Back to nature:
Homemade Marseille vinegar to fight pathogens
Throughout history, countless lives have been saved using home remedies. The folk wisdom from various cultures, based on natural resources, has always been a great assist with emergency situations, such as pandemics. This was the case during the Middle Ages, for example, when Europe fell prey to the Black Death (bubonic plague), an infection of the lymph nodes transmitted via flea bite from infested rat to human, continuing contamination through contact or aerosol inhalation. Some 200 million people died from bubonic plague, and it seemed humans were doomed to disappear. However, in Marseille, France, there was a group of people that seemed immune to the disease, and they all had something in common: the application of a vinegar mixture made with various herbs.
There is a story regarding a group of four thieves who stole and then used the belongings off the corpses of plague victims without becoming infected. When the four were caught, they negotiated their freedom for the secret of their immunity. It was a vinegar mixture containing herbs like wormwood, sage, cloves, thyme, and rosemary. Each person would smear it on their hands and face to repel the plague. This formula has since become to be known as the Marseilles or Four Thieves' vinegar, a combination of substances that repel fleas, reduce pain and inflammation, mask odors, and fight germs. (1)
Versions about the origin of the formula are varied, but it is a part of recorded history and exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris (1). Some say the mixture was created by a group of alchemist monks who kept the recipe in the strictest secrecy out of fear of being labeled witches. The mixture’s backstory may include touches of legend and the versions may have changed over the years, but what is certain is that through the centuries it continues to be used. Does it really work?
What science has to say
It is estimated that 25% of current medicines and just as many household products have vegetable product, more so now that there is a return to natural preference and environmental conscience (1). Amid this revolution, some formulas have modified Marseille vinegar to include elements that help to combat surface germs with herbs and spices scientifically validated for their antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, among other aspects. Below are some facts:
Vinegar: The acetic acid in vinegar contains potent antimicrobial properties that have been used since Babylonian times and have been proven effective in inhibiting the growth of bacteria such as E. coli. Vinegar is best used to combat surface pathogens without dilution. (2)
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium): All species of this worldwide plant possess antioxidant, antimicrobial, antibacterial, insecticidal, and anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to essential oils and flavonoids such as quercetin and resveratrol, among others. (3)
Sage (Salvia officinalis): Studies have shown that this plant, native to the Middle East, has a wider variety of pharmacological uses than previously considered. Sage combats numerous pathogens like listeria and has an inhibitory effect on E. coli and salmonella. Sage has also been proven to contain elements that protect against fungi and viruses. (4)
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): Clove is an impressive pharmacological product. It works well against parasites, bacteria, herpes, fungi, viruses, and other pathogenic microorganisms. It can even fight Pseudomonas aeruginosa which can cause infections such as pneumonia. (5)
Thyme: This herb contains chemicals with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and fungicidal properties that can kill various bacteria, germs, and fungi, including Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, E. coli and Shigella sonnei, among others. (6)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): It has numerous pharmacological activities, including antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, mainly due to chemical compounds called metabolites, including essential oils. (7)
Some blends of Marseille vinegar also contain:
Garlic (Allium sativum): Beyond everything this food powerhouse can do for our bodies internally, as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and helping to reduce colds and flus, it can also protect us externally. Its various bioactive compounds, such as sulfur and alliin, have been proven to contain antibacterial and antifungal properties. (8)
Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora): There are studies that prove the antibacterial capabilities of this essential oil, effective in eliminating the growth of E. coli – one of the most common pathogens that cause infections (9). It also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties (10).
Angelica (Angelica archangelica): This is another species with antimicrobial properties that also fight E. coli, among other bacteria, and similarly fights fungi like candida. Angelica also has insecticidal protection against some types of mosquitoes, preventing their bites. (11)
Marjoram (Origanum majorana): The use of marjoram dates to ancient times. Nowadays, a long list of benefits has been scientifically proven, including antibacterial and antifungal. (12)
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): It is considered the precursor of aspirin because it contains natural salicylic acid. Science has even proven its analgesic capacity, combating pain associated with inflammation (13). Meadowsweet also helps mask odor, a helpful addition to potions used against Black Death as it would cover the stench of decomposing bodies. (1)
As you can see, all the products used in different the versions of Marseille vinegar have properties that are scientifically validated, which helps explain their use back in the day and why they are still in use today. Although today you can find many options that contain these herbs, we are going to share a homemade recipe that you can easily prepare to create your own modern version of four thieves’ vinegar, which appears in the Santo Remedio book by Dr. Juan.
- 2 ½ cups (500 ml) of apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of dried sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons of dried thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary leaves
- 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers
- 2 tablespoons of dried mint leaves, or more to mask the vinegar smell
- 2 tablespoons of wormwood or mugwort
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 glass jar with cork or plastic lid (not metal)
- 1 wooden spoon
Place all the herbs and spices in the glass jar and add the vinegar. Stir gently with the wooden spoon and cover. Allow to macerate in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. Strain it and keep in the same jar, storing in a cool, dark place.
If you are suffering from a cold or flu, dilute a teaspoon of Marseille vinegar in a glass of juice, tea, or water and drink daily as a complementary support to medical treatment.
You can also use this as an insect repellent by placing on the skin before an outdoor activity. Add it to a plastic bottle with an aerosol spray to apply it evenly. Use as-is or diluted with water.
It even makes a great surface cleaner. Just add to a spray bottle and use on countertops, toys, behind beds and corners, to avoid insects, etc.
Let's be healthier and ‘eco-friendly’ together.
Your Santo Remedio Team
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