Monday, February 24, 2020

4 Thieves Vinegar

What Is Four Thieves Vinegar?: A vinegar based tincture of herbs thought to cure, treat, and/or prevent the Bubonic plague. In modern day, it’s used to boost the immune system, repel insects (including the fleas that spread the plague), and as a condiment.

A Little History: There are a number of different versions of the origin of this traditional remedy, but they all share the same basic points. I’ll summarize them here. When the Bubonic plague was sweeping through Europe, there arose a group of grave robbers and thieves that covered their bodies and doused their face masks in an herbal vinegar with strong antibacterial and antiviral properties in order to keep themselves from contracting the plague. Initially no one worried about the grave robbers and thieves who stole into the houses in the dark of moonless nights to rob victims of the Black Death as, the townspeople assumed, the plague would inevitably infect and kill the thieves, too. But it didn’t. The thieves continued to assail the homes and graves of the dead with impunity until they were finally caught in the middle of their act, tried, and set to be burned at the stake. Astonished by the thieves’ immunity and seemingly indifferent attitude toward the plague that devastated the community so severely, the judges offered the thieves a bargain: in exchange for releasing the cause of their immunity, the thieves would be hanged instead of burned at the stake – a less brutal and more quick end. The thieves acquiesced and surrendered the recipe for their elixir, and the legend has continued to grow since then.

What Is That Recipe?: No one really knows the original recipe, and many recipes for Four Thieves Vinegar abound. Though a recipe written by Jean Valnet, a renowned aromatherapist and herbalist of the early 20th century, may resemble the original more closely than any other. He calls for vinegar, wormwood, meadow sweet, juniper, marjoram, sage, cloves, horse heal, angelica, rosemary, horehound and camphor. Valnet calls for steeping these herbs in vinegar for six weeks before decanting, for a lighter flavor some people only steep the herbs for only seven days.

Does It Work?:  While this traditional remedy may or may not have helped grave robbers and thieves to stave off the plague that ravaged Europe centuries ago, it seems modern herbalists and gardeners have revived the interest in this garden remedy. Many herbalists use it as a cleansing agent – transferring it to a spray bottle and using it to clean and sterilize kitchen counters or bathrooms; indeed, many of the herbs possess strong antimicrobial effects and vinegar, in any case, makes an excellent natural cleanser. Others recommend using Four Thieves Vinegar in personal care, diluted with water of course, as a cleansing agent for the skin or as an astringent. Among neo-Pagan circles, Four Thieves Vinegar is thought to have protective qualities and some swear that if you dress your doorstep with the vinegar, it’ll keep your enemies away. As to preventing the Plague, many people attribute it’s abilities to a combination of the immune boosting, antiviral, and antibacterial properties of the herbs and the bonus fact that many of the herbs used in the recipes also drive away pests such as fleas, which are the currently known way that the plague is spread.

The Basics of The Recipe: Really and truly, there are so many versions of this recipe that you can customize it almost endlessly. All you need to do is use a good quality Apple Cider Vinegar as your base (though some recipes call for other vinegars, I think this one has the most antibacterial and beneficial qualities), crush up a few cloves of garlic (crushing the garlic releases the antibacterial properties, though you may notice that your garlic turns blue after a few days in the vinegar, this is a natural process and does not indicate it’s gone bad), and throw in a handful of herbs. Herbs that are traditionally used include lavender, rosemary, mint, sage, marjoram, anise hyssop, wormwood, meadow sweet, juniper, cloves, horse heal, angelica, horehound, camphor, thyme, black pepper, cinnamon, rue, cayenne, chili pepper, coriander, plantain, and lemon balm. Though I’m sure there are more herbs that could be used. Some people recommend using only 4 herbs, one for each thief, and others just throw in however many they feel like using.

Four Thieves Vinegar

2 tbsp Lavender
2 tbsp Rosemary
2 tbsp Mint
2 tbsp Sage
2 tbsp Juniper Berry
2 tbsp Lemon Balm
4 cloves Garlic (peeled and crushed)
4 cups raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Toss herbs and garlic together in a one-quart mason jar, cover with vinegar and place them in a cool, dark location. After a minimum of seven days (you get more medicinal benefits after 6 weeks), strain the vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve into a second, clean 1-quart glass jar.

Some Ideas for Variations: In all these variations use 4-8 cloves of garlic, 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, and equal portions of the suggested herbs.
A Bitter Formula: Wormwood, Rue, Anise Hyssop, and Juniper
(this recipe would be great for your digestion, take a dropperful 15 minutes before eating
to improve digestion and prevent stomach problems)
A Great Salad Dressing: Lemon Balm, Thyme, Rosemary, and Coriander
(this recipe tastes great and is also good for digestion)
A Spicy Adventure: Cayenne, Chili Pepper, and Black Pepper
(this recipe will help clear upper respiratory illness, break fever, and makes a great marinade)

You can also feel free to add in any herbs you may feel like. Elderberry or Hibiscus may be beneficial to the formula, adding in extra immune boosting properties. Hawthorne and ginger may help to improve heart health. Mix up your own recipe, try new formulas. Feel free to post any questions, comments, and/or observations in the comments down below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


The Noursihed Kitchen:
Adventures in Making:
Farmer’s Almanac:
Magical Recipes Online:
Common Sense Home:
Learn Religions:
The Herbal Academy:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Browne’s Savory or St. John’s Mint

     If you follow me on YouTube, you may have noticed a video I posted in January, about a plant that is endemic to the Southeast (at least according to most botanists), specifically around the St. John’s River. I figured that it may be fun to go into a little more detail here.

    This little plant is known as St. John’s Mint or Browne’s Savory (Clinopodium brownei or Micromeria brownei for the scientific name) is found along lake edges and in freshwater wetlands, floodplain forests, and wet disturbed sites throughout much of the Southeast, especially in Florida. It blooms from spring into fall (though here in Central Florida, you can find flowers year round). The tiny flowers attract a variety of small pollinators, even some of our native bee species. Browne’s Savory flowers are tubular, five-lobed and lavender to pinkish-white with dark purple throats. The lobes are fused (three on top, two on the bottom) giving the flower a two-lipped appearance. Leaves are arrow-shaped with wavy margins and toothed apices. They are oppositely arranged on distinct petioles. Stems are square, pubescent, and angled. They grow in all directions and root at the nodes, forming large mats. When the leaves are crushed, a strongly minty scent is often noticed. They have all the major hallmarks of plants in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family, of which they are a member.

     St. John’s Mint is a wetland plant and will not survive in areas that dry out. It does, however, make a nice ground cover in the right conditions (river banks, or the banks of a lake or pond) and will also do well in a container or hanging basket. It’s often sold as an aquatic plant for freshwater aquariums and is often called Creeping Charlie in those situations.

     There are several patches in Orlando that I love to visit when I’m stressed out. Just walking on the minty ground cover, releasing those essential oils into the air, inhaling the smell of freshly crushed mint. That’s enough to relax me and ease some of my stress. I also enjoy laying on those same patches on a spring/fall (or what equates to those seasons in Florida at least) day.

If you haven't seen it (or want to revisit it) check out my video on YouTube 

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Browne’s Savory, St. John’s Mint, Creeping Charlie

Scientific Name- Clinopodium brownei, or Micromeria brownei

Edibility- The entire plant is edible, both raw and cooked, and has a strong mint flavor. It makes an excellent tea.

Summary of Actions- Abortifacient, Anti-inflammatory, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue, Rubefacient, and Stimulant

Parts Used- The aerial parts of the plant (everything above ground).

Essential Oil- The herb can be steam distilled fresh or slightly dried to produce the oil, which is clear to pale yellow. As you might expect, it will have a very fresh, herbaceous, and minty scent. Much like Pennyroyal, Browne’s Savory blends well with Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Sage (Salvia officinalis).

Insect Repellent- The plant is used as an insect repellent. When rubbed on the body it is said to repel ticks.

Digestion- Almost universally, plants in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family are digestives and carminatives. This little Florida mint is no exception. Munch on a few, fresh, leaves to help relieve gas and bloating, reduce stomach cramps, and improve digestion. Drink a tea after your meal to stimulate digestion and soothe stomach pains. Bonus point alert! It also has a wonderfully minty flavor that improves breath after your meal!

Dental Health- *The following information is from my own personal use, not from any clinical studies.* I have used the fresh leaves to help reduce inflammation in the gums. It also helps to soothe the pain associated with this inflammation. A strongly brewed tea, or an alcohol tincture, also makes an excellent mouth wash that helps to fight a number of nasty germs in the mouth, especially the ones responsible for bad breath and plaque formation.

Upper Respiratory- Most plants in this family have some use in a number of upper respiratory conditions. So it comes as no surprise that St. John’s Mint can be used to help open up congestion and reduce cough.

Fever- Browne’s Savory can be used in the same way as Pennyroyal to induce sweating and help to sweat out a fever.

Women’s Complaints- As an emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow), you can imagine that it’s a potent herb for women. However, it can be dangerous if used when pregnant.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Since it is so similar to Pennyroyal, all the warnings from that plant also apply to this one. In large quantities this plant, especially in the form of the extracted essential oil, can be toxic if taken internally. Skin contact with the pure essential oil can cause dermatitis. Do not harvest wild in South Florida! It is listed as "critically imperiled" by Regional Conservation's IRC South Florida Status.

     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


American Pennyroyal: Natural Medicinal Herbs:

Browne’s Savory: Florida Foraging:

Clinopodium Brownei: Atlas of Florida Plants:

Clinopodium Brownei: Florida Native Plant Society:

Clinopodium Brownei: Useful Tropical Plants:

Flower Friday- Browne’s Savory: Florida Wildflower Foundation:

Hedeoma: Henriette’s Herbal Homepage:

Hedeoma pulegioides: Plants for a Future:

Micromeria Brownei: Eat The Weeds:

Micromeria Brownei: TRAMIL:

Pennyroyal Essential Oil Uses: Mom Prepares:


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...