Oldermedical writings have much information about drugs of vegetableorigin. Roots, leaves, and barks were the principal means oftreating diseases with drugs until the dawn of the presentcentury. We now know that many of these were of little or notherapeutic value, but some, such as foxglove (digitalis) andbelladonna (atropine) remain as useful drugs. Vincristine andvinblastine, derived from the periwinkle plant, have beenimportant in the treatment of several forms of cancer for about25 years. I will present five medicines with herbal embossingfrom my “medicine chest”.

Dr. Gordak's Jelly of Pomegranate. Dr. Crook's wooden shipping box. Dr. Bowder's Syrup of Indian Turnip.

Jelly of / Pomegranate / Preparate // By / Dr.Gordak / Only, 7 inches tall, aqua, rectangular, blowpipe pontil,appears to be the oldest medicine bottle I have. Note thespelling errors. Dr. William Gordak began practicing medicine inBoston about 1840, and placed his “Jelly” on themarket around 1842. Other pontiled embossed Gordak bottles, allaqua, include his Drops, Cough Drops, Columbia, and IcelandJelly; they also appear to be crude and early. Pomegranate wasfrom the punicaceous tree. The bark of both the root and the treecontained pelletierine, which seemed to be of value in removingintestinal tapeworms. The rind of the fruit was “activelyastringent” and used in diarrhea, hemorrhages,leukorrhea, relaxation of the throat, canker sores in the mouth,fever, etc.

Dr. Bowder's / Compound Syrup / Of IndianTurnip, 6 1/2 inches tall, aqua, rectangular, blowpipe pontil wasput out by Dr. Jonathan Browder, who was first listed in theLouisville, Kentucky, City Directory in 1843. After 1851, he leftthe medicine business to become the sexton of a law collegelocated on Chestnut Street. I know of no other embossed Browderbottles. Indian turnip was also known as wild turnip ordragonroot. The root was the only useful part, and in its freshstate was a powerful stimulant to the secretions of the lungs andskin. I don'' know how Dr. Browder kept it fresh. It was used forcoughs, consumption of the lungs, asthma, colic and pains ofbowels, and apthous sores of the mouth and throat.

Dr. Crook's Syrup of Poke Root. Thurston's Hoarhound & Tar, and (right), Hoswell's witch Hazel Cream.

Dr. Crook's / Compound // Syrup of / Poke Root,7 1/4 inches tall, aqua, square, was a product of Dr. OliverCrook and Company of Dayton, Ohio. They advertised theirVegetable S-PH-L-S Remedy as early as 1865, apparently Dr. Crookwas a bit modest, and their Syrup of PokeRoot by 1871. They alsohad a Wine of Tar advertised in 1872. I have two of the Crook'sPokeRoot bottles, one with a partial label, and also the woodenshipping box. Both the root and fruit of poke weed or Phytolaccaproved to be an alternative, cathartic, and emetic, and werethought to be useful in parasitic diseases of the skin, granularconjunctivitis, rheumatism, and hemorrhoids.

Geo. B. Thurston / Hoarhound and Tar, 6 inchestall, aqua, rectangular is a crude smooth based bottle. G.B.Thurston registered the trademark for Mrs. Thurston's CelebratedWork Syrup in Lynn, Mass. on May 2, 1871. Thurston's Liniment byG. Morse was advertised in Marlboro, N.H. in 1885. Hoarhound,also spelled horehound, was from the labiate plant. The leavesand tops were useful in coughs and dyspnea (trouble breathing);there was also a tonic action on the heart, and as a bonus, itcured intestinal parasites.

Haswell's / Witch Hazel Cream, 5 1/2 inchestall, clear, rectangular, bimal was advertised in The Era BlueBook in 1900 (issued annually by the Pharmaceutical Era), but Ihave no more information about this remedy. Witch hazel comesfrom Hamamelis virginica trees and shrubs. The leaves containtannin, which was thought to be useful as an astringent. The barkwas used as an external application in inflammatory conditions ofthe skin. The extract helped diarrhea, typhoid fever, and otherunhealthy conditions of the bowels.

Herbal remedies seemed to work well in alldiseases except those that proved to be incurable. Even with ourthousands of new drugs, it's still sort of that way, plus we'vegot to figure out a way to pay for it all.

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