Oct 12, 2012

The Plague, West Nile, and Thieves' Vinegar

Thieves' Vinegar herbs from the Bulk Herb Store.
Did you know the plague is back? Yes, I mean the same Black Death that ravaged the world in the 14th century. In the last year or so, there have been diagnosed cases of the plague in Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, and California; go back a few more years, and you'll find cases in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma. (See the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, website for more information.) It seems most cases are of bubonic plague, spread by biting or scratching insects and animals. (To learn more about how the plague is spread, check out this post by the state of Vermont, as well as this piece at Wikipedia.)

Add to this the news that the West Nile virus (spread by biting mosquitoes) is spreading in the U.S., and you have a case for thinking more about bug spray!

All these recent news stories immediately brought to my mind the legend of the Thieves' Vinegar. For those who are unfamiliar with this story: It's said that during the Black Plague four men were stealing valuables off dead, infected bodies. When they were finally caught, the local law told them if they'd reveal how they escaped becoming infected, they'd set the thieves free. Supposedly, one of the thieves said his sister was an herbwife who gave them a special vinegar to spray themselves with in order to protect them from the disease.

Whether or not there is any truth in the story is something we'll probably never know. The earliest record I can find of the recipe isn't until 1910, in Scientific American. It lists rosemary, sage, lavender, rue, camphor dissolved in spirits, garlic, cloves, and distilled wine vinegar as the "original" ingredients, but it's clear Thieves' Vinegar has many variations and that the original recipe is probably lost to history.

But then I happened upon the Bulk Herb Store's write up on Thieves' Vinegar. What impressed me here was the idea of using modern knowledge about herbs to determine which antique ingredients might be most effective. And then I read the comments at the end of the post, which include stories about using the Bulk Herb Store's recipe to stave off insects in the Amazon.

I plan to can some of this Thieves' Vinegar, according to the directions given at the Bulk Herb Store's website, then transfer the vinegar to a small spray bottle to use as needed. Will it protect my family from the plague? I can't say for certain. But I do believe it will make an organic, safe insect repellent.

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1 comment:

  1. Tartar or plague will form and accumulate on the teeth of your dogs over time. Dental care for your dogs has to be part of their regime for good health. There are several ways that you may want to care for your dogs' dental health.