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August 9, 2005 > Patent Medicines, a Cure for Dyspepsia and Russian Influenza

Patent Medicines, a Cure for Dyspepsia and Russian Influenza

Our pioneer forefathers suffered from a plethora of ailments and diseases. They didn't have modern antibiotics and an array of prescription drugs, but they had patent medicines that owners were eager to sell. Patent medicines were usually protected by secrecy, a patent or copyright agreements. Exclusive rights were given to manufacture and market the product.

Mrs. A. Leavitt, M.D., advertised at Irvington in 1875 that she had successfully cured Catarrh, Nervous Affections, Lung Disease, Female Complaints, Affections, Fits, Derangements of the Digestive Organs, and Removal of Cancers and Tumors without the use of surgical instruments. The doctor guaranteed that all ordinary cases would be cured.

Dr. Leavitt was not the only person in those days to advertise cures for diseases. Patent medicines, guaranteed to work miracles, were advertised in newspapers and available by mail or for purchase in local drug stores. They were privately owned medical preparations usually made with some secret ingredient or formula.

Catarrh, excessive mucous secretion, and coughing, appeared to be patent medicine targets. Cat-R- Cure was sold as "The only guaranteed cure for Catarrh, cold in the head, hay fever, nose cold, catarrhal deafness, and sore eyes." It was easy and pleasant to use and six months treatment only cost $1.

Dr. Bosanka's cough and lung syrup was sold as "The positive cure for Consumption, Coughs, Colds, Bronchitis, Spitting of Blood, Croup, Influenza and all other diseases of the lungs and throat." Dr. Hiller's Cough Cure was marketed as a positive cure for "Russian Influenza" and a safeguard against Pneumonia, Bronchitis, and Pleurisy. The makers of Hall's Catarrh Cure reported that Catarrh was a blood or constitutional disease and could only be cured by internal remedies such as Hall's, which was "not a quack medicine."

The liver was a favorite target of patent medicines. Dr. Gunn's Improved Liver Pills were especially adapted for correcting spring disorders, such as impure blood, tired brain, and worn out body, because they acted on the liver and drove out impurities in the blood. One pill was a dose; a box cost only 25. "Cascarets" were sold to "regulate the liver" but they were also guaranteed to cure any case of constipation.

Some medicines were advertised for men only. Prof. Harris Pastilla was sold as "A Radical Cure for Nervous Debility, Organic Weakness, and Physical Decay. The animating elements of life which have been wasted are given back, and the patient becomes cheerful and rapidly gains both strength and sexual vigor." Dr. Sneden's Electric Belt was marketed to restore a man's vital power. The electric current was said to "soak into the nerves and restore manhood." A Niles man declared that he owed his very life to the belt; "It permanently cures seminal weakness and restores vital powers in three months."

Medicines were sold to cure a variety of ailments, tonics for both the brain and the body. Syrup of Figs was a remedy for Habitual Constipation but it was also supposed to "cleanse the system, dispel headaches, colds and fevers, and cure indigestion." Dr. Miles Restorative "Nervine" was sold to "cure sleeplessness, nervous prostration, dizziness, hysteria, sexual debility, St. Vitus' dance, epilepsy, etc."

Cures for both man and beast were advertised by patent medicines. Kendall's Spavin Cure was sold to "reach any deep seated power and remove any bone growth, sprain, swelling, or rheumatism in man or beast." It was said to be the best liniment ever used and cost only $1 per bottle. Mexican Mustang Liniment advertised as the "Great American Remedy for Man and Beast," sounds like an animal medicine. It was sold as a cure for foot-rot, hoof-all, hollow horn, and other animal diseases, but it was also "a matchless remedy for all man's external ailments. A single bottle has often saved a human life."

Some doctors were even willing to offer advice through the mail, so you could "be your own doctor." One mail order doctor noted that "The work of medicine is to correct the liver, cleanse the stomach, create an appetite, aid digestion, and regulate the bowels." Besides eating nutritious food and using his medicines, he suggested rubbing the whole body with a strong solution of pure rock salt and common whiskey. "This solution will strengthen your whole system. You can use it at any time on any part of your body."
So maybe that's what I need to cure my arthritis and my worn out joints! At least I would have a distinctive odor.

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