Case 122 --

Lash's Bitters: Biochemical Analysis
of a Historical Proprietary Medicine


Bitters: A medicine composed of water, alcohol and bad tasting or "bitter" herbs. Most were produced between 1860 and 1905, over 1,000 types are known to exist.

  • Example: Lash's Bitters
Balsam: Medicine made from resins gathered from the Balsam trees of South andv Central America. Balsam had expectorant activity and so was used to treat pulmonary diseases including infections.

  • Example: Turlington's Balsam of Life. First introduced in England in 1744, available in American colonies around 1768. The formula has been simplified and is still available today as the Compound Tincture of Benzoin.
Cure: A category defined by bottle collectors as a medicine with the word "cure" in its name.

  • Example: Dr. D. M. Bye Combination Oil Cure Co. (A cancer cure circa 1905).
Elixirs: A sweetened and flavored alcohol and water based liquid used in the compounding of oral medicines.

  • Example: Leonard's Blood Elixir, The Great Purifier of Blood
"Ethical medicines": A name formerly used for medicine prepared by a druggist using a specific and public recipe, often obtained by prescription from a physician.

Female medicines: Medicines specifically marketed for women as aides in health problems that ranged from infertility to menstrual problems to menopause. These medicines fell into many classes including bitters.

  • Example: Burdoch Blood Bitters
Sarsaparilla: Medicines flavored with extracts of the sassafras root or related plants in the Smilax family. Sarsaparillas were used in the 16th century to treat syphilis. hey often served as a base to which additional products were added.

  • Example: Ayer's Sarsaparilla
Tinctures: An alcohol extract of vegetable, animal, or chemical substances that usually also contained tannic acid.

  • Example: Tincture of Life, circa 1888
  • Example: Tincture of Iodine


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