15 Curious Quack Remedies From the Age of Patent Medicine

The patent medicines of yesteryear contained some horrific ingredients, such as arsenic, mercury, lead, and radium, and some that could get you arrested today. They rarely cured anything, but they made people feel better, mainly because of the alcohol that was found in the majority of them. Some had ingredients that weren’t quite as shocking, but were just plain weird, like Bovanine.

The consumption of blood is not itself an oddity, and became part of the tonic offerings in patent medicine through manufacturers like the Bovinine Company in Chicago. A truly unsettling 1890 ad for Bovinine shows a woman with her eyes closed, a small glass of red liquid beside her, and the words: "Look on me in my lassitude reclining / My nerveless body languid, pale and lean; / Now hold me up to where the light is shining / And mark the magic power of BOVININE."

When the postcard is held up to a light, suddenly her eyes open and a ghostly steer appears outside the window with the words “My life was saved by Bovinine.” And the drug probably was quite eye opening, being a tantalizing and alcoholic mix of beef blood, glycerine, and sodium chloride (salt).

Read about 14 other kinds of snake oil-type cure-alls at mental_floss.

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