Phosferine Tonic, 1940
More of the old pharmaceuticals today. I find these old fashioned remedies fascinating, although it seems they were mostly snake oils to varying degrees. Anything described as a “tonic” is probably not up to much, and so it seems with this, “Phosferine Tonic”, seen here in an advert from 1940.
In line with standard “cure-all” advertising, Phosferine is claimed to help with a list of ailments as long as your arm – depression, headache, indigestion, brain fag, neuralgia, sleeplessness, influenza, rheumatism, sciatica, anaemia, debility and neurasthenia. Because all those things have the same treatment, of course. I thought “Brain fag” was one of those diagnoses that didn’t exist anymore, like hysteria and brain fever, but apparently it’s a thing in Nigeria now, suffered by overworked students.
Here’s an advert especially interesting to me as it includes a testimonial from a man living in Hall Carr, Rawtenstall, which is the place where my mum grew up.
The British Medical Journal was on the case of anything calling itself a “secret remedy”, and was looking at the composition of this and other tonics back in 1911. It analysed it and found it to be mainly water, alcohol, quinine and phosphoric acid. And a bit of sulphuric acid thrown in as well – I’m not a chemist, but that’s not good as an ingredient, is it?
I also like the damning nature of the rather sensible 1917 issue of the Seventh Day Adventist publication Herald of Health – The Indian Health Magazine, which states that “the quantities are quite insufficient to be of any use as a tonic.”
Herald of Health also has much to say on the subject of tobacco, even in 1917 – it’s the “greatest of all curses of modern times.”