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More Old-Timey Medical Nonsense

by Guy McCardle

September 17, 2011

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Donate If there is one thing I like it is old-time medical literature. I enjoy the journal articles, popular media pieces and advertisements. Guess I'm kind of a geek like that. Today, I've chosen five items that I feel the Skeptoid readers might enjoy as well. It is an eclectic mix of parasites, tobacco, radioactive materials and abused drugs. I hope you like them.

I'm not sure exactly why anyone would want to perform this test in the first place. Smoking in a mine just seems like an all around bad idea. I mean, isn't methane kind of explosive? This first appeared in the March, 1924 issue of Popular Mechanics. Image courtesy of our friends at

Can you guess which glass has the chloroform? This cough syrup contains both alcohol and chloroform. Guess it is hard to cough when you are passed out. Fun fact: Until 1976, chloroform was used in consumer products like cough syrup, toothpastes, ointments and other pharmaceuticals. Image courtesy of

Circa 1930 these radium suppositories were manufactured by The Home Products Company of Denver, Colorado. They were guaranteed to contain real radium, and probably did. It looks disturbingly like a carrot. Image courtesy of

From the company's brochure:

Weak Discouraged Men!

Now Bubble Over with Joyous Vitality

Through the Use of

Glands and Radium

". . . properly functioning glands make themselves known in a quick, brisk step, mental alertness and the ability to live and love in the fullest sense of the word . . . A man must be in a bad way indeed to sit back and be satisfied without the pleasures that are his birthright! . . . Try them and see what good results you get!"

Quaaludes. Dad looks wayyyyyyy too happy here. The ad reads, "Now the physician has one less tired, sleepy and apprehensive patient to deal with". Talk about truth in advertising! No wonder the stuff was made illegal by the mid-1980s. Image courtesy of

I love how this ad shows tons of wholesome foods; just about everything but a tapeworm. "No diet, no baths (no baths?), no exercise, no danger. No danger?!! Let me refer you to this article entitled, Tapeworms: a real and present danger which reads, in part:

Once the eggs are ingested, the tapeworm larvae hatch, penetrate blood vessels and can reach any organ, including muscles, the brain, the eyes and the spinal cord. Eventually, hard cysts form around the larvae. Pressure from the cysts, together with degenerative changes in the tissue around them, can cause headaches, seizures, paralysis, blindness and even death.


Dr. Oz and Oprah hold a real tapeworm. Gross...and the tapeworm is pretty nasty too.

by Guy McCardle

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