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Friday, January 1, 2010

One Lump or Two?

I enjoy discovering outdated medicine, no, not from a medicine chest, I mean the potions, papers, and promotions from the past that presented the promise of a cure.  The lack of knowledge for human physiology in the 19th century led to some bizarre claims.  My top 10 would have to include Vin Mariani, the cocaine-laced wine from an earlier post (you'll need to scroll down near the bottom if you want to see the true "Blotto" Blotter.)  Keep reading for a few more from my top 10.

I don't know exactly what the resolution was for the patient to the left. I guess it is the sleep of relief from a terrible headache due to cold or allergy. Maybe, it is more trans-formative, the stressed-out parent, after caring for baby all day, is now a docile pup.  Thank you Dr. Mettaur, I feel better, Woof!  For a better look at this wrapper and also the full text of the reverse side, take a look at this blog dedicated solely to old paper, aptly named This Old Paper (click on the link)

Without a standard and certified method for training all medical practitioners, heck, it seemed as though just about anyone in the late 19th century could be a doctor, or at least a "Practical Therapeutist". I'm not saying the entire field of medicine was a sham, Surgery was probably  tough  to fake, but there were plenty of other medical fields whose practices were questionable.

How about Phrenology?  All you needed to do was to give someone a good long look, jot down some notes, and start studying the bumps on their head. This book is full of atrocities in medical voodoo if-your-chin-is-too-droopy-you-are-destined-to-be-the-dregs-of-society type info. I will dedicate another post to this comedy of errors another time. In the meantime: How would you know which bumps meant an early marriage, leprosy, or maybe just a good crop of corn come fall?  Just review the map of the brain:

Now take a look at what it took to get a Medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1863:

This came out a book of useful recipes and mixtures and concoctions for just about anything and everything.  The book itself is in terrible shape but some of the "cures" are priceless, first, the title page:

You may need to click on the image, but do it just so you can see how many different categories of people may find these 800 recipes useful.  I have read through many of these pages only to come away frustrated because the ingredients are now so difficult to come by, or no longer exist (neat's root, Tory-weed, Prickly Ash Berries, and Spikenard root). I won't ever be able to try most of them.  Here is one of my favorites:

Whoa "You could not kill them quicker any other way"? How about showing them the recipe? Fear alone is enough to off a small animal.  I don't think PETA would approve of this one, but I also would like to believe that we wiped out the Caked Breast epidemic at least 100 years ago. I will feature more of these gems , as well, in a future post.  For now, I will just wish you a pain-free and happy 2010.


  1. Great piecce Greg. I see that Jeff Beck is playing in NYC next month. Maybe we can hook up and do some Prickly Ash Berries before the show. See you soon. Bob

  2. Fascinating read. I was wondering if I could substitute a pint of olive oil for the POUND of butter in the Toad Ointment recipe and add a squeeze of lemon? Also, juding by the resulting "snap" sound, I believe driving a motor car over a toad is a "quicker way" to kill one.


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