Talk:Patent medicine

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old comments[edit]

As I was disambiguating references to mercury, I didn't know what to do with the one in this article: "mercurial eruptions". I think it's a reference to temperament. lists "Quick and changeable in temperament; volatile" as one of its definitions. If that is the intended meaning, then I don't know where it should link to (if anywhere), so I'll leave it ambiguous. Jimbreed 13:37, Oct 24, 2003 (UTC)

My understanding of the "mercurial eruptions" is that they were skin lesions caused by poisoning with mercury compounds, which in the nineteenth century were given as a treatment for syphilis and other diseases. There is also a mercurial rash caused by external applications of mercury compounds. Here's a link to a title of an apparently old homeopathic book that lists "mercurial eruptions" in the middle of a list of skin ailments. [1]. Apart from the old ad, this is the only reference Google knows. -- Smerdis of Tlön 16:45, 24 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Thanks to anon re Eben Byers[edit]

Thanks, anon User:, for adding a reference to the Eben Byers article, whose existence I had not suspected. I remember reading a story about him in either Nature or Scientific American a few years back, that I have sought in vain. Smerdis of Tlön 02:39, 19 Aug 2004 (UTC)


Should this article be added to the Alternative medicine and/or Pseudoscience categories? -- FirstPrinciples 18:43, Sep 27, 2004 (UTC)

  • Category:Pseudoscience probably fits, though it is rather iffy. Many of the nostrums were promoted with pseudoscientific claims, even if they also had ingredients that "worked." Category:Alternative medicine is a bit shakier IMO. Most of that stuff was invented back in the 19th century as a reaction to the realization that taking this stuff wasn't necessarily good for you; its fate was to outlive its usefulness or plausibility. Smerdis of Tlön 19:25, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • I think neither. This stuff was mainstream medicine at the time. Might as well put Vioxx under the Alternative medicine and Pseudoscience categories. Gzuckier 22:37, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  • There are good reasons to question the statement that this was 'mainstream' medicine. It depends in part on how far back one goes in time, but by the early to mid 19th century 'mainstream' medicine was in large part eloquently opposed to many of the approaches espoused and practiced by 'patent medicine' vendors, as described in this article. The entry for pseudoscience in Wikipedia is, IMO, excellent, and when the practices of the (almost entirely American) patent medicine vendors described in the patent medicine entry are viewed in the light of that article, many are without doubt well within the boundaries of what is widely (i.e. without any great controversy) described as pseudo-science. deepestbluesea 22:12, 12 Aug 2005 (UTC)

Wonderful Scholarship[edit]

I'm not sure why this article flunked the "featured article" test -- I think the reviewers want every claim footnoted, or maybe this article has been improved since the review. I'd just like to say that this is a magnificent piece of collaborative scholarly writing. It's one of the articles I'd tell people to look at if they'e skeptical about Wikipedia. Congratulations to everyone involved. Bryan 01:12, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Agreed. A great article that should be featured. Blastfromthepast 15:16, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

Translation Issue[edit]

I wanted to point out that 'suffragium asotas' does not translate as 'refuge for the dissipated,' as listed in this Wiki article. In the cited USA Today article, the Harvard-type who suggests 'refuge for the dissipated' does so saying that the folks at Enzyte who said 'suffragium asotas' probably meant 'suffugium asotis.'

'Suffragium' refers to a vote or support of something. 'Suffugium' refers to refuge. Two different words entirely.

'Asotis' is a form of 'asotas' which means dissipated, dissolute, libertine, sensualist. I provided extra clarification on this one because the idea of 'disspated' lends more to the image of, say, gas dissipating as opposed to someone with an overactive sexdrive.

See this wiki discussion for more details:

--Studio Ghibli 05:52, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

Mithridate and theriac vs. snake oil and patent medicines[edit]

From going over the history of mithridate and theriac (originally presented as universal antidotes to poison or wounds), it's apparent that these had a certain parallelism to patent medicines in ancient times, though they incorporated a wide selection of ingredients actually intended to be the best medicines known to physicians of the time. From the beginning they contained "poppy-tears", but taken from wild poppies those contained only small amounts of opiates. Eventually their formulation degenerated to include true opium (late 1700s) and powdered snake flesh (19th century?). Since patent medicines and "snake oil" coexisted with these in the last two centuries, I am very, very tempted to draw the conclusion that there was an actual historical progression by which theriac degenerated into patent medicines and snake oil. But it's difficult to find a reputable source that states this unambiguously. I wonder if the editors here could easily suggest something. Mike Serfas 20:56, 7 April 2007 (UTC)

Ancient times[edit]

The article claims "In ancient times, such medicine was called nostrum remedium...". Is there any evidence that this is actually the case? It seems more likely that 17th century peddlers simply used a latin phrase to make their product seem more scholarly. Matthew Miller 17:07, 9 July 2007 (UTC)


Levine2112 has repeatedly removed the categorisation of Category:Quack medicine from this article, apparently based on nothing more than his/her irrational dislike of the category, which he/she has already nominated for deletion. His/her last removal included an attempt to pass off the general guidelines on categorisation as absolute rules; specifically, the one involving applicability of the most specific categories. Unfortunately, this guideline only applies in case of transitive categorisation; patent medicines, constituting (as can be seen from a discussion above) a wide category involving both protoscientific and pseudoscientific as well as medicinal facets, thus merit individual categorisation under Category:Quack medicine rather than the "inherited" categorisation from Category:Pseudoscience. Accordingly, I have reverted. Further reversal without adequate (!) explanation will be considered vandalism and appropriately reported. Digwuren 17:58, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

I say, keep the cats.  Mr.Guru  talk  21:46, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
Please discuss Wikipedia:Categorization_and_subcategories and how you feel this is an exception to that rule. Thanks. "apparently based on nothing more than his/her irrational dislike of the category", Please WP:AGF, nothing can be further from the truth. As you can see, I didn't touch "Quack Medicine", but rather removed "Pseudoscience" of which "Quack Medicine" is a subset. That's typically how things are done here at Wiki. If you feel that this is an exception, then please explain calmly and rationally (and please observe WP:NPA). Thanks again. -- Levine2112 discuss 04:23, 31 August 2007 (UTC)


I think methadone is a good medicine and is widely misunderstood. I don't think it's a patent medicine. I've seen literature myself that mis-states the side effects of methadone, presumably done so to dissuade persons from trying to use for recreational purposes. Much of the false information about methadone comes from San Diego, for some reason. But, when you compare the reception that methadone receives in American society with patent medicines and their users, do you see a similarity?-- (talk) 14:40, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Non sequitur in the lead?[edit]

In ancient times, such medicine was called nostrum remedium, "our remedy" in Latin, hence the name "nostrum," that is also used for such medicines; it is a medicine whose efficacy is questionable and whose ingredients are usually kept secret.

"That is also used for such medicines"...I'm sorry, but this is not reading right for me. I'm not sure how to fix it exactly either. Why does "nostrum" follow ("hence") from "our remedy"? II | (t - c) 08:52, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

Speaking of nostrum, this article contains the word "nostrum" seventeen or eighteen times in the text. Nostrum. Maybe we could think up an alternate for nostrum in a few of these places. (talk) 23:42, 3 February 2011 (UTC)

Dr. James C.Ayer[edit]

I recently made a stub article for Dr. James Cook Ayer, who according to his New York Times obituary, was the wealthiest patent medicine maker in the world at the time of his death in the 1870s. Patent Medicine is not something I know anything about (my specialty is the city of Lowell, Massachusetts where he first set up shop: See his laboratory here.) Just figured I'd mention this in case anyone has interest in expanding / improving his article. The stub I made links to a personal web page of someone who has a ton of his advertisments as well. Thanks! CSZero (talk) 05:36, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Warburg's Tincture[edit]

I have added Warburg's Tincture to the the list in the 'See Also ' section. I trust thsi is satisafctory. I have included in the entry the qualifier: "a 19th-century antipyrectic (not a patent medicine, but alleged by some in its day as being one)" .--Roland Sparkes (talk) 11:14, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Swaim's Panacea[edit]

I've added Swaim's Panacea to the see also list, it was a very popular 19th century patent medicine, even after they took the mercury out of it!--Milowenthasspoken 14:57, 15 May 2014 (UTC)