A History of Thieves Oil


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Thieves Oil is a very popular essential oils blend consisting of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils. While this blend has been used by many to support the immune system and promote overall health, how many of us actually know the blend’s origin?

During the major outbreaks of the bubonic plague in medieval Europe many different remedies were explored and put to use. Doctors and priests used many different mixes of herbs and medicines to ward off the bubonic plague, even administering it to deceased patients in order to prevent it from spreading. It was in France that one particular remedy was created, called the “Marseilles Vinegar” or “Four Thieves Vinegar”. This aromatic vinegar was said to have been used by four thieves (hence the name) that used the concoction to boost their immune systems while they robbed plague victims during a major outbreak in Marseilles.

While this blend was said to be used long before the bubonic plague outbreak across medieval Europe, its use was made known by stories of the Four Marseilles Thieves. The blend of spices, herbs, and vinegar was not only originally a vinegar mix, not an oil blend, but many similar blends emphasized the use of garlic. Some priests and physicians would carry garlic in their pockets, French priests even ingested plain garlic, in order to protect against themselves the plague.

After centuries of use with different blends of spices and herbs, it was not until French herbalist Dr. Jean Valnet retold the story of the Four Thieves around 1920 that the story of the essential oils blend became well-known. The herbalist told the story of the thieves being caught robbing deceased victims of the bubonic plague near Toulouse, France around 1628-1631. The thieves were resistant to the plague, to the court’s surprise, and the blend of spices, herbs, and vinegar that they had used in their masks was cited as the reason they stayed healthy.

After years had gone by the story of the four thieves and their immune boosting blend of spices and herbs had died out. However, in 1977 Dr. John R. Christopher, an American herbalist, released an issue of his newsletter that discussed the health benefits of garlic and brought the story of the thieves back to life. Dr. Christopher included the story of the Thieves blend along with a recipe for it that was also garlic heavy.

But how did we get to the homeopathic essential oils blend that we know today? Dr. Gary Young (the founder of Young Living) was introduced to the homeopathic benefits of essential oils when he was practicing medicine in his clinic in Mexico, and started researching their use. Dr. Young did extensive research on their medicinal value and discovered that the high concentration of the essential oils helped to support the immune systems of his patients.

After some years of using essential oils, work with other doctors, and even more research; Dr. Young started the Young Living company. Having read many different accounts of the story of the four thieves and the immune boosting blend of spices and herbs that they used, Dr. Young decided to create his own version of the remedy with essential oils. The oils blend excluded the vinegar and garlic used in earlier recipes, but now included Eucalyptus Radiata for extra immune support. The oils blend is now very popular and has been made into many different products for everyday use such as cleaner, personal hygiene items, and even lozenges. While the Thieves medicinal blend originally start with a rather cynical purpose, it has persisted through the years, and Dr. Young has brought it to a new and positive light through the use of essential oils.


Admin. “Four Thieves Vinegar: Evolution of Medieval Medicine.” SecretOfTHIEVES.com, 28 July 2016, secretofthieves.com/.

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