Blog, Herbal Recipes, Herbalism, Recipe Box, Spirit

Recipe Box: Four Thieves Vinegar

Amber Shehan January 10, 2014

Here is a Four Thieves recipe made without essential oils. This one is used for cleaning physical spaces and energies and is not for internal consumption!


Four Thieves Vinegar is a great tool that gets a lot of use around my house. A dear friend introduced it to me when she traded me a 4-ounce jar of it for a batch of infused honey I had at an herb exchange. She explained that this herb-infused vinegar has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

I use it as a spray for sick rooms to stem the spread of illness, spray it on mattresses while the sheets are off for a wash and change, and I even clean counters with it.  Don’t worry about the vinegar smell, either. As long as you spray it judiciously and don’t soak absorbent surfaces with it, it will evaporate without leaving an odor.  Personally, I prefer the smell of herby vinegar over most perfumed chemical sprays.

Herbal vinegar has been used for centuries around the globe for health and wellness.  I’ve used it for washing my hair, for foot soaks to help combat fungal overgrowth, and of course, my beloved fire cider for those cold winter nights. I even make my own vinegar from pears and apples!

Four Thieves Vinegar - DIY Recipe from
This will be ready for use in one month.

But why four thieves?

The legend goes that there was a pack of thieves somewhere in plague-ridden Europe who made their bank by breaking into the houses of the dead plague victim’s houses and stealing their valuables, and they did it for a good long while. They weren’t pursued at any speed because it was assumed that they’d simply contract the plague and die. The thieves were finally caught with vinegar-soaked rags tied over their noses and mouths. When asked how they had gotten away with such a dangerous job for so long without catching ill themselves, they offered to exchange their recipe for leniency, indicating that the special vinegar was the key to their continued health. They washed their hands and faces with it and liberally used it on their bodies before they went a-robbing. There are other tales out there, some of them claim this all happened in the 14th century, others claiming 18th, some say France, others elsewhere…and there are as many variations in the recipe as there are in stories about its origin.

Some people use only four herbs, one for each thief.  But as my main focus is antiviral and antibacterial purposes and a general “get-ye-gone!” sort of energy, I go with more than four.

Four Thieves Vinegar Recipe

**This Four Thieves Vinegar recipe is not intended for internal use – I make plenty of other tasty vinegars and tinctures for those purposes.  This is for heavy duty cleansing of both physical and energetic planes.**

A trusted source for herbs!

Add the following herbs in a jar:

  • Sage
  • Cloves (crushed)
  • Rosemary (fresh sprigs)
  • Horehound
  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon Stick
  • Garlic (fresh cloves, smashed)
  • Mint
  • Wormwood
  • Rue
  • Motherwort, thistle, or other protective, prickly herbs make a nice addition, too.

For best results, start this blend as the full moon wanes – a prime time for banishing, cleansing, and removal of barriers.

Put all of the herbs in a jar – as this is not to be taken internally, use the quantities that feel right to you.

Cover the herbs with vinegar.

Put a lid on the jar and set it on a countertop out of direct sunlight for at least a moon cycle, but no more than two months. Be warned that the vinegar will eat away at metal lids, like the ones on pickle jars and such.

Strain your vinegar it into a jar or bottle.  You can throw those herbs in your compost bin or sprinkle them at your boundaries where you need a bit of reinforcement!

Once strained, store your vinegar in a dark, cool place.  The refrigerator should do fine, although I just keep mine in a plastic spray bottle under the kitchen sink with the cleaning supplies!

Household Uses

Remember, if it is going on your skin, dilute it first.

  • Bug Spray for you – fill a spray bottle half with Four Thieves Vinegar and half water.  Apply as needed to the skin, and spray on socks and shoes to help deter ticks and fleas.
  • Bug Spray for the house – spritz some of the vinegar on your baseboards or floors to keep away ants and spiders and other soft-bodied buggies (always spot test first to make sure it won’t color or damage the surface)
  • Foot Soak – add a cupful to some warm water and soak your feet! This helps with foot fungus and helps control foot odor.

Energetic Uses

  • Doorway Spray: pour or spray some of this at your doorstep to keep away thieves or other bothersome visitors. Sometimes I’ll add cayenne to the recipe just for this purpose.
  • Floorwash: add to floor washes for cleaning up before moving into a new home, or to exorcize old energies. Follow up with something to bring sweetness in, like Florida Water, or your preferred blessing blend.
This article appeared in the March/April 2014  issue of The Essential Herbal!
This article appeared in the March/April 2014
issue of The Essential Herbal!

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Amber Shehan

Hi! I'm Amber Pixie, and this is my site. Enjoy the recipes, information, posts, and please feel free to message me if you have questions!


  1. Cindi Quay on August 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for this nice reminder!

  2. Gentle Joy on March 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

    I make a thieves essential oil blend and love it… I havent’ tried it w/ vingegar, but I like the idea… thank you I will be sharing this on social media. 🙂

    • Amber Shehan on March 11, 2015 at 9:31 am

      I’m wary of essential oils as my skin is very sensitive, and so is my allergic husband’s nose! 🙂 Thanks for commenting and sharing, Gentle Joy!

  3. Kelly on March 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Thank so much for sharing! This really is a great idea.
    Hope to see you again tomorrow on Wednesday’s Homestead Blog Hop 🙂

  4. Heather on March 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Awesome. Love this recipe! Love your page. 🙂

    • Amber Shehan on March 19, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Aw, thanks, Heather! Pleased to meet you! 😀

  5. Lillian on June 10, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Sounds great! really interesting story… I would love to try to make this 4 thieves vinegar and also apple vinegar! We are moving to a house in the countryside in 3-4 weeks and I am planning to start making homemade juice and everything that I can! Thanks for the post! 🙂

  6. Homestead Blog Hop 22 - Simple Life Mom on October 25, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    […]  Four Thieves Vinegar by Pixie’s […]

  7. Cindy donahey on November 10, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Add some hair conditioner to the vinegar and water soak. You can also use oil. It is harder to clean up, but lubricates the skin. It is particularly useful when feet are dirty from the garden.

  8. […]  Four Thieves Vinegar by Pixie’s […]

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