Medicine: Patent Panaceas

The desire to take medicine is one feature which distinguishes man, the animal, from his fellow creatures.

—Sir William Osier, in 1895

It made no difference what ailed a man, or his wife, or his horse. The nostrum peddlers had a sure cure for it—and generally the same cure. With no legal restrictions, the patent medicine men made limitless claims. One ointment boasted that it could cure "ague in the face, swelled breasts, sore nipples, bronchitis, sore throats, quinsy, croup, felons, ringworms, burns, scalds, shingles, erysipelas, salt rheum, piles, inflammation of the eyes and...

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