Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Battling cold, flu or grippe? Take some opium-laced Derfule!

While the polar vortex, bombogenesis, cryoseisms and other nasty weather phrases are attacking North America this winter, many of us are further plagued with coughs, sniffles, fevers, chills and general unwellness.

But if you still have some Derfule — as advertised on this vintage ink blotter1 — in your closet or medicine cabinet from 80 years ago, you're all set!

Derfule, produced by the Cole Chemical Co. of St. Louis, was specially formulated to fight colds, grippe and flu:
"Discomfort is often quickly relieved, mucous secretion checked and cough reduced by use of Derfule. Each capsule contains Powder of Ipecac and Opium (containing 1/40 gr. Opium) ¼ gr., 'Warning - may be habit-forming' Atropine Sulfate 1/500 gr., Acetophenetidin 1½ gr., Aspirin 2 gr., Camphor ⅛ gr., and Caffeine Alkaloid ⅛ gr. Average adult dose 1 or 2 capsules. Exempt narcotic, registry number required."

It looks like Derfule contained an ingredient that was also known as Dover's Powder, an opium-based medicine developed in the 18th century by English physician Thomas "Doctor Quicksilver" Dover (1660–1742).2

According to Wikipedia, Dover's Powder "was an old preparation of powder of ipecacuanha (which was formerly used to produce syrup of ipecac), opium in powder, and potassium sulfate. The powder was largely used in domestic practice to induce sweating, to defeat the advance of a 'cold' and at the beginning of any attack of fever."

Of course, if there's no Derfule around or if it doesn't give you the needed relief from your cough due to cold, you can always try to find an old, old bottle of Bayer around the house...

1. The Herb Museum website features a different vintage ink blotter for Derfule.
2. Doctor Quicksilver sounds like a name of a character in a Marvel comic.

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