Advertisement for Dr Jenner's cure


This bold advertisement illustrates one of the most common 19th-century theories about the causes of persistent back pain – namely that one’s kidneys were ‘inactive, diseased or inflamed’. ‘Dr Jenner’s Kidney and Liver Cure’ was most likely a laxative or mild diuretic herb, which would have the effect of flushing out the kidneys with a risk of causing dehydration through vomiting or diarrhoea. The greatest risk was therefore to people who did have an actual kidney disorder, whose systems were very much vulnerable to even a mild purgative such as this one.

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 British Parliamentary register for 1830 lists more than 1,300 ‘proprietary medicines’ originating in Britain, the majority of which were tinctures of opium or alcohol that would give the user a mild euphoric effect without actually treating their ailments.

Full title:
A pathetic picture of pain and perplexity seen daily in every part of the British Isles... : Dr. Jenner's Kidney and Liver Cure... it prevents and cures all kidney troubles / Alfred Parker
c. 1900s
Advertisement / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
Alfred Parker
© Wellcome Images
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Creative Commons Attribution licence
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Wellcome Library, London

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