Welcome to the world of patent medicine
The year is 1898. You wake up on a cold morning and the full effects of a cold hit you: coughing, sneezing, and fever. Like any self-respecting American in the latter half of the 19th century, you pop on over to your local post office or hairdresser in search of a remedy. There, you buy a small vial of liquid with some fantastic name like “Dr. Seth Arnold’s Balsam” or “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup”. The packaging claims that it cures anything from a toothache to a full-blown cold just five minutes flat. What the packaging doesn’t say, of course, is that the ‘medicine,’ which is applied topically to the skin, contains opium, morphine, and alcohol.
Patent medicines reached peak popularity at the turn of the 20th century. While the name implies some sort of regulation behind the creation of these compounds, nothing could be further from the truth. Patent medicines were anything that people trademarked and sold as medicine–whether or not they actually worked was beside the point. Manufacturers intentionally suppressed the true ingredients of their remedies in order to woo new customers. If it doesn’t actually cure your cold, the high dose of cocaine might trick you into thinking otherwise.
With mounting concern from doctors and government officials, the use of patent medicines was slowly phased out with the creation of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906,
The 1898 issue of Practical Druggist depicts Vin Mariani, a wine-based tonic created by the French chemist Angelo Mariani in 1863.After his curiosity was piqued about the commercial and medical applications of cocaine, Mariani mixed coca leaves into vats of Bordeaux and market his elixir as Vin Mariani. The end result was a wine with 7.2 milligrams of cocaine per ounce. Winning over notable people such as Pope Leo, who bestowed a Vatican gold medal to the wine, and Thomas Edison, who claimed that the wine helped him stay awake and work longer hours.
King Henry VIII presents charter to barber surgeons
This Chinese herbal doctor was known for his leechcraft: Li Shizhen