Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Radithor Certified Radioactive Water - The All Too Real Thing

Image by Sam L. via Flickr

During the last part of the 17th century, a curious thing happened. Folks began to distrust medicine, which was becoming more and more complex and hard to understand while embracing cures that were based on new and emerging science. This period saw the rise of radioactive remedies based on radioactive isotopes like radium. 

There were Radione tablets for energy, a radium emanator from Zimmer laboratory, meant to be immersed in water, and products called the Revigator watercooler, for example. Many of the radioactive health products were actually fraudulent in that they didn't actually emit the amount of radiation they promised to. A few, products, however, did. 

Radithor, "Certified Radioactive Water," manufactured by Bailey Radium Laboratories, Inc., of East Orange, New Jersey, claimed to contain radium and mesotheorium in triple distilled water. It wasn't sold as a medical treatment or cure, but ratehr as a nonmedical restoritive tonic. It was "not a drug, not a patent medicine." Just as well, sicne "Dr." William J. A. Bailey was not a medical doctor. 

The product actually did contain large amounts of both radium and thorium. While many products that contained very little if any radioactive products had been shut down by the government, some few of the real thing had been allowed to continue. 

Bailey actually challenged anyone to prove that his product did not contain the amounts of radium and thorium he claimed, offering them a $1000 reward. Nobone ever did. In fact, he was not lying. 

The product led to the end of the radiation cure craze. Weatlhy playboy Eben Byers, had a three-bottle a day Radithor habit. He died in 1932, after his came off.

His death caused the FDA, which had been formed in 1906, to insist that radioactive health products provide proof of their safety and effectiveness. This was, of course, impossible, so the industry all but dies. A few products with very low levels of radiation continued to be sold into the 1960's, however. 

Bailey was quite confused about the relationship between radiation and zombies. He actually thought his product was "A cure for the living dead." Everyone knows that radiation creates zombies instead of curing them. 

After the Federal Trade Commission stopped Bailey from selling his radithor, he went right on peddling other radiation products. He found the "Radium Institute" and sold products such as a radioactive belt-clip, a radioactive paperweight, and a water irradiator. 

Brown's Household Panacea - The Great Pain Reliever

A panacea is basically a cure-all. Most patent medicines of the 1800's were panaceas of one sort or another. Brown's Household Panacea, sold during the late 1800's tp early 1900's for 25 cents a bottle, was advertised as a "family liniment" which was, oddly, also recommended for internal use.

Its advertising claimed it would treat any pain whether applied externally to the skin or taken by mouth:

For Internal And Extenral Pains, Rheumatism, Pain in Stomach, Bowels or Side, Colic Diarrhoea, Colds, Sprains, Burns, Scalds, Cramps & Bruises.

It's ingredients, like most patent medicines of the day, were kept secret and I was unable to find any contemporary analysis of the contents.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Blood Poison: So Easy To Cure!

Blood poison was often used during the 1800's and into the early 1900's as a general wastebasket diagnosis to explain many common nonserious and serious conditions. Although blood poison, in those days, could mean the same thing as an infection of the blood introduced through a wound, it was just as often a way of saying "it's in your blood." there was little evidence to support these diagnoses.

Something being "in your blood" would seem easier to deal with than something that is not only in the circulating blood, but also in the lymphs and tissues. So, you can see the motivation for such a diagnosis: "It's in your blood and we can easily get it out of your blood."

However, at the same time, such bloodpoisoningg was used to explain condidtions that obviously manifested in the tissues. For example, the above advertisement for Dr. Brown's Blood Poison cure claims that people with pimples, ulcers, spots on the skin, etc. often have blood poison, "the worst disease on Earth." But...easy to cure!

There was little attempt to describe exactly what had "poisoned" the blood, yet this unknown infections or poisonous substance in the blood was easily cured by patent medicines. Such wastebaskets diagnosis still exist today, but were very prevelant during the 17th century. They were used as a 'catch-all' when no other specific problem could be found.

People would often diagnose themsevles with "blood poisining." Anything that was painful and swollen would be deemed a case of blood poison and there were many home cures, usually poultices, claimed to take care of these cases in a few hours. These were of course, simply local reactions to a wound or something as simple as a splinter, which, as we all know, can be quite painful and red, but certainly not usually deadly.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chlorine As a Medicine

Most of us use bleach quite often to either clean and sanitize our homes or to whiten our whites. Household bleach is actually sodium hypochlorite but the basis is chlorine.

Chlorine is a bactericidal AND a virucide. In other words, it will effectively kill many bacteria and viruses. So, can you blame the patent medicine industry for thinking that chlorine should be effective at fighting and preventing colds, whooping cough, and all sorts of other ailments.

Well, yes, you can blame them since real science is based on experimentation, not assumption. Yet, sure enough, there were patent medicines based on chlorine that claimed to prevent colds and cure and prevent all sorts of diseases and conditions. Undoubtedly, chlorine would effectively kill some pathogens in the body. Household bleach kills HIV, for instance. The problem is, of course, it would poison your body in large enough amounts to actually be effective. Some even say that the small amount of chlorine used to sanitize our water supply is killing us. 

The advertisement above reads:

"New CHLORINE Discovery Brings INSTANT Relief. Discovered during the war, the curative value of Chlorine has been thoroughly tested by U.S. Military Medical Authorities. In 4,491 army cases of colds and other respiratory diseases it proved 94 percent effective!

Chlorine is pleasant, safe, and tremendously helpful in preventing as well as healing. It actually destroys the germs that produce the cold--thus banishing ailments which, if unchecked, often lead to serious diseases and large medical bills. 

There is no mystery about the new Chlorine treatment, but it must be administered by registered physicians who have the finely adjusted apparatus necessary to assure quick benefits. 

Write for FREE book, "Cold Facts," giving the complete story of new Chlorine Treatment as dispensed by registered physicians in New York at 136 W. 42d St., daily from 10 A.M. to 6.30 P.M. and Sundays 10 to 12..."

This is a bit of a departure from the usual advertisement. Here, a group of "physicians" is claiming to dispense this chlorine "with finely tuned apparatus." Chances are, no actual chlorine was being dispenced, or it was a solution with such a small amount of chlorine as to be completely useless. Any large amount, of course, would not be 'pleasant.'  This is not to say that chlorine was not used as a medicine. 

As far as the U.S. military testing chlorine, well this is true. Chlorine was tested, and is still used today, to disinfect water in the field. Today, this is done with chlorine dioxide tablets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Effervescent Brain Salt: Brain Troubles, Headaches, Sea Sickness

Effervescent Brain Salt was a product marketed by F. Newberry & Sons in 1888. 

They claimed that the product was good for all sorts of troubles related to the brain. The bottles declared its effectiveness for the vague complaint of brain troubles, as well as headaches and sea sickness. The company also claimed it was good for nervous debility, sleeplessness, mania, indigestion, and many other problems.

Effervescent Brain Salt was nothing more than plain old sodium chloride or table salt. Oddly enough, those who were not getting enough sodium in their diet, which in those days was more likely than today, could indeed have suffered some of these maladies.  This was only one of many 'effervescent salts' marketed during the time, and while not all of them used sodium chloride, they all claimed to cure similar maladies.

These sorts of remedies were the forerunners of the now familiar antacids such as the old Bromo Seltzer and the still-popular Alka Seltzer. Before they were popular for the home medicine cabinet, they were served up at the soda fountain, which was typically located at the drug store.