Patent Medicine: Laxative Liver Syrup

We have this bottle and casing of Laxative Liver Syrup in our History of Medicine Collection. 

It is a tall, amber, hand-blown cork to bottle, embossed in three panels "The Chattanooga Medicine Company / Chattanooga, Tenn. / St.Louis, Mo.", along with full contents. The original label on reverse is missing, with small remnants left.

The box reads "Thedford's / Velvo / Or / Laxative / Liver / Syrup / Sole Proprietors / The Chattanooga Medicine Co. / Chattanooga, Tenn. / St. Louis, Mo.", along with a list of symptoms this remedy is recommended for. The side panels contain information in German and Swedish.

This product was a patent medicine and dates to the early 1900s. Patent medicines were sold without prescription. They often made grandiose claims about their efficacy, with a single medicine able to cure everything from a stomach ache to rheumatism.

There are no ingredients listed on the label, apart from the title. Patent medicines often contained a range of products, including morphine, cocaine, alcohol, and opium– often more than one at the same time. The phrase “snake oil salesman” came from a patent medicine, “Stanley’s Snake Oil”, which contained no snakes but did have turpentine and camphor.

Listen to Lori Loeb, History Professor at the University of Toronto, talk about patent medicine here: