Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hall's Balsam



From the Collection of the Museum of Health Care at Kingston

My third great grandfather, Miles Price, filed for a pension from his service in the Civil War. He claims that he contracted the measles while in camp and that they affected his lungs for his whole life.  The druggist in the small town was called on to say that he remembers Grampa buying lots of Halls Balsam.  This was in lieu of going to any hospitals or seeking official treatment, other than from his uncle-in-law doctor, deceased before filing the pension.

In 1849, Dr. Amon L. Scovill partnered with Henry E Morrill to market Dr. Roger’s Compound Syrup of Liverwort, Tar & Canchalagua. Within a few years, they also had other medicines under their name of A. L. Scovill & Co, including Dr. William Hall’s Balsam for the Lungs, Scovill’s Compound Extract of Sarsaparilla and Stillingia, and Circassian Hair Restorative.  The business was taken over in 1872 by John Henry under the name of John F. Henry & Co. 

A book titled, “One Thousand Secrets of Wise and Rich Men Revealed,” by C. A. Bogardus, Champion Quick Shot of the World (yes, it say that in the title) tells us that the ingredients of Hall’s Balsam are ipecac, extract of squills, chloroform, wine of tar, opium and mullen.  Ipecac was once used as an expectorant.  It was often combined with opium in a syrup form for cough medicines.  Extract of squills is extract from the drimia maritime plant (commonly called the sea onion).  The extract was used as an expectorant.  Chloroform was once used to calm patients with asthma and also used in cough medicines, toothpastes, and mouthwash as a sweeting agent.  It, of course, is now known for knocking people out in the movies.  A cloth over the face ALWAYS means chloroform.  And there Grampa was ingesting it like crazy…  Wine of tar was simply a byproduct of the distillation of tar, used as an expectorant.  Mullen weeds are natural bronchial dilator and, obviously, opium, used to relax, calm and basically survive.  And, again.  Grampa was ingesting it like crazy.

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