These days, there’s a medicine for everything. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing a commercial for restless leg syndrome, chapstick that cures headaches, or something for those little gremlins that live under your toe nails.

But go back a century or so and your medicine could have been a little more… extreme. A series of vintage ads from the 19th and early 20th century reveal that, back then, all you needed to fix that migraine was a little… cocaine.

1. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup.

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This stuff was first bottled in Bangor, Maine, in 1849 and contained a healthy dose of morphine. It was often used to treat teething babies.

2. Cocaine Toothache Drops.

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Pretty self explanatory here. Nothing like treating that tooth pain with a little cocaine addiction.


3. Bayer’s Heroin.

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This was used similarly to morphine. The company produced this up until 1913, when it turned out that heroin is extremely addictive. Who knew?!

4. Coca Cola.

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John Pemberton invented the famous soft-drink as a patent medicine in 1886. From 1891 to 1904, it had an estimated 9 milligrams of cocaine per glass.

5. Allen’s Cocaine Tablets.

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Now in convenient tablet form.

6. Forced March cocaine tablets.

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More tablets of cocaine for when you want cocaine, but prefer for it to look like Tums. This ‘medicine’ was taken by Ernest Shackleton in 1909 during his expedition to Antarctica, and was also used in World War I.

7. Heroin Hydrochlor.

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More heroin.

8. Indian and American Cannabis.

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This was also used for pain relief, but it doubled as a tonic for coughing, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.

9. Heroin Hydrochloride.

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People back then really liked their heroin, huh?

10. Allenbury’s Throat Pastilles.

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“Containing menthol, cocaine, red gum, eucalyptus, guaiacum, rhatany, potash, borax, formaldehyde and cinnamon oil” – according to the Herb Museum, Vancouver.

11. Ferratin and Lactophenin

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This “special” mix of cocaine and quinine was used as a sedative around the turn of the century.


12. Vin Mariani.

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This wine was loaded with 6 – 7.2 milligrams of cocaine per fluid ounce. It was a favorite of historical figures from Queen Victoria, to Pope Leo XIII, and Thomas Edison.

13. Theodore Metcalf’s Coca Wine.

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I’m beginning to sense a bit of a theme.

Source: io9

You know what’s even crazier? Due to some shoddy science at the time, heroin was actually thought to help ween people away from addiction. I wonder what sort of crazy things people commonly do now are going to be frowned upon a hundred years from now… probably a lot.

Share these vintage medicines with your friends below!