons per quart) and have found that it keeps the mosquitoes from biting. It also helps reduce heat stress when working out in the sun. I strongly suggest that you use only the raw apple cider vinegar, as per the suggestions in the classic work “Folk Medicine” by Vermont Dr. D.C. Jarvis.
Whole books have been written about the health benefits of vinegar and garlic, highlighting their antibiotic and cholesterol reduction properties.
Though I’ve not seen a scientific analysis of the Vinegar of Four Thieves, and there very well may be a synergistic effect from all the combined herbs, I strongly believe that the most powerful elements are the vinegar and the garlic.
For good health and protection against disease, garlic and raw apple cider vinegar should be included in the daily diet. If vinegar is carried on the trail, you can also use it to treat insect bites, for making salad dressing and washing. Garlic can be added to dehydrated trail meals to liven them up, increasing both the nutritional value and the flavor.
Christopher Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine and the author of “How to Survive Anywhere” and other books. He can be reached at christophernyerges.com or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, Calif., 90041.