The traditional story is that during the Black Plague, a group of men were going into houses where people had died, stealing their goods. The authorities figured that they would soon be infected and die, so did not pursue them until it became clear that they were resistant to the disease. And then the motivation was to find what protected them. Finally the thieves were apprehended and one confessed that his mother, a midwife, had provided them with a protective vinegar that they drank and washed with after handling the cadavers. And in exchange for freedom, shared the recipe.
My version is slightly different, in that I use chili peppers which were not available at the time. I love to make the vinegar and use it for both cooking and to put a quarter cup in my water bottle to build up resistance. Vinegar in water was called Posca by the Romans and accompanied most meals. I take a tablespoon of the vinegar every few hours if I am coming down with an infection. All herbs are dried to increase the strength.
1/4 cup dried lavender blossoms
1/4 cup sage or white sage
1/4 cup lemon balm
1/4 cup rosemary
1/4 cup peppermint
2 Tbsp crushed chili peppers
2 Tbsp cloves
8 minced cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz. tinctured wormwood or Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie)
2 cups apple cider vinegar.
Mix the dried herbs well and place in a jar, along with the garlic. Cover with the tincture and vinegar. Let sit in a dark place for four weeks, shaking each day. Strain and decant. You can use the infused herbs after straining in soup stock if you wish.
I find that most of the Italian food spices will work well in the vinegar, so don’t be afraid to add or substitute with thyme, oregano, zatar, monarda (bergamot/bee balm), or similar anti-infective herbs. (Increase the vinegar proportionally if you add.) You can also use the artemisia leaves if you have them available, although I like a little alcohol in the vinegar. I think that apple cider vinegar extracts best, so if you are using other kinds, use a bit less so the extract is stronger.
I also mix essential oils to form a version similar to the Young Living Thieves’ oil. Rosemary, clove, oregano, thyme, peppermint and lavender in equal amounts can be combined, and the oil placed over glands or rubbed on the palms and inhaled. Essential oils should NOT be consumed internally due to their extreme concentration which can burn tissues and kill gut bacteria.