Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This will relieve your stiff neck, croup, sore throat and chilblains

Wait. What are chilblains?

Oh, here we go. Chilblains is a medical condition affecting the extremities of certain people in extremely cold or humid environments.1

Chilblains could apparently be relieved by Maść Żywokostowa Ucco Salve, the product being advertised in English and Polish on the above old sample envelope from Universal Medicine Co. of Chicago. The salve — King of Them All — was also touted for its relief of sore throat, tonsilitis, stiff neck, neuralgia, rheumatism, congestion, sprains, sore muscles, bruises, bronchitis, croup, headache, lumbago, frosted feet, pains and aches of the back or joints, and colds in chest. Also: "It often prevents Pneumonia."

Quite the wonder drug!

Or not quite.

I came across the following court case and ruling concerning the product's misbranding in the U.S. National Library of Medicine archives:
"On December 11, 1936, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, acting upon a report by the Secretary of Agriculture, filed in the district court libels praying seizure and condemnation of 44 pages of Musterdone, 48 packages of University Kidney, Liver and Stomach Tea, 30 bottles of of Bol Lecznik Liniment, 30 packages of Universal Brand Stomach Drops, 68 packages of Universal Brand White Pine Cough Balsam, and 32 jars of Masc Zywokostowa Ucco Salve at New Orleans, La., alleging that the articles had been shipped in interstate commerce, on or about October 7, and charging adulteration and misbranding of the Bol Lecznik Liniment, and misbranding of the remaining products in violation of the Food and Drugs Act as amended."
An analysis had shown that the Masc Zywokostowa Ucco Salve merely contained menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, oil of wintergreen and salicylic acid incorporated in petrolatum.

Misbranding was alleged "for the reason that the ... statements borne on the labeling, regarding the curative or therapeutic effects of the article, were false and fraudulent." So, in fact, it didn't provide relief for all of those ailments. Imagine that!

The ruling concludes: "On January 6, 1937, no claimant having appeared, judgments of condemnation were entered and it was ordered that the products be destroyed."

You might think that was end of Maść Żywokostowa Ucco Salve. But I'm not sure that it was. Products with that name exist today.

Here are some rough translations of excerpts from this Polish-language web page:
"COLOUR ŻYWOKOSTOWA ... friendly skin ointment, relieve muscle tension ... It can be used for therapeutic massage and after exercise. It has a relaxing effect. The ointment is also applied to the irritated skin from external factors. It has an astringent. Especially recommended during rehabilitation after fractures. ... Externally, the frostbite, burns, eczema, ropniach and difficult to heal wounds. ... NATURAL INGREDIENTS."
But please don't take that as an endorsement from Papergreat!

1. If you want to get into really old medical treatments, Bald's Leechbook, compiled in the 9th century, recommended that chilblains be treated with a mix of eggs, wine, and fennel root.

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