Friday, November 14, 2014

Aspironal Cold Remedy — Better Than Whiskey For Colds and Flu!

Aspironal was a purported cold remedy manufactured by Aspironal Laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, around the period of 1919 to 1921. The name obviously played on the name of Aspirin, as the medicine, which was a liquid solution, contained a solution of sodium salicylate and other ingredients. Salicylates are compounds from which aspirin is derived.

The advertisements for the medicine claimed it was "better than whiskey" for the treatment of colds or flu. Of course, although whiskey can provide some relief from the symptoms of a cold, it is not a cure, by any means. Neither are salicylates or any of the other ingredients in the Aspironal. Although the labels claimed that the solution contained 10% alcohol, it probably contained much more.

When federal prohibition tool place in 1920, some states had already enacted their own prohibition laws. Druggists and patent medicine makers took advantage of a loophole that allowed the sale of "medicinal Whiskey." Although whiskey as medicine was the front, the intent was obviously to make money supplying the public with alcohol in the only way they could legally obtain it. Medicines like Aspironal, which mentioned whiskey, and which, as required, declared the amount of alcohol on the label, quite often contained more alcohol than declared. Under the Pure Food and Drugs act, this was considered misbranding, as were, of course, the fraudulent medical claims.

The ads for Aspironal made fairly bold claims and promises:

Delightful elixir, Called Aspironal, medicated with latest scientific remedies that are endorsed by medical authorities to cut short a cold or cough due to cold and prevent complications.

Every druggist in the U.S. instructed to refund price while you wait at counter if you don't feel relief coming in two minutes.

Delightful Taste, Immediate Relief, Quick Warm-Up.

You can imagine in what for this 'immediate relief' and 'quick warm-up' might come for a person in dire need of a drink! The dose instructions on the bottle were essentially to keep taking 1 teaspoonful until the desired effect. In other words, drink until you feel the desired buzz. Of course, they were careful to give the dose for children as drops.

Aspironal, which probably contained up to 15% alcohol, much more than the highest alcohol beer, also contained the aforementioned sodium salicylate, cascara, and a small amount of mydriatic alkaloids, probably from belladonna; and some menthol. Cascara is a laxative herb. Reference is made to the "bowels moving freely" on the dosage instructions. Mydriatic alkaloids are drugs that cause the pupil of the eye to dilate. An ophthalmologist uses a small amount of these kinds of compounds, in the form of an eye drop, to cause your pupil to dilate for examination.

Atropine is such an alkaloid, which is obtained from the nightshade family. Although this is a poisonous substance, it is also a lifesaver, and was, and still is, standard supply for troops under threat of attack by nerve agent, used, along with "2-PAM Chloride" to counteract the affects of these deadly chemical agents. The presence of these alkaloids in Aspironal probably had no other significance than extracts of belladonna being common in medicine of the this time period. The menthol, of course, is something you might find in modern cough remedies. Menthol has an agreeably "mediciny" taste, and does provide some help with congestion, etc. However, there was probably only enough menthol in Aspironal to make it taste more like a medicine than a cheap liquor, which, in those days, may have been a pointless distinction.