Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Right to the Source

Article excerpt

Exploring Science and History With the Library of Congress

The Secrets of Patent Medicines

Primarily in the 19th century, prepackaged medicines and remedies sold over-the-counter without a doctor's prescription became known as patent medicines.

For years, manufacturers could make any therapeutic claims about their products that they wished; some greatly exaggerated the benefits of their concoctions, often selling them as "cure-alls." Ingredients were largely secret: Labels were not required to list them, though some patent medicines--containing high levels of alcohol, opium, cocaine, or other active ingredients--were potentially addictive and dangerous.

Some labels touted a concoction's medicinal benefits--promising to cure everything from sore throats and diarrhea to dropsy and scrofula--while others emphasized ingredients found in nature, such as "extract of blackberry," "peppermint oil," or "horehound." The labels may have appealed to consumers' faith in traditional home remedies that had existed for generations. Patent medicines were unregulated and widely marketed until 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act, which sought to ban adulterated and mislabeled food and drugs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.