Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Home Medicine Chest

From Pen and Pension:
Many cabinets also contained patent medicines. These were usually sold with little or no information about the ‘secret’ ingredients used in them. It’s easy to dismiss all as fraudulent quackery, but it’s clear that most of those who made and sold them had an honest belief in their efficacy. Without scientific trials of any kind, all evidence for effectiveness had to be anecdotal. Of course those who peddled these items naturally seized on anything positive. Even so, given the high cost of medical attention at the time they might offer some prospect of help.

One common example was ‘Steers’s Opodeldoc’, a liniment rub made from soap, spirit of wine (pure alcohol), camphor, rosemary oil and sometimes spirit of ammonia. Others included such weirdly named substances as Daffy’s Elixir Salutis for ‘colic and griping’, Dr. Bateman’s Pectoral Drops for chest pains and lung complaints and John Hooper’s Female Pills for menstrual pains. J. Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne was still available over-the-counter when I was a child!. It claimed to cure coughs, colds, colic, spasms, bowel pains, stomach aches and sleeplessness. Its ingredients included morphine, chloral hydrate and cannabis. Even if it didn’t work in an scientific sense, it must have had quite an effect. People gave Godfrey’s Cordial, also known as Mother’s Friend, to fractious children to quiet them down. It contained opium, water and treacle. Dinneford’s Gripe Water for babies contained magnesia, but also a hefty slug of alcohol. (Read more.)

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