We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, May 7. 2014
A Cholagogue containing Iron, Quine, Strychnine, and who knows what else:
I found this somewhere:
Patent medicine refers to medical compounds of questionable effectiveness sold under a variety of names and labels. The term "patent medicine" is somewhat of a misnomer because, in most cases, although many of the products were trademarked, they were never patented ~ most avoided the patent process so as not to reveal products' often hazardous and questionable ingredients. Perhaps the only "patent medicine" ever to be patented was Castoria. In ancient times, such medicine was called nostrum remedium ("our remedy" in Latin). The name patent medicine has become particularly associated with the sale of drug compounds in the nineteenth century under an array of colorful names and even more colorful claims.
The promotion of patent medicines was one of the first major products highlighted by the advertising industry, and many advertising and sales techniques were pioneered by patent medicine promoters. Patent medicine advertising often talked up exotic ingredients, even if their actual effects came from more prosaic drugs. One memorable group of patent medicines - liniments that allegedly contained snake oil, supposedly a panacea - made snake oil salesman a lasting synonym for a charlatan.
The phrase "patent medicine" comes from the late 17th century marketing of medical elixirs, when those who found favor with royalty were issued letters patent authorizing the use of the royal endorsement in advertising. Few if any of the nostrums were actually patented; chemical patents did not come into use in the United States until 1925. Furthermore, patenting one of these remedies would have meant publicly disclosing its ingredients, which most promoters sought to avoid.
Instead, the compounders of such nostrums used a primitive version of branding to distinguish their products from the crowd of their competitors. Many familiar names from the era live on today in brands such as Luden's cough drops, Lydia E. Pinkham's vegetable compound for women, Fletcher's Castoria and even Angostura bitters, which was once marketed as a stomachic. Though sold at high prices, many of these products were made from cheap ingredients. Their composition was well known within the pharmacy trade, and druggists would sell, for a slightly lower price, medicines of almost identical composition which they had manufactured themselves. To protect profits, the branded medicine advertisements laid great emphasis on the brand names, and urged the public to accept no substitutes.
At least in the earliest days, the history of patent medicines is coextensive with allopathic medicine. Empirical medicine, and the beginning of the application of the scientific method to medicine, began to yield a few orthodoxly acceptable herbal and mineral drugs for the physician's arsenal. These few remedies, on the other hand, were inadequate to cover the bewildering variety of diseases and symptoms. Beyond these patches of allopathic application, people used other methods, such as occultism; the "doctrine of signatures" - essentially, the application of sympathetic magic to pharmacology - held that nature had hidden clues to medically effective drugs in their resemblances to the human body and its parts. This led medical men to hope, at least, that, say, walnut shells might be good for skull fractures. Given the state of the pharmacopoeia, and patients' demands for something to take, physicians began making "blunderbuss" concoctions of various drugs, proven and unproven. These concoctions were the ancestors of the several nostrums.
Touting these nostrums was one of the first major projects of the advertising industry. The marketing of nostrums under implausible claims has a long history. In Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749), allusion is made to the sale of medical compounds claimed to be universal panaceas:
As to Squire Western, he was seldom out of the sick-room, unless when he was engaged either in the field or over his bottle. Nay, he would sometimes retire hither to take his beer, and it was not without difficulty that he was prevented from forcing Jones to take his beer too: for no quack ever held his nostrum to be a more general panacea than he did this; which, he said, had more virtue in it than was in all the physic in an apothecary's shop.
Within the English-speaking world, patent medicines are as old as journalism. "Anderson's Pills" were first made in England in the 1630s; the recipe was allegedly learned in Venice by a Scot who claimed to be physician to King Charles I. Daffy's Elixir was invented about 1647 and remained popular in Britain and the USA until the late 19th century. The use of "letters patent" to obtain exclusive marketing rights to certain labeled formulas and their marketing fueled the circulation of early newspapers. The use of invented names began early. In 1726 a patent was also granted to the makers of "Dr. Bateman's Pectoral Drops"; at least on the documents that survive, there was no Dr. Bateman. This was the enterprise of a Benjamin Okell and a group of promoters who owned a warehouse and a print shop to promote the product.
A number of American institutions owe their existence to the patent medicine industry, most notably a number of the older almanacs, which were originally given away as promotional items by patent medicine manufacturers. Perhaps the most successful industry that grew up out of the business of patent medicine advertisements, though, was founded by William H. Gannett in Maine in 1866. There were few circulating newspapers in Maine in that era, so Gannett founded a periodical, Comfort, whose chief purpose was to propose the merits of Oxien, a nostrum made from the fruit of the baobab tree, to the rural folks of Maine. Gannett's newspaper became the first publication of Guy Gannett Communications, which eventually owned four Maine dailies and several television stations. (The family-owned firm is unrelated to the Gannett Corporation that publishes USA Today.) An early pioneer in the use of advertising to promote patent medicine was New York businessman Benjamin Brandreth, whose "Vegetable Universal Pill" eventually became one of the best-selling patent medicines in the United States.[ A congressional committee in 1849 reported that Brandreth was the nations largest proprietary advertiser. Between 1862 and 1863 Brandreth's average annual gross income surpassed $600,000 For fifty years Brandreths name was a household word in the United States. Indeed, the Brandreth pills were so well known they received mention in Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick.
Kickapoo Indian "Sagwa", sold at medicine shows. Another method of publicity undertaken mostly by smaller firms was the "medicine show," a traveling circus of sorts which offered vaudeville-style entertainments on a small scale, and which climaxed in a pitch for the nostrum being sold. "Muscle man" acts were especially popular on these tours, for this enabled the salesman to tout the physical vigour offered by the potion he was selling. The showmen frequently employed shills, who would step forward from the crowd and offer "unsolicited" testimonials about the benefits of the medicine for sale. Often, the nostrum was manufactured and bottled in the same wagon in which the show traveled. The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company became one of the largest and most successful medicine show operators. Their shows had an American Indian or Wild West theme, and employed many Native Americans as spokespeople. The "medicine show" lived on in American folklore and Western movies long after they had vanished from public meeting places.
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When I was growing up, Hadacol was the big patent medicine. The name was said to come from "well, we 'had a call' it something".
Dose makes the poison. Strychnine does indeed have a tonic effect on the nerves AT LOW DOSAGE. Too much is, of course, too much.