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July 07 , 2009

Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs

Frontier Medicine in the American West


Powder papers, booty balls, and sugar tits— Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs has a cure for whatever ails! These quaint names were given to popular medicinal forms during America's frontier era that were said to cure everything from fallen arches to a broken windmill. Grandmas, mommas, and even certified physicians treated the sick, lame, and unlucky with what was available: barbed wire and horseshoe nails, cactus, pokeweed, buckeyes, you name it. Ironically, a lot of these homespun treatments actually worked. In Lotions, Potions, and Deadly Elixirs, a practicing pharmacist takes a light-hearted look at the most popular medicines from the frontier days and how they were intended to work. An authoritative "Frontier Materia Medica" lists common drugs, the dates they were in use, customary doses, and idiosyncrasies. The author's outstanding collection of bottle labels, advertising art, and rare photographs of "medicine shows" rounds out this colorful survey of America's medicinal past.

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