Monday, August 29, 2011

Medical Mondays: Snake Oil et al


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks for all the well wishes while I was on vacation last week! My brain is in peak condition again. It's no longer feeling deep-fried and is back to it's naturally squishy state.

So lately my hubs has been interested in antique medicine bottles. You know, the pretty clear/green/cobalt ones with funny stuff written on the side.

Snake oil was a remedy that originated in China and was said to cure arthritic conditions. Snake oil (yes, that's Extra Virgin Expeller-pressed Chinese Water Snake. Yummy!) is now a synonym for quack medicine, or anything touted with extraordinary promises but possessing dubious benefits.

(Photo credit: Early Vermont Medicines)

After the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, the American version of China's Snake Oil's active components couldn't be verified, and it was then considered a hoax.

In the search for the bottles that contained these old time remedies, we found this funny but true list of cure-alls.

Bird’s Lung Cure (For those who Tweet so much they get short of breath)

Bohemian Catarrh Cure (For Stevie Nicks Wannabes with that less-than-sexy phlegmy cough)

Electric Brain Food Cure (What does this cure? Electric brains? Or being a brain-eating zombie?)

Gantner’s Magic Chicken Cholera Cure (I personally wouldn't cure anyone of their magic chickens. I'd like one myself, but the diarrhea part might be a deal-breaker.)

Keeley’s Cure for Drunkenness (Duh. It's an empty bottle, right?)

Kitchel’s Wind Puff Cure (For the long-winded, over-bloated, and fabulously flatulent.)

Man, I would write a novel just so I could sneak in these remedies. They'd be great chapter headings, wouldn't they?

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
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Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary!

Ooh, and one last thing--August 30th is the last day to enter my 900 Followers Contest! Win a book of your choice...enter now!

52 comments:

Giles Hash said...

I always loved the idea of the snake-oil salesmen. Not because of their blatant cons, but because in the movies and in a lot of the books I read, they're always slimy, sniveling creatures with no self-respect. They make good characters, and I love to watch the other characters of a story just chase after the con-men and give them... a taste of their own medicine? Yeah, sure. We'll go with that cliche :)

Laura Pauling said...

That's cool. It's amazing what people end up wanting to collect. Historical items have such great stories behind them!

salarsenッ said...

"...the active components couldn't be verified..." Ooh, red flag! Red Flag!! :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Oh, Magic Chicken Cholera Cure. I agree with keeping the magic chickens around. Can't have too many of those. Glad you had a great time on your vacay.

B.E. Sanderson said...

ROFL, I have a coffee mug with that Clark Stanley logo on it. (I bought two and gave one to my physical therapist. We had a good laugh about it.)

I think I need the Electric Brain Food.

junebug said...

Oh no! I have Bird's Lung. Well, at least there is a name for it so I can fight it. :-)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Welcome back and in your usual top form.
Loved the post.

Yvonne.

Karen Lange said...

They would make great chapter titles! Or maybe even a title for a flash fiction story...:)

Clarissa Draper said...

Ha, so funny. I agree with Karen though, they would make excellent book titles.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are great!

storyqueen said...

The bottles are awesome! Kind of want to see what's in the magic chicken stuff.

Thanks again for hosting me on Friday!

Shelley

Slamdunk said...

Fun stuff. There are a few characters in my life that would have made great snake oil salesmen.

Munk said...

Are you sure the Electric Brain Food Cure wasn't pioneered on Ken Kesey's Magic Bus in the '60s?

Linda Gray said...

I almost spit out my morning coffee at the magic chicken cure. Thanks for the laugh!

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh man. These are hilarious! Glad you're back.

Deb Salisbury said...

ROFL! I'd love to read that book!

Em-Musing said...

HA! these are hilarious! Thanks for making me laugh today,

Talli Roland said...

Those are hilarious! I love the chicken cholera cure. As if!

Carol Kilgore said...

Glad you had a great vacation. These are so funny :) Welcome back!

Meredith said...

One of my great-grandfathers was a snake oil salesman, we think. Kind of awesome. And I want to meet a magic chicken! :)

Sarah Pearson said...

I hate the thought of my magic chickens getting cholera :-(

Suze said...

True list ... ?

Kelly said...

Those are too funny! Lots of story ideas in that list!

julie fedderson said...

Quick! I need a bottle of the Bohemian Catarrh cure. I always wanted to sound like Stevie. . .

There is this site called Quackwatch where you can get the skinny on modern day snake oil sellers. Pretty interesting.

Taryn Tyler said...

Now I want to know what they put in those!

Olga said...

When I was little, my grandfather would use a balm with snake poison. He used it to treat his arthritis. I'll never forget that distinct and strong aroma.

vbtremper said...

These are awesome. I can totally imagine a book with some of those in it. Go ahead, write it, I dare ya!

-Vicki

Emily Rose said...

Eww, those are some nasty remedies.:(

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! hooray for having a nice holiday and for getting your brain working good again. i hope you didnt oil it with that snake stuff. ack! you got me laughing so much on this post. ha ha.
...hugs from lenny

The Golden Eagle said...

LOL. I could see those in a book . . . it would make for some great comic fantasy or something. :)

Miranda Hardy said...

Welcome back from vacation! Those "medicines" are hilarious. I'll have to write a story just so I can use one. Lol, actually, with my historical fiction, some of their remedies were pretty comical, too.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

In Louisiana it was Hadacol, a patent medicine marketed as a vitamin supplement.

Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained 12 percent alcohol
(listed on the tonic bottle's label as a "preservative"),

which made it quite popular in the dry counties of the southern United States.

It was the product of four-term Louisiana state Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc (1894–1971), a Democrat from Abbeville in Vermilion Parish.

He was not a medical doctor, nor a registered pharmacist, but had a strong talent for self-promotion.

Time magazine once described him as "a stem-winding salesman who knows every razzle-dazzle switch in the pitchman's trade!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

This is exactly what I had on my mental list to research for my WIP! I needed a snake oil peddler scene. Thanks! :)

jbchicoine said...

Seems everyone is getting back from vacation!
I just love your photo of the old bottles fro Vermont. I used to live near Bellows Falls, and I wonder if a lot of old remedies originated in New England, back in the day when one was pretty much on thier own for medical treatment--it was that or visit the local barber (maybe that was dentistry, lol) or vet!

Krispy said...

Love those names AND the bottles! I'd love a book with those as the chapter headings.

Old Kitty said...

I think these are brilliant chapter titles! Yay!! LOL!

Yay for dubious cure all medicines in their beautiful bottles! Take care
x

Heather said...

How fun! Those would make great chapter titles! It's amazing what we learn and what inspires us when we start digging into the past.

Leslie Rose said...

I'm still giggling. I need to pass some Kitchel's Wind Puff Cure to some of my work colleagues. I wonder if it would work on my Dad's dog. P.U.

Theresa Milstein said...

Now I know where the term "Snake Oil Salesman" comes from!

I love those old green glass bottles too.

Alleged Author said...

This was a great read. My husband could use one of those...erm...wind puff cures. :P

Jennifer Hillier said...

Welcome back!

Wouldn't it be cool if those remedies really did work? Oh well, the bottles are very decorative. I'd collect them too if I had any idea where to find them!

Carrie Butler said...

Hah! Great post, Lydia! Welcome back! :)

lbdiamond said...

Love this stuff--so interesting!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Oh, I love to see these old remedies. I've been on a look-out for quack cures popular during the influenza epidemic of 1918, as that plays a part in my WIP. I found that people felt eating Brewer's yeast would protect them. It didn't, of course.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hope you enjoyed your vacation. Great post as usual.

Chris Phillips said...

I've got a stress/rejection cure here at the house. It smells and tastes like whiskey for some reason.

Kris Yankee said...

Can you imagine living in a time when these were your go-to meds? ACK!!!!

Sailor said...

And from where I come, Bear fat is good to grow your mustache!

Cruise Pictures

Aguilar Elliot said...

antique medicine bottles, such a particular, peculiar and yet cool thing to be into.

LTM said...

First, I am LOVING those old bottles! What a cool hobby. But second--LOL! At your phony remedies! Electric brain food cure... hang onto that one! The CDC might want some...

Man! I'd love to ask you a medical question, but I'm intimidated by all the good ones you've already done! You're too medically creative for me. :o) <3

Jonene Ficklin said...

Those bottles are so cool! They hold a lot of interesting history, so I'm glad you shared the fun things you learned. Wow, those tonic names are crazy. All I can say is I'm glad I live now-a-days when the ailment names are much more sophisticated and the treatment isn't as likely to kill us. Thanks, as always for a great post!

Bathwater said...

Those bottles sound like a lot of fun to collect.

 
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