10 old time quack remedies that inspired the FDA

Doug Williams
Public Domain
Public Domain

The old fashioned times when the FDA didn’t exist and the government wasn’t as strict on drugs, the place was filled with medical godsends for consumers in the United States.

The 1800s was a perfect time for medicine. People new about how the body reacted to now illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Companies at the time knew how addictive their drugs were so they went all in to make sure the people they sold to would come back for more.

During the early era of America, capitalism was in full force and little regulations were in place when it came to even listing the ingredients inside of medicine.

What happened over the next couple decades inspired the government to oversee food and drugs to protect their citizens from greedy capitalism. Here’s a list of a few dangerous drugs you could have bought over the counter just a few centuries ago.

10 Victory V Lozenges

Victory V Lozenges was a famous cough drop that was sold in England during the middle of the eighteenth century.  The cough drops were invented by a man named Thomas Fryer.

These puppies made its sales by helping relax consumers while they were sick and their delicious taste helped sales launch the cough drops around the top of cold medicine for over a century.

As the cough drops stayed popular during the 1900s when sailors started eating the cough drops like candy because of the connection they had to the famous Admiral Nelson.

For decades, Victory V Lozenges was manufactured inside of Fry and Company. One day, everything changed for the delicious cough drops.

They were forced to stop using a few of the key ingredients that made them so wonderful. A mix of the and chloroform had to be taken out of the cough drops making it just another cough drop but the remedy is still on the shelve today.

9 Dr. Thomas’s Eclectric Oil

Dr. Thomas’s Electric Oil was known and sold as a miracle when the product first hit the block. It was said the the magic oil could cure just about anything.

Extreme back pain, tooth aches and ear aches would all disappear in a timely fashion if you took some of that good old Electric Oil.

It was said that even deafness could be cured and that painful burns would be relieve oil was applied on the skin around the injuries.

Created during the middle of the 1800s by a New Yorker by the name of Dr. S.N. Thomas, the name Excelsior Eclectic Oil was given by clever marketers so the product would thrive in the market.

The reason why it helped with excruciating pains you ask? It’s because the active ingredients were opium and alcohol blended with hemlock oil, chloroform and even turpentine.

The cure all remedy was so popular that was featured into the early 1900s. If you couldn’t afford the oil, no problem. You could mix up your own batch with the perfect blend of drugs.

8 Perry Davis’ Vegetable Pain Killer

Perry Davis was a shoe maker who’s dream was nothing more than to invent some of the most wonderful ideas the world would ever know.

The man was born stricken by poverty when his family lived in a city inside of Massachusetts. By the time Perry grew up, he was experiencing daunting pains from his kidney making him cough and experience extreme stomach pains.

To cure his ailment became his true passion and after a lot of good nights and a little bit of trial and error, the former shoe maker created a medicine that only used all natural components.

Centuries ahead of his time, Mr. Davis sold a brilliant combination of ingredients that he proudly called Vegetable Pain Killer.

His claim was that it cured him of all the pain he experience from his intestines and the drug spread like wild fire. His magical vegetable potion was said to cure the common cold to even the most extreme diseases like cholera.

The medicine became so renowned that it was used to horse warriors during America’s Civil War to help ease the pain and stress of endless battles. Of course, the all-natural cure had nothing more than an epic dose of alcohol blended with some opium.

7 The Microbe Killer

Addictive pseudo medicine was taken to the next level when a gentleman called William Radam made his competition look like they were running a lemonade stand down the street.

In the late 80s of the 18th century, Radam was at the frontier of the incredible scientific advancement that linked all disease to microbes located inside of the subject.

William was quick to act and created Radam’s Microbe Killer which had some pretty amazing claims. The magic tonic purified the blood stream and eliminated all the microbes in the body that caused every distress and disease.

Luckily, Radam had a team of loyal followers who swore by his miraculous tonic. That was when even better news hit the block. The Microbe Killer was safe to use. A rare feat in the game of 1800s medicine.

The miracle tonic was manufactured by mixing water with manganese oxide, sulfer, potassium chloride and even some sodium nitrate. It was praised as the medicine that actually cured ailments through hard facts and science.

It wasn’t just another marketing scheme that tricked people to waste their precious money. The Microbe Killer was the real deal that was created by a man with humble beginnings and a love for gardening.

The creators only goal was to make the world a better place. Luckily, lawsuits never hit the mainstream like his advertisements did. After a study made by the Department of Agriculture, it was discovered that the all-natural miracle was in fact water.  Touché Mr. William.

6 Gripe Water

Gripe water is a modern classic on the shelf of major super markets and convenience store but the company didn’t have the most humble and innocent beginnings.

Concocted for the infant child in during the 1840s, the water was used to ease baby fits and to calm their demeanor down. In an all-American classic remedy, it seems the main ingredient responsible for the positive effects on children was the 9% abv that was added into the mix.

But just to make sure it had a good effect for mothers and fathers everywhere, the alcohol was mixed with dill see, water, oil and sugar.

Even after Gripe Water had to stop getting babies drunk, the medicine is still recommended by doctors to help infants suffering from colic.

Sadly for the children, the relief occurs by using the digestive system to create a chemical reaction to break up the air bubbles inside the digestive system.

5 The Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Grower And Scalp Cleaner

Fletcher Sutherland was a respected man in his town of Cambria, during the late 1800s but he was yet another brilliant marketer to have broken the list that sparked the government to manage consumer products.

Fletcher had seven daughters that were renowned across the area for their acting skills and soothing voices. He capitalized by using his kids to promote his miracle hair growth remedy.

It was said that the long hair of his children was directly a result of the scalp cleaner. Crazily, Mr. Sutherland didn’t even think of the product.

After rumors swirled around his deceased wife using a tonic to grow her daughters’ hair, the marketing marvel quickly mixed up his own batch of hair medicine and sold it to the public

The girls, used the same opportunity and promoted a product heavily as they traveled in a circus.

By the time they were done with spreading the word of the miracle hair product, the girls generate over $3,000,000 in sales which was no small feat in the 1800s. Who would have guessed that a mix of salt, hydrochloric acid and rum would be so profitable.

4 Coca Wine

Coca wine was the first red bull. The medicinal drink had a knack for curing mid-day fatigue and give the consumer and extraordinary emotional boost they needed to get through the rest of the day.

To nobody’s surprise, the secret behind this exceptional mid-day energy drink was cocaine.

A Corsican coorperation named Vin Mariani was founded in 1863 and hit the ground running by being praised with over seven thousand endorsements from doctors on how the wine stimulated the drinker’s nervous system, but the doctor’s approval was nothing but a drop in the bucket.

The energy drink was given the gold by Pope Leo XIII. Long days serving god left the man having the miracle drink in a flask at all times.

Coca Wine even made it into some religious propaganda through advertisements of the testimony given by The Pope himself.

After the energy drink craze hit the world, John Pemberton took a dive in trying to create his own batch of heaven but the company quickly halted sales during prohibition and replaced the wine with sugar.

This new drink was a soda that became known as Coca-Cola. Sadly, cocaine is no longer an active ingredient in the soda but is obviously one of the most prominent brands in the world.

3 Dr. Scott’s Electric Devices

Dr. Scott cleverly made the list as one of the unofficial founders of the FDA without using any currently illegal drug making it the most impressive spot on the list.

Dr. Scott made it’s name by mislabelling it’s electronic devices that were no such thing. The company cleverly claimed that the electric brushes would cure headaches and help with the prevention of hair loss.

But that didn’t seem like a good enough selling point for Dr. Scott so he chose to ensure his products were equipped with the ability to cure the incapability of pooping and even reverse paralysis.

Quickly his brushes expanded into an entire line of “electric” appliances that included belts, toothbrushes and even corsets.

Caps, shoulder brackets and even soles of shoes were included to allow any electric lover deck out on Dr. Scott’s health claims.

Obviously Dr. Scott wanted what was best for his customer so he made sure the healing properties of his products were not shared with others. That way, the products could adapt to each individual more effectively.

2 Cocaine Toothache Drops

In a rare truth, Lloyd Manufacturing was upfront about the active ingredient of their almighty tooth ache cure. For a dime and a nickel, you could effectively cure even the most intense tooth aches.

These magic drops were manufactured in Albany during the late 1800s and was concocted in a manner that allowed it to cure the pain while minimizing the inner rage of the consumer.

These same types of drops were extremely popular in treating sore throats just before the 19th century. Drugs and chemists did whatever they could to buy the useful tablets at wholesale and then repackage it as their very own.

While there were claims that cocaine was safe for children, common modern day knowledge would tend to disagree.

1 Bayer Heroin

Bayer has been mixed into some pretty messy situations since the company was founded so it’s not the slightest bit surprising that the company topped the list of reasons why the government was forced to step in and regulate medicine and food.

Bayer was the first company to ever manufacture the highly addictive drug heroin. This production has since lead to millions of deaths through overdose of the heavily addicted drug.

The Nazi friendly pharmaceutical giant was founded in Germany and its heroin production took off in 1897. Within a few years, the company was producing two thousand pounds of the illegal drug every year.

Ironically, heroin was marketed to help with opium addiction which was at the time, considered a less addictive drug than its ancestor.

Shockingly, medical studies gave the nod to heroin in the early 1900s and was approved by the American Medical Association. Two decades later, over 95 percent of drug addicts in New York were fixed on heroin and the epidemic has since been almost impossible to halt.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival