Thursday, 5 June 2014

Thieves Vinegar An old wives tale.

The earliest recorded recipe for Four Thieves Vinegar I can find comes from the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1770 – and reads as follows:

The following recipe to prevent infection deserves to be rendered as public as possible. It is called the Thieve’s Vinegar, having been made use of by some abandoned wretches, who plundered the dying and the dead in one of the great plagues abroad. This circumstance the criminals acknowledged to their confessor before their execution. The recipe will be certainly useful to Hospitals and Workhouses. The clergy may avail themselves of it in their attendance upon the sick, and perhaps the Gentlemen of the Medical Profession may not think it entirely unworthy of their regard….

“To prevent Infection.
Take of Rue, Wormwood, Sage, Lavender, Mint [presumably Peppermint?] and Rosemary, of each one handful; put these altogether with a gallon of the best vinegar into a stone pan covered over with, and let them stand within the warmth of a fire, to infuse for eight days, then strain them off, and to every quart bottle put three quarters of an ounce of Camphire [i.e. camphor]. Let the Camphire be dissolved before it is put in to bottles. Rub the temples and loins with this preparation before going out in a morning, wash the mouth, and snuff up some of it into the nostrils, and carry a piece of spunge [sic] that has been dipped in it, in order to smell to pretty often.”

A more modern recipe I have seen uses vinegar infused with the wormwood, rue, mint, sage, lavender, and rosemary for six weeks in a sealed jar without heating – and omits the camphor. This is easy to prepare – simply cut the herbs finely, pour in vinegar to cover and let sit, sealed, for 6 weeks in a cool, safe place, before straining and bottling.

This omission of camphor may be a sensible idea, here’s why: Camphor, although still available as an essential oil – is toxic when ingested and should never be taken internally. Camphor (“Camphire”) was a popular ingredient in the old pharmacopoiea, not used so much nowadays but still known for its antimicrobial properties. Its use has now been limited by the FDA owing to health concerns: According to Wikipedia: “Since alternative treatments exist, medicinal use of camphor is discouraged by the FDA, except for skin-related uses, such as medicated powders, which contain only small amounts of camphor.” It’s interesting to note also that Dried Rosemary leaves (Rosmarinus officinalis) contain up to 20% camphor – and many other essential oils contain traces of camphor.

The modern receipe
A modern recipe for thieves oil is as follows:

80 drops of Clove Oil (Syzgium aromaticum)
70 drops of Lemon Oil (Citrus limon)
40 drops of Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum)
30 drops of Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus radiata)
20 drops of Rosemary Oil (Rosmarinus officinalis)

This will make around 15ml / 0.5 fl.oz – enough for a “standard sized” essential oil bottle.

No comments:

Post a Comment