Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe

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I mentioned the Vinegar of the Four Thieves when talking about natural bug spray alternatives, but this health tonic is so much more! This herbal tincture is easy to make and works for so many purposes (more on that below). We use it both internally for illness and externally for a natural insect repellant.

The Legend of the Four Thieves

And if you’re wondering about the name…

According to legend, the Vinegar of Four Thieves came from a specific combination of herbs used by four thieves during the Bubonic Plague.

The story goes that four thieves, one of whom was an herbalist, robbed the homes of many who had died of the plague. Eventually caught and brought to trial, the thieves were released in return for the recipe for the tonic that they credited with protecting them from the plague.

The thieves survived, as did the legend and the recipe for their herbal vinegar.

Though we hopefully won’t ever need this remedy for anything as serious as the plague, it still serves as a valuable remedy against many illnesses and is a powerful disinfectant and bug spray.

Uses for Four Thieves Vinegar

This recipe centers around herbs that have been known for their antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and antifungal properties for centuries (and science backs it up). Just combine with apple cider vinegar and let sit until it reaches potency.

Here are a few of the ways I use it:

  • Insect Repellent – As I mentioned before, this vinegar makes a very effective (though strong smelling!) natural insect repellent. If you make it to this strength, just put 1/4 cup of the vinegar in an 8-ounce spray bottle and fill the rest with water. Spray on skin, clothes, etc. when in heavily insect-infested areas. We store in the fridge to minimize the vinegar smell and make more refreshing.
  • As a Soak – I’ve had some people report really good success using this vinegar as a soak or topical spray for foot or nail fungus.
  • Illness – In cases of illness, the Vinegar of the Four Thieves is very helpful in quick recovery. Adults can take 1 TBSP several times a day (dilute in water!!) and kids can take 1 teaspoon several times a day (well diluted in water/herbal tea).
  • Room Disinfectant/Freshener – When a family member is sick, dilute this with 1 part water and put in a spray bottle to make a potent disinfectant to be used on surfaces or sprayed in the air.
  • Dandruff – Diluted and used on the scalp, this remedy is also said to be effective against dandruff.
  • Cleaning – This vinegar makes an effective natural disinfectant spray for use in house cleaning. But be warned… it’s not a subtle scent!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: the Vinegar of the Four Thieves smells awful and tastes almost as bad, but it is very effective against a variety of ailments. My kids complain (a little), but they know it will help get them feeling better fast!

four thieves vinegar tincture


Vinegar of the Four Thieves Health Tonic Recipe

A potent recipe for an herbal remedy, insect repellent, and disinfectant spray.

Prep Time10 mins

Infusing Time42 d

Author: Katie Wells


  • In a large glass jar, combine all the dried herbs and garlic, if using.

  • Pour the vinegar over the herbs and garlic and seal tightly. The vinegar is strong enough to corrode some metal lids, so in this case, consider putting plastic wrap or a plastic bag on top and then putting the lid on.

  • Leave in a cool, dark, place for 6-8 weeks, shaking daily if possible.

  • After 6-8 weeks, strain the herbs out using a small strainer and store the tonic in smaller jars for easy use.


Most herbs can be found locally, but are also available online.

Need More Natural Remedies?

Here is my list of favorites I do make myself and always keep on hand:

Add this strangely named vinegar remedy to your list and enjoy its potent benefits!

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

What is your best natural health remedy? Will you try this herbal vinegar? Share below!

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