Was Four Thieves Stolen?


Danse Macabre 

History of Four-Thieves Vinegar

When researching the history of Four Thieves Vinegar I realized there are many more versions of this folklore than I expected. The reason there are so many versions is because the story itself dates back centuries. A popular recount is that during an outbreak of the plague in Marseilles around 1772, four robbers ransacked the sick and dying. These four thieves, even though exposed to the plague, didn’t fall sick because they used a medicated vinegar topically. They were eventually caught and in exchange for leniency by the court they shared their prophylactic recipe which became known as Marseilles Vinegar and also Four Thieves Vinegar. The use of protective medicinal vinegars dates back even further to the 14th century bubonic plague; I’m sure these four opportunistic criminals didn’t come up with the bright idea all on their own.

The original recipe was handed down for centuries and many variations were the result. The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Notes and Queries published the following in 1900.

Four Thieves Recipe

In another book called Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy, Gattefosse claims that the following is the original Four Thieves recipe which hung in the Museum of Paris in 1937.

10/22/2019 1:33:25 PM

I agree, that the issue at hand is trademarking itself. That fine ... very fine ... line in the legal system/industry. If no one had claimed/registered/trademarked the name it is up for grabs. Should it be allowed to be 'taken' from public domain use becomes the issue. Redefining the limitations of trademark laws becomes the issue. There are VERY ... VERY ... strong and powerful entities that pay to own as much of everything they can that is in anyway connected to their line of business. For me it's like owner the basic elements of life itself, earth, air, fire and water. Yet, claiming it/owning it is just what is done and done in the name of doing it for the best interest of all. And then we watch as the price goes sky high, tiered levels of use are implemented and the product becomes too costly for most people. I use and enjoy using Young Living Essential Oils but I don't agree that they should be the ONLY ONES to be able to use a term that has been in the public use for so very long a period of time. Maybe "Thieves Oil YL" or something like that but even then the whole entire name should not become under the ownership to such a fine/strict rule.

1/12/2018 10:48:35 PM

Young Living would not have had to trademark their essential oil blend, Thieves, if other essential oil companies would not try to "steal" their propriety blend and try to claim it as their own. As you mentioned in the article, the Thieves oil has little resemblance to the original herbal vinegar so they have NOT tried to TAKE it from the herbal community. Young Living is a firm believer that all people, everywhere, should have access to the health benefits of plants.

miki c
12/30/2017 7:57:18 AM

thanks so much for bringing the Thieves story to light. And thanks to Mary Blue, Nicole Telkes and Kathryn Langelier for continuing the fight for freedom of our herbal legacies.

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