Category:
Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Chlorine gas cures colds

During the 1920s, chlorine gas (the same stuff used as a chemical weapon in World War I) briefly became popular as a cure for the common cold.

The Rushville Daily Republican - Mar 26, 1926



Jennifer Ackerman explains what was going on in her book Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold:

The use of chlorine gas to cure the common cold was suggested by observations that men who worked in chlorine plants to manufacture the noxious gas during the war were remarkably free of colds and flu. The same was true of soldiers on the front lines exposed to the pungent, biting fumes of chlorine, compared with those in the rear. A hundred years earlier, physicians had noted that people who worked and lived in the vicinity of bleaching establishments had fewer respiratory infections than others.

Chlorine was thought to act as a kind of thorn-in-the-flesh therapy. Vedder (dubbed "the chemical warrior" by Time magazine) proposed that "the irritant action of chlorine stimulates the flow of secretion and cleanses the mucous surfaces," resulting in "productive coughing and blowing of the nose." Through its oxidizing action, the gas was also thought to rid the body of toxins and fuel the activity of white blood cells useful in the attack against offending microbes.

Practically overnight, chlorine therapy became a popular treatment for victims of colds, bronchitis, and whooping cough... For the general public, there was Chlorine Respirine, 50 treatments for $0.50 in a handy collapsible tube, each dose purported to "knock a cold in three hours."

Controlled experiments eventually debunked the idea that chlorine gas had any curative value. Though I'm not sure how to explain why people exposed to chlorine didn't seem to catch colds as often. Perhaps it was just mistaken, anecdotal evidence. Or perhaps the chlorine gas was sterilizing surfaces, helping to prevent the transmission of germs.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Nov 20, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Health, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1920s

Dr. Organic’s Snail Gel



The home page.

Harvested from free-roaming snails under controlled conditions, this moisturising, soothing ingredient combines the unique properties of Helix Aspersa Muller with organic Aloe vera and a blend of bioactive plant ingredients. This secretion is produced from snails that are farmed humanely and are free to roam. On their travels, they move over glass panels which are used to safely collect the mucus secretion, which is then filtered and concentrated by vacuum evaporation to reduce its water content, before a mild preservative is added to maintain its shelf life.



Posted By: Paul - Wed Sep 23, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Cosmetics, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nausea, Revulsion and Disgust

Forkola Jell

"Old Doc Forkola" is a most unfortunate moniker. But was there anything that Forkola Jell couldn't do? Or should we ask, Was there anything that Forkola Jell could do?!?











Source of text.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Sep 17, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Twentieth Century

S.S.S. Tonic

Created by Charles Swift, this patent medicine is still for sale today. (Two separate links in that last sentence, if you're interested in following them!) And yet for some reason they make no claim about "purifying and invigorating polluted blood" or "inherited taints."




Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 15, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

Danderine Grows Hair

As far as I know, Jeanette Wallace's only claim to fame was appearing in an ad for Danderine Hair-Growing Remedy. The ad ran in numerous magazines and newspapers between 1906 and 1908.

She claimed that Danderine made her hair "fairly crawl out of my scalp"... which sounds like it could be the premise for a horror story.



Incidentally, according to Google maps, her address in New York is now occupied by a noodle shop.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 08, 2020 - Comments (8)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1900s, Hair and Hairstyling

Concentrated Ocean Water

A dubious medical cure-all from the early 1960s: bottles of briny water marketed as 'concentrated ocean water'.

The sellers claimed it could prolong life, cure arthritis, cancer, Parkinson's disease, hardening of the arteries, etc.

The FDA, which shut down the companies selling it, called it "the great sea salt swindle."

I couldn't find anyone selling concentrated ocean water today. Though there are plenty of present-day products that are similar in spirit — such as those cans of Swiss Mountain Air I posted about recently.

Newport News Daily Press - Apr 21, 1961



Arizona Republic - Mar 26, 1961



Tampa Bay Times - Apr 24, 1961

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 03, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Health, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1960s

California Vinegar Bitters

As Dave Barry might say, "'California Vinegar Bitters' would make an excellent name for a band."






Posted By: Paul - Thu Apr 23, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century

Messer’s Inhaling Tube

Essential again in 2020.



Source.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Apr 18, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century

Family Feud

Source.

More on the Dyotts, here and here.


Posted By: Paul - Fri Mar 27, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Crime, Family, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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