Advertisement for Powell's basalm of aniseed
Powell’s ‘Balsam of Aniseed’ was one of many unregulated treatments for a dry cough in the Victorian era. Dry coughs were supposed by many to be a precursor to serious lung diseases such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, so it was considered wise to take something that would cause one to expectorate phlegm from the chest.
The 19th century was a golden age for quack cures and remedies. Most often described as ‘patent’ or ‘proprietary medicines’, they made large claims for their own efficacy and as further proof were often housed in extremely elaborate and ornate bottles or jars. The bottle for Powell’s Balsam is among the most famous of the era, being bright green and pyramidal in shape – very unusual for the time.
- Article by:
- Sharon Ruston
- Technology and science, Romanticism, Fin de siècle
Opium was widely available in the 19th century, sold by barbers, tobacconists and stationers. Writers including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Dickens all used the drug, for pleasure or as medicine. Professor Sharon Ruston explores how drugs provided both inspiration and subject matter for the literature of the period.