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Looks legit ... A condition known as female hysteria was treated by doctors using a vaginal massage which was later improved on with the invention of the vibrator.

Looks legit … A condition known as female hysteria was treated by doctors using a vaginal massage which was later improved on with the invention of the vibrator.

Historical Beliefs and Practices

I’m fascinated by vintage medicines, cure alls and lifestyle…  And not just because they often did more harm than good. It’s the idea that anyone could be a snake-oil salesman, and that charisma, charm, and coming up with a good claim were once more important to a medicine’s commercial success than actual medical knowledge.

It is amazing how much the human perspective has changed in the last hundred or so years. Before the expansion of modern medicine and psychiatric care, people were exposed to brutal procedures and morbid beliefs. In the last 500 years, many strange political ideals have been adopted all over the world. In many countries they still are.

Government officials have enacted shocking policies and medical procedures. We can now look back upon some of these moments and wonder what exactly our ancestors were thinking? Many of these ideas were developed in a time when racial and female segregation was a problem, and the accepted social behaviour was different from what we experience today.

Female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, found exclusively in women, which is today no longer recognized as a disorder. The diagnosis and treatment of female hysteria was routine for hundreds of years in Western Europe and America. The disorder was widely discussed in the medical literature of the Victorian era (1837-1901). In 1859, a physician was noted for claiming that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria. One American doctor cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of the condition, and called the list incomplete. According to the document, almost any ailment could fit the diagnosis for female hysteria. Physicians thought that the stresses associated with modern life caused civilized women to be more susceptible to nervous disorders, and to develop faulty reproductive tracts.

Women considered to be suffering from hysteria exhibited a wide array of symptoms, including faintness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”. The history of this diagnosis is obviously controversial because of the wide range of bizarre symptoms and causes, but the case gets more shocking when you look at the treatment. During this time, female hysteria was widely associated with sexual dissatisfaction. For this reason, the patients would undergo weekly “pelvic massages.” During these sessions, a doctor would manually stimulate the female’s genitals, until the patient experienced repeated “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasms). It is interesting to note that this diagnosis was quite profitable for physicians, since the patients were at no risk of death, but needed constant care. Pelvic massages were used as a medical treatment on women into the 1900s.

Around 1870, doctors around the world realized that a new electrical invention could help the vaginal massage technique. You see, in many cases physicians found it hard to reach hysterical paroxysm. I think you can imagine why this would be the case. In 1873, the first electromechanical vibrator was developed and used at an asylum in France for the treatment of female hysteria. For decades, these mechanical devices were only available to doctors for the use in pelvic massages. By the turn of the century, the spread of home electricity brought the vibrator to the consumer market. Over the course of the early 1900s, the number of diagnoses of female hysteria sharply declined, and today it is no longer a recognized illness.

Women with hysteria under the effects of hypnosis.

Women with hysteria under the effects of hypnosis.

A hundred years ago doctors used a technique of blood-letting to remove the ‘bad things’ in a patient’s blood which was supposed to make them well. I wonder how that worked out?

Do you know that mercury was once the cure for most anything that bothered a person…including poor thinking skills, since it pretty much destroyed brain cells.

Narcotics such as morphine, chloroform, heroin, and cannabis were used to calm children so that their parent’s could handle them better, all with the backing of the medical community.

At one time doctors advised people to drink their own urine.  That’s right, urine, to correct a whole list of ailments.  One could also use it as a skin rub or, get ready for this, an enema.
In the 50’s and 60’s the weight loss pill of choice was pure crack!  Imagine that, getting thin and high on just one pill; what a marketing concept!   And if an individual only want to take one remedy, he could swallow a dehydrated tapeworm and let nature take its course.

During medieval times, women were completely subordinated to their husbands. After marriage, the husband and wife became one legal entity, a legal status known as coverture. During this time in history, married women could not own property in their own right, and were, indeed, themselves the property of their husbands. It is unclear when the ritualized custom of selling a wife by public auction first began, but written records indicate it was some time towards the end of the 17th century. In most reports, the sale was announced in advance, perhaps by advertisement in a local newspaper. It usually took the form of an auction, often at a local market, to which the wife would be led by a halter (usually a rope) looped around her neck, arm or waist. The woman was then auctioned off to the highest bidder and would join her new husband after the sale was complete. Wife selling was a regular occurrence during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it acted as a way for a man to end an unsatisfactory marriage. In most cases, a public divorce was not an option for common people. In 1690, a law was enforced that required a couple to submit an application to parliament for a divorce certificate. This was an expensive and time consuming process. The custom of wife selling had no basis in English law and often resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards. However, the attitude of the authorities was passive. It should be noted that some 19th century wives objected to their sale, but records of 18th century women resisting are non-existent. In some cases, the wife arranged for her own sale, and even provided the money to buy her way out of the marriage. Wife selling persisted in some form until the early 20th century. there were at least 300 wife sales at fairs and markets all around Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, and that as late as 1928 a woman was sold in Blackwood, South Wales, for a pound. Though these sales were against the law, they were worki

Wife Selling.

During medieval times, women were completely subordinated to their husbands. After marriage, the husband and wife became one legal entity, a legal status known as coverture. During this time in history, married women could not own property in their own right, and were, indeed, themselves the property of their husbands. It is unclear when the ritualized custom of selling a wife by public auction first began, but written records indicate it was some time towards the end of the 17th century. In most reports, the sale was announced in advance, perhaps by advertisement in a local newspaper. It usually took the form of an auction, often at a local market, to which the wife would be led by a halter (usually a rope) looped around her neck, arm or waist. The woman was then auctioned off to the highest bidder and would join her new husband after the sale was complete. Wife selling was a regular occurrence during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it acted as a way for a man to end an unsatisfactory marriage. In most cases, a public divorce was not an option for common people. In 1690, a law was enforced that required a couple to submit an application to parliament for a divorce certificate. This was an expensive and time consuming process. The custom of wife selling had no basis in English law and often resulted in prosecution, particularly from the mid-19th century onwards. However, the attitude of the authorities was passive. It should be noted that some 19th century wives objected to their sale, but records of 18th century women resisting are non-existent. In some cases, the wife arranged for her own sale, and even provided the money to buy her way out of the marriage. Wife selling persisted in some form until the early 20th century. there were at least 300 wife sales at fairs and markets all around Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, and that as late as 1928 a woman was sold in Blackwood, South Wales, for a pound.

It's the dieter's ultimate fantasy: eat all you want and still lose weight. Since the Victorian era, some have believed that there was such a magic bullet, you just had to have the guts to swallow a capsule containing live tapeworm.Tapeworms are parasites that you ingest by eating undercooked, infected beef or pork. They can grow to be 50 feet long and live for 20 years inside their host. While some cases of infection are asymptomatic, typical symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, bloating and even, in severe cases, blindness, brain damage, and death. That's the tricky thing about tapeworms,they like to travel around the body, to the brain, for instance. Tapeworms live off nutrients consumed by their hosts, especially carbs, which could account for cravings. They also digest far fewer calories than a human or animal eats, so any weight loss associated with infection would more likely be a result of vomiting or diarrhoea. The intestinal can be killed off by medication and have no lasting symptoms.In the past few years, researchers have been looking at worm therapy as a way to combat certain diseases. Some scientists hypothesize that our lack of exposure to parasites has led to an increase in asthma and allergies and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's Disease. In the future, worm pills may be a legitimate fad instead of a medicinal fraud.

It’s the dieter’s ultimate fantasy: eat all you want and still lose weight. Since the Victorian era, some have believed that there was such a magic bullet, you just had to have the guts to swallow a capsule containing live tapeworm.Tapeworms are parasites that you ingest by eating undercooked, infected beef or pork. They can grow to be 50 feet long and live for 20 years inside their host. While some cases of infection are asymptomatic, typical symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, bloating and even, in severe cases, blindness, brain damage, and death. That’s the tricky thing about tapeworms,they like to travel around the body, to the brain, for instance. Tapeworms live off nutrients consumed by their hosts, especially carbs, which could account for cravings. They also digest far fewer calories than a human or animal eats, so any weight loss associated with infection would more likely be a result of vomiting or diarrhoea. The intestinal can be killed off by medication and have no lasting symptoms.In the past few years, researchers have been looking at worm therapy as a way to combat certain diseases. Some scientists hypothesize that our lack of exposure to parasites has led to an increase in asthma and allergies and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s Disease. In the future, worm pills may be a legitimate fad instead of a medicinal fraud.

soapskinny babe

Placidyl was in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, used to treat insomnia. It was especially effective in patients with allergies or those that didn’t respond well to other sleep aids. Even when it was prescribed, it was one of those drugs that was known to be incredibly addictive, and one of those drugs that doctors were advised – strongly – to weigh the risk factors against the potential for good before prescribing. In 1982, the drug hit the headlines when U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist checked himself into a hospital to kick his addiction to it. It slowly began to come out that between 1972 and 1981, he had been consuming as much as a 3-month supply in a single month. His habit wasn’t noticed until he started slurring his speech in public, and afterwards, in 1986, a promotion and leaked medical records showed just how addicted he was to the sleeping pills – and how dangerous they could potentially be. It was officially defined as a “sedative-hypnotic”, with experts from Johns Hopkins stating that no one should be taking more than the recommended dose – 500 mg – for more than a week. At the height of his addiction, Rehnquist was taking 1,500 mg every day. Coming off the drug meant hallucinations, and distorted perceptions, and the media storm that followed the release of information on his drug habit and rehab helped shed a whole new light on the potential dangers of prescription drugs.

Placidyl was in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, used to treat insomnia. It was especially effective in patients with allergies or those that didn’t respond well to other sleep aids. Even when it was prescribed, it was one of those drugs that was known to be incredibly addictive, and one of those drugs that doctors were advised – strongly – to weigh the risk factors against the potential for good before prescribing. In 1982, the drug hit the headlines when U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist checked himself into a hospital to kick his addiction to it. It slowly began to come out that between 1972 and 1981, he had been consuming as much as a 3-month supply in a single month. His habit wasn’t noticed until he started slurring his speech in public, and afterwards, in 1986, a promotion and leaked medical records showed just how addicted he was to the sleeping pills – and how dangerous they could potentially be.
It was officially defined as a “sedative-hypnotic”, with experts from Johns Hopkins stating that no one should be taking more than the recommended dose – 500 mg – for more than a week. At the height of his addiction, Rehnquist was taking 1,500 mg every day. Coming off the drug meant hallucinations, and distorted perceptions, and the media storm that followed the release of information on his drug habit and rehab helped shed a whole new light on the potential dangers of prescription drugs.

Neuralgia Man (St. Jacob’s Oil) Used for centuries by Native American and Asian archers as arrowhead poisons, the deadly alkaloids of the monkshood (Aconitum sp.) root were compounded into one of America’s most widely advertised quack liniments of the 1880s. As 2% aconite in a turpentine–ether–alcohol tincture, this “antineuralgic” was sold as Sankt Jakob Oel in Germany and as “St. Jacob’s Oil” in English-speaking nations. Spuriously advertised as prepared by German monks from the Black Forest, this panacea for rheumatism, sciatica, and other painful conditions was distributed by suppliers in Maryland, Ohio, and New York. According to the Dutch-door–like “metamorphic” advertising card (pictured above, courtesy of the Wood Library-Museum), sufferers whom “St. Jacob’s Oil befriended” would find “Neuralgia tortures ended.”

Neuralgia Man (St. Jacob’s Oil)

Used for centuries by Native American and Asian archers as arrowhead poisons, the deadly alkaloids of the monkshood (Aconitum sp.) root were compounded into one of America’s most widely advertised quack liniments of the 1880s. As 2% aconite in a turpentine–ether– alcohol tincture, this “antineuralgic” was sold as Sankt Jakob Oel in Germany and as “St. Jacob’s Oil” in English-speaking nations. Spuriously advertised as prepared by German monks from the Black Forest, this panacea for rheumatism, sciatica, and other painful conditions was distributed by suppliers in Maryland, Ohio, and New York. According to the Dutch-door–like “metamorphic” advertising card (pictured above, courtesy of the Wood Library-Museum), sufferers whom “St. Jacob’s Oil befriended” would find “Neuralgia tortures ended.”

Dr. Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy at Western State Hospital, Steilacoom, July 7, 1949. The inventor of the lobotomy was given a Nobel Prize in 1949. Over 70,000 people were treated with this procedure before doctors decided it might not be a good idea to poke around in the brain with an ice pick. Imagine pushing a pick into the eye to relieve depression, schizophrenia or most any mental disorder. I get depressed thinking about it. I wonder if it is was covered by health insurance!

Dr. Walter Freeman performing a lobotomy at Western State Hospital, Steilacoom, July 7, 1949. The inventor of the lobotomy was given a Nobel Prize in 1949. Over 70,000 people were treated with this procedure before doctors decided it might not be a good idea to poke around in the brain with an ice pick. Imagine pushing a pick into the eye to relieve depression, schizophrenia or most any mental disorder. I get depressed thinking about it. I wonder if it is was covered by health insurance!

Holloway’s Pills Thomas Holloway sold pills and ointment, and he did it so successfully that at the end of the 19th century, he was one of the richest men in England. Unlike many of his competitors, Holloway was selling pills that were mostly (it’s thought) harmless. Analysis has shown they contain mostly myrrh, aloe and saffron, so it’s likely they didn’t kill as many people as other pills. What makes him truly noteworthy are his advertising campaigns and the fortune he made from his pills. The ads were little short of epic. Starting out, he recruited his brother to go into chemists around London and request his pills. When they didn’t have them, his brother would make an absolute scene and storm out. Fortunately, Holloway was right behind him, with a stash of pills to sell in order to keep customers happy. Some of his advertisements went straight for the heart, pointing out that children often got sick more than adults, with many kids dying before they were eight-years-old. If parents didn’t want their kids to die, they’d better give them regular doses of Holloway’s pills in order to keep the humours in balance and the body happy. So what were they supposed to do? They were weirdly, brilliantly universal, said to cure everything from gout, swelling and rheumatism to all skin diseases, tumours and cancers. Anyone could take them, everyone should take them, and many people did take them – so many, in fact, that when he died, his fortune helped finance the Royal Holloway College.

Holloway’s Pills

Thomas Holloway sold pills and ointment, and he did it so successfully that at the end of the 19th century, he was one of the richest men in England. Unlike many of his competitors, Holloway was selling pills that were mostly (it’s thought) harmless. Analysis has shown they contain mostly myrrh, aloe and saffron, so it’s likely they didn’t kill as many people as other pills. What makes him truly noteworthy are his advertising campaigns and the fortune he made from his pills. The ads were little short of epic. Starting out, he recruited his brother to go into chemists around London and request his pills. When they didn’t have them, his brother would make an absolute scene and storm out. Fortunately, Holloway was right behind him, with a stash of pills to sell in order to keep customers happy.
Some of his advertisements went straight for the heart, pointing out that children often got sick more than adults, with many kids dying before they were eight-years-old. If parents didn’t want their kids to die, they’d better give them regular doses of Holloway’s pills in order to keep the humours in balance and the body happy.
So what were they supposed to do? They were weirdly, brilliantly universal, said to cure everything from gout, swelling and rheumatism to all skin diseases, tumours and cancers. Anyone could take them, everyone should take them, and many people did take them – so many, in fact, that when he died, his fortune helped finance the Royal Holloway College.

enema 2

Tobacco Smoke Enema. The tobacco smoke enema was a medical procedure that was widely used in western medicine, during the turn of the 19th century. The treatment included an insufflation of tobacco smoke into the patient’s rectum by enema. The agricultural product of tobacco was recognized as a medicine soon after it was first imported from the New World. During this time, tobacco smoke was widely used by western medical practitioners as a tool against many ailments, including headaches, respiratory failure, stomach cramps, colds and drowsiness. The idea to apply tobacco smoke with an enema was a technique appropriated from the North American Indians. It was believed that the procedure could treat gut pain, and attempts were often made to resuscitate victims of near drowning. Many medical journals from this time noted that the human body can undergo a stimulation of respiration through the introduction of tobacco smoke by a rectal tube. In fact, by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in western medicine. The treatment was considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration. Meaning, if you stopped breathing, the doctor’s first action was to shove a tube up your rectum and to begin pumping tobacco smoke in your body. Tobacco enemas were used to treat hernias and the smoke was often supplemented with other substances, including chicken broth. According to a report from 1835, tobacco enemas were used successfully to treat cholera during the “stage of collapse”. Attacks on the theories surrounding the ability of tobacco to cure diseases began early in the 17th century, with King James I publically denouncing the treatment. In 1811, English scientist Benjamin Brodie demonstrated that nicotine, the principal active agent in tobacco smoke, is a cardiac poison that can stop the circulation of blood in animals. This ground breaking report directly led to a quick decline in the use of tobacco smoke enem

Tobacco Smoke Enema. The tobacco smoke enema was a medical procedure that was widely used in western medicine, during the turn of the 19th century. The treatment included an insufflation of tobacco smoke into the patient’s rectum by enema. The agricultural product of tobacco was recognized as a medicine soon after it was first imported from the New World. During this time, tobacco smoke was widely used by western medical practitioners as a tool against many ailments, including headaches, respiratory failure, stomach cramps, colds and drowsiness. The idea to apply tobacco smoke with an enema was a technique appropriated from the North American Indians. It was believed that the procedure could treat gut pain, and attempts were often made to resuscitate victims of near drowning. Many medical journals from this time noted that the human body can undergo a stimulation of respiration through the introduction of tobacco smoke by a rectal tube. In fact, by the turn of the 19th century, tobacco smoke enemas had become an established practice in western medicine. The treatment was considered by Humane Societies to be as important as artificial respiration. Meaning, if you stopped breathing, the doctor’s first action was to shove a tube up your rectum and to begin pumping tobacco smoke in your body. Tobacco enemas were used to treat hernias and the smoke was often supplemented with other substances, including chicken broth. According to a report from 1835, tobacco enemas were used successfully to treat cholera during the “stage of collapse”. Attacks on the theories surrounding the ability of tobacco to cure diseases began early in the 17th century, with King James I publically denouncing the treatment. In 1811, English scientist Benjamin Brodie demonstrated that nicotine, the principal active agent in tobacco smoke, is a cardiac poison that can stop the circulation of blood in animals. This ground breaking report directly led to a quick decline in the use of tobacco smoke enema.

Dr Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets. Dr Ray Vaughn Pierce got his start in Buffalo, NY but it wasn’t long before he built up an empire that included a facility in London and offered worldwide shipping. He also founded the Pierce’s Palace Hotel in 1878, designed as a cross between a hotel and a hospital for patients visiting from all over the world. His pills had fun names, like Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery Pills, Smart Weed, and Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets, and knowing what we know now – the contents – it’s no wonder they were popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, The Ladies Home Journal tested a selection of pills to see just what was in his miracle cures. They contained, of course, opium and alcohol, and led to the good doctor leading the opposition to a law that threatened to bring the whole snake-oil market crashing down. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was poised to put a stop to exactly those kind of things, but miraculously, he won his lawsuit. In 1903, the company began claiming it had discontinued any potentially dangerous substances in its pills, and ingredients leaned more towards cinnamon and sugar than opium. Irrespective of them claims, neither they nor the lawsuit kept him from winning seats in both the Senate and then the House of Representatives. Ironically, perhaps, much of the fortune he built from selling his miracle cures was lost when he invested poorly in California gold and coal. Pierce is buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, but his buildings have long since disappeared.

Dr Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets.

Dr Ray Vaughn Pierce got his start in Buffalo, NY but it wasn’t long before he built up an empire that included a facility in London and offered worldwide shipping. He also founded the Pierce’s Palace Hotel in 1878, designed as a cross between a hotel and a hospital for patients visiting from all over the world. His pills had fun names, like Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery Pills, Smart Weed, and Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets, and knowing what we know now – the contents – it’s no wonder they were popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, The Ladies Home Journal tested a selection of pills to see just what was in his miracle cures. They contained, of course, opium and alcohol, and led to the good doctor leading the opposition to a law that threatened to bring the whole snake-oil market crashing down. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was poised to put a stop to exactly those kind of things, but miraculously, he won his lawsuit.
In 1903, the company began claiming it had discontinued any potentially dangerous substances in its pills, and ingredients leaned more towards cinnamon and sugar than opium. Irrespective of them claims, neither they nor the lawsuit kept him from winning seats in both the Senate and then the House of Representatives. Ironically, perhaps, much of the fortune he built from selling his miracle cures was lost when he invested poorly in California gold and coal. Pierce is buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, but his buildings have long since disappeared.

Curing Shell Shock with Pills At the end of World War One, 80,000 returning British soldiers were diagnosed with what was then called shell shock. Countless more suffered in silence, while those on the home front tried to come to terms with the loss of fathers, sons, husbands and friends. And, bizarrely, a whole bunch of over-the-counter remedies were available to cure it. Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were supposed to cure nervous collapse and indigestion, and according to the testimony given by one Mrs. Brickett, they had successfully cured her nerves after she went through an air raid. They were advertised as completely restorative and anti-spasmodic, a cure not only for shell shock but for paralysis, headache, heart palpitations, wasting diseases and – even more bizarrely – loss of flesh and premature decay. Phosferine had an actual veteran as its spokesperson, who talked about being caught in the trenches and the nightmares that followed him home. Wine and alcohol merchants had their own brand of tonics as well, and Hall’s Wine was reported to have been particularly successful in fortifying the nerves of those caught in air raids. There were others, too, of course – many of which contained substances like morphine and cocaine.

Curing Shell Shock with Pills.

At the end of World War One, 80,000 returning British soldiers were diagnosed with what was then called shell shock. Countless more suffered in silence, while those on the home front tried to come to terms with the loss of fathers, sons, husbands and friends. And, bizarrely, a whole bunch of over-the-counter remedies were available to cure it. Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were supposed to cure nervous collapse and indigestion, and according to the testimony given by one Mrs. Brickett, they had successfully cured her nerves after she went through an air raid. They were advertised as completely restorative and anti-spasmodic, a cure not only for shell shock but for paralysis, headache, heart palpitations, wasting diseases and – even more bizarrely – loss of flesh and premature decay.
Phosferine had an actual veteran as its spokesperson, who talked about being caught in the trenches and the nightmares that followed him home. Wine and alcohol merchants had their own brand of tonics as well, and Hall’s Wine was reported to have been particularly successful in fortifying the nerves of those caught in air raids. There were others, too, of course – many of which contained substances like morphine and cocaine.

Carrington’s Life Pills. The Reverend Caleb Carrington, Vicar of Berkeley, was the seller of, if advertising is to be believed, some of the most amazing pills ever. Like many of his contemporaries, Carrington’s Life Pills were rumored to be good for digestion, female complaints, and the prevention of “many fatal acute diseases”. According to an angry letter in the Monthly Gazette of Health, Vol. VIII, 1823, he also promised that the pills would “create a soul under the ribs of death”…. and while we’re not entirely sure just what means exactly, it goes without saying that even by then, people were rather upset that this man of God felt it necessary to sell cures for the body as well as tend the soul. Carrington may also have caught onto something incredibly important that many others overlooked – actually feeling the effects of the drug. The major ingredient in the pills was capsicum, or chili peppers. It seems an odd ingredient for a cure-all, but he’s not entirely off-base as far as history is concerned. Red pepper has been used to relieve muscle pains, treat respiratory illnesses, and as a torture device.

Carrington’s Life Pills.

The Reverend Caleb Carrington, Vicar of Berkeley, was the seller of, if advertising is to be believed, some of the most amazing pills ever. Like many of his contemporaries, Carrington’s Life Pills were rumored to be good for digestion, female complaints, and the prevention of “many fatal acute diseases”. According to an angry letter in the Monthly Gazette of Health, Vol. VIII, 1823, he also promised that the pills would “create a soul under the ribs of death”…. and while we’re not entirely sure just what means exactly, it goes without saying that even by then, people were rather upset that this man of God felt it necessary to sell cures for the body as well as tend the soul.
Carrington may also have caught onto something incredibly important that many others overlooked – actually feeling the effects of the drug. The major ingredient in the pills was capsicum, or chili peppers. It seems an odd ingredient for a cure-all, but he’s not entirely off-base as far as history is concerned. Red pepper has been used to relieve muscle pains, treat respiratory illnesses, and as a torture device.

Wendell’s Ambition Pills. Are you a man? More specifically, are you a man who’s nervous and weak, prone to nightmares, sleeplessness, and overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding? Do you have enlarged veins? Do you suffer from a lack of confidence, uncontrollable trembling, or ineffective kidneys? If so, you’ll need Wendell’s Ambition Pills. Advertised even into the early 20th century, Wendell’s Ambition Pills were said to be able to cure all that ailed a weak and nervous man, giving him the confidence to achieve and a healthy aura to go along with his new-found success and motivation. They were so confident that they were offering a money-back guarantee, and for only $1 per box ($5 for six boxes, price to soon go up!) what did you have to lose? Besides, of course, your life. The American Medical Association published the results of an investigation into the ambition pills in its 1918 edition, and found that the pills contained strychnine, iron, pepper, cinnamon and ginger. The A.M.A. saw this as a major problem, as sale of the so-called ambition pills was unregulated, and it was entirely possible for anyone to buy a box that contained enough strychnine to kill a grown person.

Wendell’s Ambition Pills.

Are you a man? More specifically, are you a man who’s nervous and weak, prone to nightmares, sleeplessness, and overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding? Do you have enlarged veins? Do you suffer from a lack of confidence, uncontrollable trembling, or ineffective kidneys? If so, you’ll need Wendell’s Ambition Pills. Advertised even into the early 20th century, Wendell’s Ambition Pills were said to be able to cure all that ailed a weak and nervous man, giving him the confidence to achieve and a healthy aura to go along with his new-found success and motivation. They were so confident that they were offering a money-back guarantee, and for only $1 per box ($5 for six boxes, price to soon go up!) what did you have to lose? Besides, of course, your life.
The American Medical Association published the results of an investigation into the ambition pills in its 1918 edition, and found that the pills contained strychnine, iron, pepper, cinnamon and ginger. The A.M.A. saw this as a major problem, as sale of the so-called ambition pills was unregulated, and it was entirely possible for anyone to buy a box that contained enough strychnine to kill a grown person.

Electric Inhaler Trade Card The Electric Inhaler that doesn’t even use electricity! This card from the 1890s advertises inhaled pain relief for headache, neuralgia, and a variety of maladies – for only 25 cents with a money-back guarantee. Manufactured by Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, the novel idea of the face on the bottle probably appealed to all ages of pain sufferers. The little face invites the user to move his tongue (which is actually a little lever), which opens his eyes (which act as air inlet channels).

Electric Inhaler Trade Card.

The Electric Inhaler that doesn’t even use electricity! This card from the 1890s advertises inhaled pain relief for headache, neuralgia, and a variety of maladies – for only 25 cents with a money-back guarantee. Manufactured by Abbott’s Menthol Plaster Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, the novel idea of the face on the bottle probably appealed to all ages of pain sufferers. The little face invites the user to move his tongue (which is actually a little lever), which opens his eyes (which act as air inlet channels).

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup. The term “patent medicines” refers to "over-the-counter" preparations that generally were not patented, but trademarked. One of the most infamous of these was "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup." In 1845, druggists Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins, of Bangor, Maine, partnered to manufacture this remedy. The story goes that Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, Curtis’ mother-in-law, created the formula while she was a nurse caring for infants. Like many of the patent medicines available at the time, its makers claimed it was a cure for teething pain and a number of other ills experienced by infants. Visually their advertising was attractive and often presented idyllic domestic images of mother and child. Because the two primary ingredients in Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup were morphine and alcohol it is not surprising that the syrup relieved pain and diarrhea (a common side effect of all opioids is constipation). In an 1868 court summary, Curtis reported selling more than 1.5 million bottles of the remedy annually. Throughout the 1800s ingredients did not have to be listed on labels, and consumers were often unaware of the contents of the remedies they purchased. "Mrs. Winslow's" was denounced by the American Medical Association in 1911, but continued to be sold as late as 1930.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.

The term “patent medicines” refers to “over-the-counter” preparations that generally were not patented, but trademarked. One of the most infamous of these was “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.” In 1845, druggists Jeremiah Curtis and Benjamin A. Perkins, of Bangor, Maine, partnered to manufacture this remedy. The story goes that Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, Curtis’ mother-in-law, created the formula while she was a nurse caring for infants. Like many of the patent medicines available at the time, its makers claimed it was a cure for teething pain and a number of other ills experienced by infants. Visually their advertising was attractive and often presented idyllic domestic images of mother and child.
Because the two primary ingredients in Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup were morphine and alcohol it is not surprising that the syrup relieved pain and diarrhea (a common side effect of all opioids is constipation). In an 1868 court summary, Curtis reported selling more than 1.5 million bottles of the remedy annually. Throughout the 1800s ingredients did not have to be listed on labels, and consumers were often unaware of the contents of the remedies they purchased. “Mrs. Winslow’s” was denounced by the American Medical Association in 1911, but continued to be sold as late as 1930.

Pink Pills for Pale People.If you had a pale complexion that you absolutely weren’t happy about, there were a couple of different options for you. Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People claimed that paleness was usually a sign that something was wrong, and his pills could fix all that. Advertisements cited the case of the copper-coloured 17-year-old Miss Bridges, who was suffering from heart palpitations, lack of appetite, and sleeplessness. A round of Pink Pills for Pale People and she perked right up. The pills were also highly recommended for girls approaching womanhood, where they would prevent early death, consumption and “early decay”. The pills were mostly ferrous sulphate, and thus had a mild effect on the amount of iron in the blood, though at too small a dose to be particularly useful. As a footnote, there was no Dr. Williams. The creator was actually George Fulford of Ontario, Canada, who, in 1905, he receive the rather strange honour of becoming the first Canadian to die in a car crash. If pink pills weren’t your style, there were also Dr. MacKenzie’s Improved Harmless Arsenic Complexion Wafers in the UK, marketed as Dr. Campbell’s Safe Arsenic Wafers across the pond. Not only would they clear up the standard skin problems, they also claimed to help a person recover their natural complexion after illness. And yes, it has arsenic in the name. The effects of arsenic were well-known; in 1880, newspapers were already reporting deaths from arsenic consumption. And in 1911, an 18-year-old in St. Louis died after taking a box of the “harmless” wafers in an attempt to clear his skin.

Pink Pills for Pale People.

If you had a pale complexion that you absolutely weren’t happy about, there were a couple of different options for you. Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People claimed that paleness was usually a sign that something was wrong, and his pills could fix all that. Advertisements cited the case of the copper-coloured 17-year-old Miss Bridges, who was suffering from heart palpitations, lack of appetite, and sleeplessness. A round of Pink Pills for Pale People and she perked right up. The pills were also highly recommended for girls approaching womanhood, where they would prevent early death, consumption and “early decay”. The pills were mostly ferrous sulphate, and thus had a mild effect on the amount of iron in the blood, though at too small a dose to be particularly useful. As a footnote, there was no Dr. Williams. The creator was actually George Fulford of Ontario, Canada, who, in 1905, he receive the rather strange honour of becoming the first Canadian to die in a car crash.
If pink pills weren’t your style, there were also Dr. MacKenzie’s Improved Harmless Arsenic Complexion Wafers in the UK, marketed as Dr. Campbell’s Safe Arsenic Wafers across the pond. Not only would they clear up the standard skin problems, they also claimed to help a person recover their natural complexion after illness.
And yes, it has arsenic in the name. The effects of arsenic were well-known; in 1880, newspapers were already reporting deaths from arsenic consumption. And in 1911, an 18-year-old in St. Louis died after taking a box of the “harmless” wafers in an attempt to clear his skin.

Beecham’s Pills Thomas Beecham was an amateur herbalist who once raised animals in the Oxfordshire countryside. In 1840, he set off to make his fortune with Beecham’s Pills, good for everything from that uncomfortable, full feeling you get after meals, to drowsiness, bad dreams, scurvy and skin conditions. They were especially valuable to women, who could take them to clear up any female complaints they might have. By 1858, Beecham had his own factory and was exporting his pills all over the British Empire. In 1912, the British Medical Association investigated and found that the pills were made from aloe, ginger, and powdered soap. Even though they published their findings, the pills remained hugely popular well into the 1950s. In fact, they stayed on the market until 1998. The strangest part Beecham’s Pills is perhaps the verse that they inspired. In 1894, doggerel poet William McGongall was hired on to write an advertisement for the company, which is odd, because McGongall was such a bad poet that his public performances had been outlawed in Edinburgh because of the chaos that always followed and the dead fish that were inevitably thrown. So, we’ll leave you with this double-Retro Fail, William McGongall’s ode to Beecham’s Pills. What ho! sickly people of high and low degree I pray ye all be warned by me; No matter what may be your bodily ills The safest and quickest cure is Beecham’s Pills. They are admitted to be worth a guinea a box For bilious and nervous disorders, also smallpox, And dizziness and drowsiness, also cold chills, And for such diseases nothing else can equal Beecham’s Pills They have been proved by thousands that have tried them So that the people cannot them condemn. Be advised by me one and all Is the advice of Poet McGonagall.

Beecham’s Pills.

Thomas Beecham was an amateur herbalist who once raised animals in the Oxfordshire countryside. In 1840, he set off to make his fortune with Beecham’s Pills, good for everything from that uncomfortable, full feeling you get after meals, to drowsiness, bad dreams, scurvy and skin conditions. They were especially valuable to women, who could take them to clear up any female complaints they might have. By 1858, Beecham had his own factory and was exporting his pills all over the British Empire. In 1912, the British Medical Association investigated and found that the pills were made from aloe, ginger, and powdered soap. Even though they published their findings, the pills remained hugely popular well into the 1950s. In fact, they stayed on the market until 1998.
The strangest part Beecham’s Pills is perhaps the verse that they inspired. In 1894, doggerel poet William McGongall was hired on to write an advertisement for the company, which is odd, because McGongall was such a bad poet that his public performances had been outlawed in Edinburgh because of the chaos that always followed and the dead fish that were inevitably thrown. So, I’ll leave you with this double-Retro Fail, William McGongall’s ode to Beecham’s Pills.

What ho! sickly people of high and low degree
I pray ye all be warned by me;
No matter what may be your bodily ills
The safest and quickest cure is Beecham’s Pills.
They are admitted to be worth a guinea a box
For bilious and nervous disorders, also smallpox,
And dizziness and drowsiness, also cold chills,
And for such diseases nothing else can equal Beecham’s Pills
They have been proved by thousands that have tried them
So that the people cannot them condemn.
Be advised by me one and all
Is the advice of Poet McGonagall.

Worm therapy

Werewolf Diet

Wife Selling in England & 17C-18C early America

 ‘The British Scandal’: Victorian Spouse-Selling.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup | Wood Library-Museum

STRANGE MEDICINE – 19th Century Bottle Diggers

 


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  • andrewo

    So they actually DID blow smoke up peoples’ arses!
    I thought it was a more recent invention of the Labour Party

    • Chinaman

      ”Narcotics such as morphine, chloroform, heroin, and cannabis were used to calm children so that their parent’s could handle them better, all with the backing of the medical community.”

      I see somethings have not changed..now over active boys are diagnosed as being ADD and drugged up with Ritalin!

      • Catriona

        Keeps the drug companies in clover prescribing all this Ritalin. ADD = Absence of Doting Dads.

  • Sagacious Blonde

    Thanks, that’s gold today. Just kept getting funnier.
    A good cure for a headache, (no doubt hysteria too), is to head to bed ;-)

  • Cadwallader

    “Ambition Pills!” These would be ideal medication for a certain Mr Little.

  • Huia

    I think I feel a bout of hysteria coming on…… wonder what Hugh Jackman is doing this afternoon!

  • Catriona

    I love the ‘Ambition’ pills best. Although the Magic Power of Gentle Massage’ looks appealing and I’d prefer my husband to administer it and not my GP thank you very much!

  • andrewo

    The hysteria ailment among women is still an issue: I know more than one with “a tendency to cause trouble”

  • Eddie

    I wonder if Dr Swift was born with that name or if it was bestowed upon him to reflect his abilities.

  • Oskar

    The “Pink pills for pale people” reminded me of another medicine of the time. In 1968 a British pop group redid an old song about this herbal medicine and released it under the name of “Lily the Pink”. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x8D4T–0v4

    According to Wkipedia “The U.S. American folk (or drinking) song on which Lily the Pink was based is generally known as “Lydia Pinkham” or “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham”. The song was inspired by Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a well-known herbal-alcoholic patent medicine for women. Supposed to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains, the compound was mass-marketed in the United States from 1876 onwards.

  • Charlie

    So what’s changed, go to your local pharmacy and check out all the outrageous claims for the homeopathic rubbish that they sell. Rescue remedy, No jet lag, etc. Zero active ingredients in them all so I guess they won’t cause harm except to your wallet. According to the Pharmaceutical guild pharmacies are not to market anything that is not proven to work, but when approached about it they just said Oh well, some people appear to find some benefit in them. That would undoubtedly be the Pharmacist when he banks the takings.

  • Jman

    One can see plenty of examples of such quackery still going on today in New Zealand. Homepathy and accupuncture are two good examples. Here’s another:

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