The Four Thieves

While there are a few versions of the story, they all center around the bubonic plague and the origin ranges from 1413 somewhere-in-Europe to 1630 Toulouse to 1722 Marseilles. As people began to succumb to the plague, four spice traders decided that it would be more profitable to loot the homes and bodies of the victims than to stick with their day jobs.

Miraculously none of them, though being often in contact with the dead, contracted the disease. They believed that so long as they breathed in certain spices, they would be protected from the miasma of illness and could loot to their heart’s content. They were largely successful, until the king had them captured and kindly offered to not burn them at the stake if they shared their secret blend of herbs and spices.

The authorities wanted to know how these thieves had resisted the plague, after all they had been stealing from the dead, plague-infested bodies.

“We drink and wash with this vinegar every few hours”, they promptly divulged.

The men placed some of the oil inside their nostrils, and a few drops on dark cloth which they fashioned into bandana style masks, not only to protect them from the plague, but also to prevent them from being identified. Covering their faces and wearing dark cloaks sprinkled with Thieves Oil, they were protected from contacting the contagious and deadly epidemic also known as the black death.

It is interesting to note here that during this time of the plague striking Europe, physicians were seen wearing long black robes, wide brimmed hats, and masks that appeared to have a beak. The reason for doing this is that the masks were said to have contained a combination of herbs, spices, and essential oils that the physicians would breathe in order to keep themselves safe from those afflicted with the illness. Their long black robes were also said to be doused in a similar fragrant concoction and current research continues to build upon this theory.

How did the thieves stay healthy and what were the herbs, spices and essential oils used in the masks of the physicians?

There are as many recipes as there are theories for which aromatics were used during the time. Some accounts say vinegar with a blend of sage, rosemary, rue, camphor, garlic and cloves was best. Others say that garlic, cloves and cinnamon were used.

The properties of the four thieves essential oils lie in the special blend of herbs that reportedly can kill airborne bacteria. It can also stimulate and enhance the immune system and works as a powerful antiseptic, antiviral and anti-infectious treatment. This makes the thieves essential oil especially helpful during the flu season according to those who believe in it.


Others claim that a man named Richard Forthave developed and sold the preparation and that the “medicine” was originally referred to as Forthave’s. However, with the passing of time, his surname became corrupted to Four Thieves.

Four Thieves Oil Recipe

Ingredients:
Rosemary oil – 10 drops
Lavender oil – 20 drops
Lemon eucalyptus oil – 15 drops
Peppermint oil – 15 drops
Orange Oil – 15 drops
Clove Bud Oil – 15 drops
Instructions:
All you have to do is pour all the essential oils in some small glass.
This combination should be applied topically or via aromatherapy but not ingested. For topical spray, you can add one cup of vinegar.

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