Cures What Ails Ya

It’s not a drug known for its benefits to health. In fact, if you were caught with this class A substance and claimed it was for ‘medicinal purposes’ you’d probably be laughed at all the way to the police station.

But, bizarrely, cocaine – and other drugs like morphine – were routinely used in remedies for coughs, colds and toothaches as a cure-all magic ingredient in the Victorian era.

Long before the drugs were criminalized – and prior to the regulation of both medicine and advertising – the substances were frequently touted as effective treatments for illnesses as serious as cancer and liver disease.

 
Inappropriate: An advert for cocaine toothache drops, marketed at children, which cost just 15 cents in 1885 
 
An advert for Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup, a patent medicine of the late 19th century which contained morphine, and was used as a cure for teething troubles in infants
 advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, a patent medicine of the late 19th century which contained morphine, and was used as a cure for teething troubles in infants

These bizarre posters reveal the lethal medical concoctions containing cocaine and opium once unwittingly consumed by millions.

The quack cure advertisements – often depicting children – claimed to heal a long list of illnesses.

But the miracle cures were often loaded with substances such as cocaine, morphine and alcohol – all of which have been proven to be detrimental to our health in large doses.

Seems we’ve come a long way.

Up in smoke: An advert produced by Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars don't damage health because they are pure and scientific  An advert produced by Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars don’t damage health because they are pure and scientific
 
 
 
An advert from 1900s for Vin Mariani, French tonic wine made from coca leaves, a source of cocaine
A drug advert from 1891 for a kidney and liver cure from US drug company Warner
An advert from 1900s for Vin Mariani (upper), French tonic wine made from coca leaves, a source of cocaine. Pictured (lower) is a drug advert from 1891 for a kidney and liver cure from US drug company Warner.
 

Dr Seth Arnold's Cough Killer, which contained morphine, from the late 1800s was claimed to cure coughs, asthma, pneumonia, malaria and many other diseases

Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer, which contained morphine, from the late 1800s was claimed to cure coughs, asthma, pneumonia, malaria and many other diseases

All the products were once readily available over the counter and millions rushed to snap them up around the world in the late 1800s.

One advert for Ozone paper urges buyers to ignite its special paper and inhale the smoke to cure their asthma and bronchitis.

While Dr Seth Arnold’s Cough Killer’s campaign showed a young girl clutching a puppy – but contained high levels of Morphine.

Another ad dating back to 1885 advertised its ‘instantaneous cure’ for toothache – using cocaine.

 
Purely ridiculous: These products from the early 1900s were advertised as a 'blood purifier' to treat cancer
Purely ridiculous: These products from the early 1900s were advertised as a ‘blood purifier’ to treat cancer
 
 
 
An advert from 1895 selling a product that makes you fat, something seen as the sign of good health before regulation was introduced
An advertisement for an anti-fat remedy, patented by the Botanic Medicine Company, Buffalo, New York, in 1878
 Weighty issue: An advert, (upper), from 1895 selling a product that makes you fat – something seen as the sign of good health- and one for weight loss,(lower), in 1878
 
An advert for Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup for children from the late 19th century, which contained morphine
 advert for Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for children from the late 19th century, which contained morphine

Stephen Jackson, a quack cure and medicine historian, said: ‘There were a lot of medicines before the 1900s that incorporated cocaine and alcohol, simply because they were cheap components.

‘Since nobody tested them to see if they lived up to their wild claims, companies could say and claim anything they wanted to.

‘They invested a tremendous amount of money in advertising and the public was pretty gullible. People made a tremendous amount of money around the world hawking this stuff.

‘They used a lot of alcohol in products for kidney and liver problems for example, which is the last thing you want in that situation.

Dr Scott's Electric Flesh Brush, featured in this 1881 advert, is a concept still used today. Millions use body brushes to improve circulation and skin conditionDr Scott’s Electric Flesh Brush, featured in this 1881 advert, is a concept still used today. Millions use body brushes to improve circulation and skin condition
 
 
An advert from 1912 claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter
An advert from 1912 claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter
 An advert from 1912 (upper) claiming to offer treatment for female diseases and piles, which consisted mainly of cocoa butter. A breast enlargement advert (lower) dating from the early 1900s
 
This tubular device claimed to cure erectile dysfunction in the 1900s. The Vital Power massager created a vacuum via a crank that supposedly increased blood flow to the penis
This tubular device claimed to cure erectile dysfunction in the 1900s. The Vital Power massager created a vacuum via a crank that supposedly increased blood flow to the penis

Shock tactics: This advertisement from 1889 shows a product that supplied patients with a continuous current of low intensity electricity for a range of health remedies

Shock tactics: This advertisement from 1889 shows a product that supplied patients with a continuous current of low intensity electricity for a range of health remedies

 
 
Vintage health clinic advertisement in a newspaper dating from the early 1900's for Dr. Flint, Chicago Rupture Specialist, an unproven proprietary or patent medicine
Vintage health clinic advertisement in a newspaper dating from the early 1900’s for Dr. Flint, Chicago Rupture Specialist, an unproven proprietary or patent medicine
 
Attribution: Daily Mail
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About thecommonconstitutionalist

Brent is not a scholar. He’s not an author or speaker (yet). He hasn’t published a book nor does he write articles for magazines (yet). He has no advanced literary degree or pedigree (never will). He is just an American who writes and shares what interests him. He cares about the salvation of this country and a return to its Constitutional roots. He believes in God, country and family.
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