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The Strange 'Cures' Used by Our Ancestors

drugs-heroinModern medical science has come along way just over the last 50 years. Go back 75 to 100 to 150 years and it is very strange some of the methods and products on the market that people purchased to help them feel better or healthier. Going through any of the vintage newspapers and magazines and they are filled with cures for any illness or condition a person had. Not that there were no doctors, but medicine was still very primitive. Just going through those advertisements of decades ago proves that. It makes you wonder how our ancestors survived their attempts at a cure. Many of the over-the-counter or even prescription drugs could be fatal to a patient.

One of the biggest types of dangerous drugs was ‘cocaine’. This was prescribed and used by adults or many different ills and even given to children. Even the earliest forms of the popular Coca-Cola was made from cocaine. These drugs including opium were many times found in grocery stores, with no regulation on who purchased them. Many of our ancestors became addicted to some of these drugs.

A good example was heroin. This drug used to be legal at the turn of the 20th century, until it became apparent that it is more addictive than morphine, and can cause opiate withdrawal symptoms when its use is abruptly stopped. After hundreds of thousands of Americans saw their sore throats relieved only to be replaced with crippling addiction and long-term stays at a drug rehab program, were the regulation laws changed.

drugs-white pineA lighter form of chloroform, Kimball White Pine and Tar Cough Syrup, which contained four minims of chloroform, was marketed in the late 19th century and into the 20th century, as an effective tonic for cold symptoms and bronchitis.

Review the two links which have additional information of the variety of methods our ancestors tried to get well.

Vintage Prescriptions

19th Century Medicine

Related genealogy blogs:

Patent Medicines and Home Remedies

Illnesses of our Ancestors

Illnesses of Long Ago


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