The 14th Century and The Four Thieves That You’ll Gladly Welcome Into Your Home

The 14th Century and The Four Thieves That You’ll Gladly Welcome Into Your Home

It’s the plague. I’m sure of it.

Everyone I know is sick, getting over being sick, or coming down with some form of sickness.
Hacking, coughing, sneezing, snotting, fever…the pox is upon us!

When this happens, I always want to scour every surface, crack, crevice, and dirty little hand within my sight. And don’t even get me started on contamination and the spread of nasty little germs, or this post will turn into a novel. Instead, let me share with you a bit o’ 14th century history…

In the 14th Century, at the height of the Black Plague in Europe, people were trying to find ways to avoid contamination. At the time, most common folk, and even the physicians of the time, had no idea how illness and diseases were spread. The concept of microscopic wee little buggers wasn’t completely conceptualized yet. Illness was either thought to be brought about by the wrath of some God, who was, of course, exacting his punishment upon you, or by an imbalance of one of the four “humors” of Hippocratic medicine: black bile, yellow bile, blood, or phlegm (mmm, now there’s a nice thought for ya!). Humorism, as it is known, or The Four Temperaments, is an interesting concept all on it’s own…but I digress.

The Bubonic Plague, or The Great Pestilence or The Black Death as it was commonly known, wiped out an extraordinary amount of people during it’s pandemic reign which peaked in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is estimated that between 75 million and 200 million people lost their lives to this painful and fatal illness that is now thought to have been spread by rodents. 

Now those of you that know me can see why I hate rodents! 
Snakes? No problem. Spiders? Ok. Rodents? ACK! I barely survived my younger son owning Robo-Hamsters, who were cuter than I expected, alas, they are still “rodents”. I’m convinced that just holding that tiny ball of fur in my hands for two seconds caused long term heart arrythmias. Just the thought makes me want to go wash my hands (with my Four Thieves soap)…be right back…
As the tales go, in the midst of such miasma, and of course necessity being the mother of invention, thieves were believed to brew an herbal vinegar-concoction to ward off the plague so that they could scavenge the corpses and properties of plague victims without contracting the illness themselves. Another version of the tale surrounding “Thieves Vinegar” is that the thieves, in punishment for previous crimes, were dispatched to collect and bury the bodies of plague victims, and in order to avoid contracting the disease, brewed this herbal concoction. The actual recipes were clandestine, and only revealed as a bartering tool against punishment when the thief got caught. The ingredients varied, but most included mint, along with either rosemary, sage, rue, wormwood, or thyme, and of course, garlic.The ingredients varied, but the purpose was the same: Avoid the illness that killed half the population.

In modern times, through the wonders of science, we have found the herbs used in Four Thieves recipes do indeed contain chemical constituents that act as antivirals, antibacterials, antifungals, antiparasitics, and antiseptics. It is with this in mind that I formulated my own “Four Thieves” concoction, and translated it into a cold process soap recipe. I am not the first to do this, nor the last…but my version is my own formulation of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint and Rosemary, and here’s why I chose them:

Eucalyptus Globulus
Extraction: Steam Distilled Leaves & Twigs
Therapeutic Use: Arthritis, Bronchitis, Cold sores, Colds, Coughing, Fever, Flu, Poor circulation, Sinusitis.

Melaleuca Alternifolia
Extraction: Steam Distilled Leaves & Twigs
Therapeutic Use: Acne, Athlete’s foot, Candida, Cold sores, Colds, Cuts, Flu, Insect bites, Itching, Migraine, Oily skin, Ringworm, Sinusitis.

Mentha Piperita
Extraction: Steam Distilled Leaves & Buds
Therapeutic Use: Asthma, Colic, Exhaustion, Flu, Headache, Nausea, Sinusitis, Vertigo.

Rosmarinus Officinalis
Extraction: Steam Distilled Leaves & Buds
Therapeutic Use: Arthritis, Dandruff, Exhaustion, Gout, Hair care, Muscle cramping, Neuralgia, Poor circulation, Rheumatism.

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