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Federal Legislation Cracks Down on Quack Cures

Looking a little green lately?  Constant headache?  Feeling weak?  You may be suffering from Green Sickness, according to a page-four ad in a 1901 edition of the Rogue River Courier

Coincidentally, the ad ran three days after New Year’s Eve and listed symptoms similar to a hangover, but blamed impoverished blood and nerves.  A cure in the form of a 50-cent packet of Hudyan’s Remedy thickens watery blood and puts the bloom back in your cheeks, the ad promised. 

Before the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, newspaper ads promoted dozens of sure-cures.  Doctor E.C. West’s guaranteed remedy cured a brain disorder causing hysteria, convulsions, depression, impotence, and old age brought on by over-exertion.  Chamberlains’ Tablets, Liver Salts and Peptona cured indigestion, while Foley Kidney Pills took care of backaches, swollen ankles, and that general feeling of biliousness.

Gold Medal Haarlem Oil Capsules, based on a 200-year-old Dutch remedy, promised to heal rheumatism and lumbago by driving deadly uric acid out of the body.

After passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, such remedies were exposed as mostly alcohol, morphine, opium or cannabis, but the Act provided only modest penalties for selling bogus cures.

Sources: "Green Sickness Advertisement." Rogue River Courier 3 Jan. 1901 [Grants Pass OR] : 4. Historic Oregon Newspapers: 8 July 2016. http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088281/1901-01-03/ed-1/seq-4/#date1=1846&index=17&date2=2016&words=jaded&searchType=advanced&sequence=0&lccn=sn96088281&proxdistance=5&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&; "History." U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 July 2016.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.