Wednesday Vignette: New Words, Old Medicines

I’d never heard of Vitamin G until today, but Eudigolbin, a product in the historic apothecary at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, lists it. Turns out it was demoted from a vitamin to a micronutrient, and now we call it riboflavin or B2.


Eudiglobin, suitable for children, older children, and adults alike, is a remedy for anemia, and besides Vitamin G and Vitamin B, both to “increase the tonic effect,” it contains Iron and Ammonium Citrates (aka ferrous ammonium citrate, also an ingredient in the Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru), Manganese Citrate (now used in a some supplements for osteoarthritis), Red Bone Marrow in a Glycerin Extract, a paste of Liver Concentrate (“ratio to Fresh Liver 1:20”), and Malt Extract Syrup — all in a “palatable Sherry Wine base” with an alcohol content of 17%.

It was advertised at the time (1940s) as “a good picker-upper.” Vitamin Get-Up-&-Go? Giddy-Up? Gyre & Gimble?


Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People, according to Wikipedia, was an over-the-counter drug that contained ferrous sulfate and magnesium sulfate and “claimed to cure chorea, referenced frequently in newspaper headlines as ‘St. Vitus’ Dance,’ as well as ‘locomotor ataxia, partial paralyxia, seistica, neuralgia rheumatism, nervous headache, the after-effects of la grippe, palpitation of the heart, pale and sallow complexions, [and] all forms of weakness in male or female.'”



I could easily have spent another hour in the apothecary, reading each and every label.

This combo of Bliss Native Herbs (center) looks intriguing: Aloe, licorice, mandrake, gentian, burdock, cayenne pepper, uva ursi (bearberry), galangal (an Asian ginger), and buchu (a South African plant whose leaf is used to treat UTIs and kidney infections, among other things).  It’s a laxative that’s supposed to help kidney, liver, and stomach function.



Happy little shelf: A little strychnine, a little belladonna (aka deadly nightshade), a little nux vomica (strychnine is derived from the seeds of the Indian tree Strychnos nux-vomica), a little colocynth … the last of which was banned by the FDA in 1991: “Taking even very small amounts of colocynth can cause severe irritation of the stomach and intestine lining, bloody diarrhea, kidney damage, bloody urine, and inability to urinate. Other side effects include convulsions, paralysis, and death. There have been reports of death following ingestion of just 1-1/2 teaspoons of the powder.”



All of these and many more were fascinating to me, in “sharp” contrast to the collection of 600 straight razors.



Wednesday Vignette is brought to us by Flutter & Hum.

One comment

  1. Wow, what an interesting museum! I love how back in the day, there was an actual association between plants and medicine to a whole other degree than now. Even non-pharmacists knew that certain plants contained substances that would have a certain effect. I wish we still taught our young about the power of plants, and the impact they can have.

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