You would think that this goes without saying. However, just the other day I saw a post on Pinterest telling folks how to make Four Thieves Vinegar. Several of them in fact. Most of them told folks to add it to their salads and that that would help them stay healthy.
Hoodoo/Conjure products are not aromatherapy, nor are they salad dressing! Many of the products can be harmful if ingested. And Conjure is what has kept the tradition of Four Thieves Vinegar alive. Rootworkers have used it for generations and continue to make and use it.
Now for those of you who do not know the background of Four Thieves Vinegar, let me explain.
According to tradition, Four Thieves Vinegar was developed by Four Thieves during the Bubonic plague (also known as the Black Death, peaking in Europe around 1346-1353 and continued into the 19th century.) The stories vary, some say the Thieves were ordered by the courts to remove the bodies of the dead as their sentence. Some say that the Thieves were robbing the bodies prior to burial. Many of the stories come out of France, some out of Italy, but whichever story you hear the outcome is the same…somehow the Thieves were immune to the plague. Inquiring minds wanted to know WHY. The Thieves traded their secret to long life for their freedom. Their secret? The concoction of Vinegar they made up. And so the recipe for this Vinegar was passed down.
Now as many of you probably know, Vinegar is used today as a “green” alternative to toxic household cleaners. Why? Because Vinegar can kill germs. According to davidsuzuki.org, “…you can tackle household bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria with vinegar. Gram-negative bacteria can cause infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis.”
In Housekeeping in Old Virginia, published in 1879, the recipe for Thieves Vinegar includes (among other things) tansy, rue, mint and CAMPHOR.
My own recipe, which I got from the ledger book belonging to my great-great-great grandfather, also includes camphor and rue.
According to WebMD…” Camphor is UNSAFE when taken by mouth by adults. Ingesting camphor can cause severe side effects, including death.”
And (according to Wikipedia) “Rue extracts are mutagenic and hepatotoxic. Large doses can cause violent gastric pain, vomiting, systemic complications, and death. Exposure to common rue, or herbal preparations derived from it, can cause severe phytophotodermatitis which results in burn-like blisters on the skin.”
Now, let’s be clear. The recipes on Pinterest for Four Thieves Vinegar are little more than Italian salad dressing. They contain Garlic, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Mint and of course Apple Cider Vinegar, or variations on that theme. They are safe to eat and because they contain Rosemary, Garlic and Sage, they will help you stay healthy. Eat it every day. Eat it twice a day.
If you add Wormwood you can dilute it with water and spray it on your body to work as an insect repellent. (But don’t add Rue) You’ll smell a bit like a good salad but that’s a small price to pay. Some of the Pinterest recipes call for Wormwood but I recommend you do not ingest it because it can become deadly at high doses.
The oil(s) called Four Thieves contain variations on a recipe that might contain clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. It might contain Tea Tree oil. To be fair some of these oils might have antiseptic properties but they are mostly used as aromatherapy. Conjure is not Aromatherapy and while the Hoodoo/Conjure version of Four Thieves Vinegar may not smell pretty…it works. It works medicinally to sanitize and magically to banish, protect and heal.
The soaps contain variations or combinations of olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, castor oil, shea butter, palm kernel oil, and essential oils of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary. Smells good, but you rinse it off, and it will not do what Four Thieves Vinegar is intended to do in Hoodoo because, well because, you rinse it off.
If made right, Four Thieves Vinegar can be an antiviral, antibiotic, anti-parasitic, antifungal and even an antiseptic (and by “right” I mean it contains the proper herbs and other ingredients to be effective in the above areas.)
Rosemary is an antiseptic; Wormwood is an antiseptic and an antiparasitic (do not use internally;) Sage is antibacterial, and antifungal; Garlic is antimicrobial, antibiotic and antifungal. So you can see that a simplified version of Four Thieves Vinegar would help to keep you well.
If you use Four Thieves Vinegar (the ones with rue) to clean your home, or to disinfect the “sick room” be sure to wear gloves while applying it (or wash your hands after, not because it is toxic but because when you go into the sun it could cause your skin to redden or blister.) You should also dilute it with more vinegar. Most true conjure recipes will include rue and camphor (at least that is how I was taught.) Most practitioners will not share their recipes (so consequently do not list their ingredients) which has led some practitioners to shy away from these potent ingredients because they are worried that folks will think they are the Pinterest version and eat it….So remember kids, to be safe, DON’T EAT THE HOODOO!
I am Hexeba Theaux. My family has been in Louisiana since the 1700s and most of them still live there. Good Cajun folk. Heck, if you throw a rock in St. Martinville, Louisiana you'll probably hit one of my cousins. I have practiced Southern Folk Magic since I was a child. These are my thoughts on what is called Hoodoo or Conjure. I own and operate CajunConjure.com.