Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lotions, Potions, And Deadly Elixirs Frontier Medicine In America by Wayne Bethard

While researching The Ripper's Wife I had to do some research about the fascinating history of patent medicines and I was pleased to discover this wonderful book, written by an actual pharmacist. It is scholarly, lighthearted, and entertaining all at the same time, and filled with amusing anecdotes and stories, like a real life Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman who wore her hair short, gave birth to fifteen children, and wore as a good luck charm a necklace made from the bullets she removed form her patients. Then there's Benjamin Franklin's well-intentioned attempt to make flatulence smell like violets via the ingestion of turpentine pills. There are tales of traveling medicine shows and numerous examples of their colorful advertisements and an eighty-three-year-old woman who consulted a doctor about unbearable cramps only to discover that she was carrying a calcified fetus--the sad result of an ectopic pregnancy she had  unknowingly suffered as a teen.

The book also contains a lengthy, conveniently alphabetized, section with entries on various remedies, including herbs and drugs, that were in common use from the eighteen into the twentieth century.

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