18 DECEMBER 1909, Page 21


'Tars book contains analyses of many of the "secret remedies" which one sees advertised in the daily papers, on hoardings, in leaflets, and elsewhere. Probably every obild with the least faculty of observation could tell you what pills are "worth a guinea a box" and who makes pills for ."pale people." The analyses were made for the British Medical Association from samples apparently bought in the • Secret Remedies: What they Cost and What they Contain. Based on Analyses made for the British Medical Association. London : British Medical Associa- tion, ordinary way. Perhaps the words "patent medicines" would describe the contents of the book just as well, even though, strictly interpreted, " patent " is the exact contrary of "secret." In any case the reader can be in no doubt as to

the class of remedy which is here examined. After reading the book, we are glad to think that the gallant and trusting souls who leap so recklessly upon an unknown fate are generally not exposed to any worse effect than being left very much in the condition they were in before they succumbed to the blandishments of an advertisement. In some cases, of course, faith does the work which is attributed to the pill; in others an improvement in health, fortunately for the advertiser, coincides with the taking of the medicine. But the most interesting discovery of all, to our mind, is that the price of nearly all these secret remedies is out of all proportion to the cost of the drugs from which they are made. A large part of the difference is, no doubt, spent on advertisement and the cost of compounding the ingredients, but the profits must often be very handsome. "One of the reasons for the popularity of secret remedies," says the preface, "is their secrecy." The language is ambiguous. Could anything be less secret than a much-advertised medicine ? But in the sense in which the

principle is asserted there is of course a great deal of truth. Gullible people love mystery, and this accounts for the style of

advertisement in which the reader is told that a herb of marvellous properties has been discovered in some remote part of America, and so forth. The ultimate explanation of the enormous sale of patent medicines, however, is that the superstition lingers that everything which appears in print is true. When one adds to this the great value of repetition,

surely no further explanations are needed. "What I tell you three times is true," says the bellman in The Hunting of the Snark, and no uneducated person is quite proof against state- ments which spring out at him from nearly every newspaper he opens, and haunt him from the schoolroom to the grave. The analyses are grouped under headings according to the diseases which the medicines profess to cure, but some of the medicines profess to cure so many diseases that it has been impossible to classify them except under the heading of

"Cure Ails."

As for the method of analysis, the preface says :—

" An inquiry of the kind is, from the analytical point of view, tedious and often difficult; for though the analytical chemist can easily and quickly identify the nature of inorganic salts in a mixture or powder, and estimate their amount, most vegetable drugs which exert any appreciable effect on the body owe their power to the presence of an alkaloid or glucoside. The active principle of opium, for instance, is morphine; that of cinchona bark, quinine ; that of belladonna, atropine, and so on, and the chemist can recognise any alkaloids present in a mixture or pill. It is otherwise, however, with vegetable extracts and colouring matters, for which pharmaceutical science has not yet been able in all cases to supply easily applicable and conclusive tests, because for the most part they contain no active principle and are used in pharmacy for their agreeable odour or bitter taste, as vanilla or sorrel are used in cookery. Of the accuracy of the analytical data published there can be no question ; the investiga- tion has been carried out with great care by a skilled analytical chemist, who has controlled his results in various ways, one being that in every doubtful case the formula obtained by analysis has been tested by making it up and comparing the appearance, taste, and physical properties of the imitative mixture with those of the secret preparation sold to the public."

Under the heading "Catarrh and Cold Cures" "Keene's One Night' Cold Cure" may be given as an example :— " This is supplied by a Company giving its address as New York and London. The price charged is is. lid. a box, containing 30 tablets.

This is recommended in the circular enclosed in the box in thE following terms :

Keene's One Night Cold Cure will break up any cold overnight ; or money refunded I Influenza cured in three days. Guarantee Label around every Box. If Keene's One Night Cold Cure fails to Cure your Cold your money will be cheerfully returned on presentation of Guarantee Label.

Keene's One Night 'Cold Cure is in Tablet form and contains nothing injurious, being chiefly composed of Quinine, Cascara, Camphor, and other Ingredients adopted by the Leading AreAical Authorities for Colds in the Head, Throat and Lungs.

The 'guarantee label' is worded as follows :


If Keene's One-Night ' Cold Cure fails to effectually break up a."3, ordinary cold, return this Guarantee with box to your Chemist and he will refund price paid- Cascara—Bromide—gainine—Ipecac— Camphor—Bryoma—tablets. 74d. per box.

The Keene Co., Irving A. Keene, Treasurer.

The tablets were coated with sugar, coloured with ferric oxide (so-called chocolate coating). After removal of the coating they had an average weight of 2-07 grains. Analysis showed that they contained no bromide, no quinine, except the minute trace occur- ring as an impurity in thp ainchonino found, and no camphor in

sufficient quantity to be detected; there was no evidence of any extract or other preparation of cascara, and if any were present, the quantity did not exceed a small trace ; the al !retold found did not give the slightest indication of ipecacuanha. alkaloid; extract of bryonia may have been present, as it has no distinctive characters serving for identification. The ingredients found were :

Cinchonine sulphate ... 0.21 grain (approx.)


Calcium carbonate 0'25 Starch Extractive and excipient 0117 In one tablet.

The extractive and excipient possessed no characters indicating the substance from which it was derived; it contained a small proportion of alkali in organic combination, equivalent to 1.2 per cent. of dried sodium carbonate in the tablet, and the mineral constituents usually present in vegetable extracts. The estimated cost of the ingredients for 30 tablets is id."

From the "Obesity Cares" we take the following :7.


This substance is supplied by an American • Botanic Medicine Company' from a London office, in bottles containing 64 fluid ounces, price 6s. 6d. On the-wrapper appeared the words : Purely vegetable. Perfectly harmless. Always efficacious.

We call special attention to the efficacy of our Anti-Fat in the cure of that distressing complaint—indigestion or spepsia. It acts solely upon the food in the stomach, regulating and putting the lever and discharging organs in good working order.

A circular was enclosed with the bottle, entitled, 'How to get lean without starvation,' from which the following extracts are


A very extensive observation has convinced us, since our first circular treatise vasicaued, that in the majority of cases the Anti-Fat must be taken. for from two to three, and, in rare cases, even four weeks before the patient will begin to novice much reduction of fiesh, after which the lose goes on rapidly—generally from three to five pounds a week. In some cases the diminution in weight com- mences from the first two or three days' use of it. The Create:mit of obesity has hitherto rested on no sure basis. Through the study of physiological chemistry, a specific has at length been discovered, which, from the name of the discoverer, has been called Allan's


Directions: Take two teaspoonfuls of the Anti-Pat in a wineglass full of water

or sweet milk before each meal.

A small slip was also enclosed headed 'CAUTION! which stated-.: The color, auwell as the Barer, of the Anti-Fat, varies soinewliat with age and exposure to light, but neither in the least impairs its virtues. The temperatureof the weatheratthe timevofthe mmuface of this remedy has also much to. do with its clearness, or transparency, but does not effect its properties.

Analyais.showed the rmesence of alcohol, glycerine, potassium iodide, salicylic acid, and a vegetable extract which from its pro-

perties and the analysis of the ash was evidently a purified extract of Ferns vesiculosus. The proportion of the latter drug represented could not, of course, be determined with certainty for

the reasons already given, but the amounts of the other ingredients were ascertained by analysis, and the formula was approximately as follows : Potassium iodide ... 0'3 grain.

Salicylic acid... 1,0 „ Glycerine .. 4D

Plaid extract ofFaces ussioulesus 70 The estimated cost of the ingredients (61 fluid ounces) is 3d."

From the most interesting chapter of aU—" Cure Ails "—we take the following :— " Basewar's Pmts.

A box of these pills, advertised to be worth a. guinea, is. sold for is. lid., and the prime cost of the ingredients of the 86.pi11s it contains is. about half a farthing.

In a circular wrapped round the box it is stated that these renowned pills are composed entirely of Medicinal Herbs,' and cure Constipation, Headache, Dizziness or Swimming in the.Head, Wind, Pain, and .Spasms at the Stomach, Pains in the Back, Restlessness, Insomnia, Indigestion, Want of Appetite, Fullness after Meals, Vomitings, Sickness of the Stomach, Bilious or Liver Complaints; Sick Headaches, Cold Chills, Flushings of Heat Low- ness of Spirits, and all Nervous Affections, Scurvy an& Scorbutic Affections, Pimples and Blotches on the Skin, Bad Legs, Ulcers, Wounds, &c.

The pills had an average weight of 11 grains, and analysis showed them to consist of aloes, ginger, and soap.; no other medicinal ingredient was found. The quantities were approxi- mately as follows :--

Aloes Powdered ginger ... 0:56, „

Powdered soap ... . 0-18 „ in one pill."

Morisse &ROHL'S CTIBATIVB The price of a bottle of Mother Seigel'a Syrup containing 3 fluid ounces is 2s. 6d.

Although this was described on the wrapper as for dyspepsia' BO many disorders were stated to be due to this cause, and amenable to treatment with this preparation, that it may fairly be included in this-chapter. On the other side of the wrapper it was called A cure for impurities of the blood,' and 'A cure for dyspepsia and liver complaints.' In a circular enclosed with the bottle it was stated:

The-symptoms mentioned above are the smoke of the fire of indigestion—a fire that will eat out your very vitals and sap your strength and vitality. For it can't be too often repeated-that indigestion.is the motet a great deal °Peva ; the origin (.4 a great missy disorders which no man qoite rutharstanda -how he came by. And why this is can easily be explained. Disease is poises; it* Symptoms are the manifestation of the poison. Indigestion creates many dangerous poisons, and is therefore the cause of many di8P,,..4. So let us get rid of the smoke by putting out the fire, and purify our blood and system with Mother Seigel's Syrup, which will sweep away the poisons and make us healthy and strong. Mother Seigel's Syrup is a highly concentrated, purely vegetable compound, having a specific action on the stomach, liver, and kidneys.

Analysis showed the presence of free hydrochloric acid, which is not usually classified as a vegetable compound, tincture of cap- sicum, a bitter substance agreeing in its properties with aloes, and sugar (partly as invert sugar) • the colouring and flavouring sub- stances also present indicated. that the sugar had been added in the form of treacle. Quantitative determination of those ingredients capable of it, and estimation of the others by com- parison with known mixtures, indicated the following formula:

Dilute hydrochloric acid (RP.) ... 10 parts by measure

Tincture of capsicum .., „ Water to ------------------100 parts by measure.

The estimated cost of the ingredients for 3 fluid ounces is one- third of a penny."

In the case of some quack medicines extraordinary ingenuity is shown in issuing "bonds," which nominally entitle the purchaser to the return of his money if he is dissatisfied ; but an examination of the verbiage forces one to the conclusion that the advertisers are troubled with very few claims from bond-holders.

Sufferers from incurable diseases naturally catch at any straw, and the remedies for cancer, for instance, are numerous. We have said that our general impression is that not much harm is done by the majority of quack medicines, even though the patients would have done better to keep their money; but it is impossible properly to denounce the cruelty of making money out of exploiting the desperate hopes of those who are suffering from incurable diseases. H-ere is the description of one remedy-for cancer

It is a colourless liquid, containing a trace of sediment ; the odour is that of alcohol, though very slightly vinous. Fractional distillation showed the presence of about 40 per cent. of alcohol ; on complete evaporation, a trace (0-02 per eent.), of dry residue

was left. This residue was free from any alkaloid, and its behaviour with reagents gave no indication of any other active principle ; it agreed- in character with the 'extractive 'found in

spirit that has been kept in a wine,-cask. After removing the alcohol, the liquid was- perfectly tasteless. This '-remedy 'is thus very simple in nature, consisting merely of Muted and slightly impure alcohol."

The British Medical Association has done what was weU worth doing, and has done it in exactly the right way. Secret Remedies is most instructive, and we would add that it is extremely amusing when it is not painful.