Everlasting Pill

Drugs, Medicine

Everlasting pill, also known as a perpetual pill, was a popular 19th-century medicine which was supposed to bring balance to the body’s humors by inducing purging. ⏳

The pills were made of metallic antimony, a highly poisonous substance that causes health effects similar to arsenic poisoning. 💀 Why was it called an “everlasting” pill? An antimony pill would pass through the gastric system practically intact, so people would retrieve it, clean it, and put away for later use. Antimony was also a valuable metal at the time, so it was quite common to keep it the family and hand it down from generation to generation. 👻

Check out this lovely book for more examples of useless medicine from the past: Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.

Re-Animating Solar Tincture

Drugs, Medicine

💀 “RESTORATION of LIFE in CASES of SUDDEN DEATH.—For this benevolent purpose, Dr. SIBLY’s RE-ANIMATING SOLAR TINCTURE, supersedes every art and invention. In all circumstances of suicide, or sudden death, whether by blows, fits, falls, suffocation, strangulation, drowning, apoplexy, thunder and lightning, assassination, duelling, &c., immediate recourse should be had to this medicine, which will not fail to restore life, provided the organs and juices are in a fit disposition for it, which they undoubtedly are much oftener than is imagined.” 💀

This is how Dr. Sibly advertised his Solar Tincture ☀️ in the 1790s and early 19th century. A miracle cure that could cheat Death himself! 👻 While buying such a remedy seems ridiculous, many people could have been inclined to do so given the high mortality rate of the times, popular fear of being buried alive, and Sibly’s medical title (even though he had bought his degree). Another cure-all from Dr. Sibly’s shelf was the Lunar Tincture. 🌕 It was supposed to be the answer to all female problems, which according to Dr. Sibly were caused mainly by the lack of sex, too much sex, menstruation, lack of pregnancy, or menopause. You can find the original article on the Lunar Tincture in the Wellcome Collection archive but be prepared for constant eye-rolling. 🙄

More about the Solar Tincture in this Sawbones episode.

Dr. Fahrney’s Teething Syrup

Everyday Life, Medicine

Dr. Fahrney’s Teething Syrup was one of the “miraculous” Victorian products that promised to cure everything from teething pain through the common cold to cholera and dysentery.

Advertised as medicine for babies, 👶 this concoction included alcohol, 🍸 morphine, 💉and chloroform😴.

 I came across this gem on this episode of Sawbones: Opium.

Mole

Everyday Life, Medicine

Laudanum 😴, lead 🤪, alcohol 🥂… all your tips under the last post were great! And yet, there is something else you might add to your healing arsenal… ☠️

“To ease the pain of teething, hang a dead mole around the neck of your baby.” – find even weirder treatments in this handy booklet: Hints on Health from the Victorians.

Shopping for Arsenic

Everyday Life, Medicine

There were no regulations on buying and selling arsenic until 1851, and even then it could be relatively easy purchased by anyone who didn’t cause any suspicion. 

You can read more on arsenic and other poisons in The Secret Poisoner: The Victorian Age of Poisoning.