I found this fantastic Victorian medical cure-all advert in the Hereford Journal, August 5, 1857.
In case you don’t know, the Victorian era was filled with all kinds of quacks hawking their patented “cure-all” ointments and syrups and pills, and people bought the shit out of the them. At best, they maybe had some mild benefit, although none could ever match up to the grand claims they made. More frequently, they did nothing at all and relied upon the placebo effect. At worst (and this did happen) they contained a bunch of nasty stuff that left you sicker than you were before.
While we still obviously see faddish cure-alls today, they were a lot easier to market in the Victorian era before many of the governmental food and drug regulations came into effect in the later part of the century after serious issues and anxieties arose surrounding contaminated or adulterated food and medicine. Until then, they didn’t have to tell you anything about what ingredients their products contained, and many of the “patented” products you saw weren’t even patented at all.
“Holloway’s Ointment. A medical revolution! The world unanimous. The virtue of disease often works its way through to the internal organs via the pores of the skin. This penetrating ointment, melting under the hand as it is rubbed in, is absorbed through the same channels, and reaching the seat of inflammation, promptly and invariably subdues it, whether located in the kidneys, liver, lungs or any other important organ.
“It penetrates the surface to the interior, through the countless tubes that communicate with the skin as summer rain passes into the fevered earth, diffusing its cold and regenerative influence. Both ointment and pills should be used in the case of ‘bad legs, bad breasts, sand fly and mosquito bites, sore nipples, cancers, piles, tumours, lumbago, fistulas, elephantiasis, scurvy, sore throats, scalds and corns (soft)‘”.
Firstly, the person who wrote this had clearly never cracked open a medical textbook (at least not one written in the previous 50 years).
Secondly, what on earth are ‘bad breasts’ and ‘bad legs’? Like . . . the shape? Is this a boob job in a tube?
Thirdly, I love that the ointment can cure things as bad as cancer, tumors, fistulas, and elephantiasis, but they specify that it can only cure soft corns. Hard corns are beyond the remit of even the most miraculous medical solutions.