Godfrey’s Cordial and Atkinson’s Infants Preservative
A concoction of morphia and chloroform, Chlorodyne was used as a pain reliever, and was advertised as curing “cholera, diarrhea, and dysentary” (1). Though it probably did no such thing, it did successfully relieve pain. Chloroform, half of Chlorodyne’s DNA, was commonly used as a pain reliever during childbirth, but only after Queen Victoria set the precedent by using it during her delivery of Prince Leopold (3). As it contained a form of morphine, Chlorodyne was also highly addictive.
Coca wine was a cocaine-fortified, alcoholic tonic. Prescribed for lethargy, anxiety, and depression, it was commonly doled out as an elixir any time one needed a ‘lift’ (1). It gave a lift, alright – and then some: “when cocaine and alcohol meet inside a person, they create a third unique drug called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene works like cocaine, but with more euphoria” (4). Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was a popular name-brand coca wine and was advertised as being able to cure almost anything. As with opium and morphine-based remedies, coca wine helped contribute to the widespread Victorian problem of addiction.
Victorian housewives kept these mysterious, “cure-all” pills in their medicine cabinets to cure myriad illnesses, from “cholera to liver disease, influenza to rheumatism and syphilis” (1). Unfortunately, they were laden with mercury. Recipes for the pills often included, “one part mercury with two parts confection of roses (rose petals steeped in rosewater with honey and sugar) and licorice root” (5). When taken as a remedy for a chronic problem, such as rheumatism, the effects on the body over time could “include hypersalivation, loosening of teeth, diarrhea, vertigo, depression, intention tremor, and stomatitis, all sometimes called ‘The Mad Hatter Syndrome'” (Ibid).
Much to a Victorian mother’s dismay, many sick remedies could worsen the symptoms they were intended to cure, or even elicit premature death. While a few treatments effectively numbed pain, the trade-off was that they were highly addictive. Yet these nefarious tendencies did not deter a mother from prescribing them to her family, if only due to one simple reason: there were no alternatives.
- Goodman, Ruth. How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life. New York: Liveright Corporation, a Division of W. W. Norton, 2015. Print.
- Preface. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. New York: Tor, 2013. N. pag. Print.
- Frerichs, Ralph R. “Anesthesia and Queen Victoria.” Anesthesia and Queen Victoria. UCLA Department of Epidemiology, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
- Hamblin, James. “Why We Took Cocaine Out of Soda.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 13 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
- “RSC Press Release: UK Lab Reveals Shocking Mercury Level in Blue Pills That Made Abraham Lincoln Rage and Shout.” Royal Society of Chemistry. N.p., 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.