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Most of us are familiar, through books or films. With the 19th century traveling medicine man with his horse drawn wagon filled with elixirs, pills or other curatives. He would travel; from town to town selling his wares to people more than willing to buy.
There were few, if any, doctors, in the territories covered by the self proclaimed worker of medical miracles. Eventually there were other sources of medical attention and help. Not that the providers of all sorts of potions and pills went out of business
Look at any old newspaper or magazine dating from the turn of the 20th century and you will find many ads for cures and comfort. Everything from cold syrup to that famous syrup for women - Lydia Pinkham’s. This was touted as a sure cure for everything bothering mature females, without ever being specific about anything. There was just the assurance that a tablespoon of the stuff would provide a feeling of well being. It was removed from the market after being exposed as being a large part whiskey. Now that research has proven that a shot of whiskey a day is actually beneficial maybe they should put it back in circulation.
Coca Cola had much the same history. It was formulated by a southern pharmacist and was famous for being a great pick-me-up, and also pretty good at taking care of migraines if used with an aspirin tablet. Down the line, in the early thirties, the formula had to be changed when it was discovered that the boost was provided by an opiate included in the mix.
I’ve talked with people old enough to have known the early edition and they said the original drink was a lot better than the revised one. I’ll bet it was.
Today, we are back in the grip of the snake oil salesmen. They may not be coming into town and setting up in the town square, complete with spiels and shills, they are coming right into our living rooms with both. I have decided to keep count of pharmaceutical items sold on TV and I’m sure the count will be staggering.
Biggest sellers are feel good items that promise to cure just about every thing that ails you. Headaches and back pains are right at the top of the list. Right behind them are allergies, joint pains and headaches. Almost all the medicines are sold over the counter, saving you the trouble and expense of getting a prescription.
In order to cover their backs, while working on yours, the companies have to issue some warnings. These can be worse than the original symptoms and problems. There’s a pill recommended for women with “female” problems that has a list of possible side affects as long as your arm and they are all frightening. These include strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, blood clots, to mention just a few. Also, it is not to be taken if you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or a nursing mother. In other words what could happen to you if you pop the medicine is much worse than what is happening to you without it.
The messages that are being sent on the tube aren’t subliminal or even subtle, they are downright blatant and usually with upped decibels. In the olden days, the salesman stood outside his wagon and shouted through a megaphone. There usually were plants in his audience - people who for a few dollars would step up and tell of their amazing stories. “Yesterday I couldn’t walk but after drinking some of this man’s wonderful syrup I can run and dance”.
Today is no different. Commercials are filled with professional actors pretending to be examples of how wonderful the product in question is. Sometimes, in miniscule print you can read that the tout is an actor. If your eyes are good enough to read the print, that is.
Speaking of which, I have my own testament about a weird and seemingly miraculous cure. My eyes are pretty awful. I think a cataract I had removed is back and another is growing bigger in the other eye. The other day I bumped my head very hard. I have a head like a cannonball and incredibly thick hair so I wasn’t worried about a concussion. There was a small bump right on the top of my head. Two days later I noticed that my vision was clear as a bell and without my glasses. I haven’t been able to see this well in years. I don’t know what happened but so far it’s still holding.
My friend who lives in France called me the next day and when I told him my freaky story he said, “Jinny, I think you should take a baseball stick (there’s no French word for baseball bat), and hit all your trouble spots”.
He could be right. You know how hitting something that’s malfunctioning sometimes makes it work right?
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