Popular name for a "medicine" or a defence against the plague. The internal and external use of vinegar against various diseases and as a protective agent was already common in antiquity. According to one version, the "invention" of plague vinegar dates back to 1720, when the plague was raging in southern France. According to tradition, four thieves went around robbing the dying and the dead. They were assured of impunity if they revealed the secret of their apparent immunity to the epidemic. This they then did. That is why it is also called robber's vinegar or poison vinegar; lat. acetum pestilentiale prophylacticum. To protect against infectious diseases, one should rinse one's mouth with the plague vinegar, wash various parts of the body with it or take a few spoonfuls of it daily.
The recipe quickly spread throughout Europe. In England, plague vinegar was known as "The four Thieves Vinegar", in France as "Vinaigre de quatre voleurs". Many different recipes for plague vinegar have been handed down. Mostly, fragrances were extracted using alcohol or wine vinegar and camphor was added. The 1888 edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon states that plague vinegar is still used for fumigation and disinfection of sickrooms. for disinfecting sickrooms with the following recipe: " Treat Vermouth, rue, peppermint, rosemary, sage, 22.5g of each, lavender flowers 30g, angelica root, calamus root, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, 3.75g of each, with 2kg wine vinegar and 120g concentrated vinegar, press after a few days and add 11g camphor dissolved in 30g alcohol." See also under Ancient Wines.