Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good For What Ails You

by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

The Ripan’s Tabules ads appeared in an 1898 paperback edition of On the Firing Line, a Spanish-American War novel by “Douglas Wells” (a house name shared by Upton Sinclair, Harrie Irving Hancock, Enrique Lewis and Frederick R. Burton) in Street and Smith’s Columbia Library: War Stories of To-Day. The verse is so awful, that this ad is a surefire winner.

Ripan’s Tabules, sold from the 1860s onward, were composed of rhubarb, ipecac, peppermint, aloes, nux vomica and soda. There was also a chocolate-covered version to assist in swallowing this nauseating mess. (Ipecac, derived from the rhizome Ipecacuanha, induced violent vomiting. Nux vomica was derived from the Strychnine tree and caused convulsions.) I’m surprised that this patent medicine had any repeat customers.

“Cascarets” were probably made of an extract from the bark of the Rhamnus Purshiana, or “Cascara.” It was a recognized laxative. “No-To-Bac” was one of hundreds of stop-smoking aids available. It contained a hefty dose of opium.

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