The Miracle Cure (Not)

An illustration of the lentil plant from 1885.

An illustration of the lentil plant from 1885.

Snippets 71. During the 19th Century it was commonplace to make extraordinary claims about the properties of medication, in the absence of any regulation requiring proof. The following quote is taken from an advertisement for “Revalenta Arabica” in the Tasmania-based The Courier (1/11/1856):

No more pills or any other medicine.

For constipation, indigestion (dyspepsia), nervous billous, and liver complaints, cough, asthma, consumption, and debility.

Du Barry’s delicious Revalenta Arabica Food saves fifty times its cost in other medicine, and cures the above complaints and their consequences, such as – flatulency, distension, acidity, heartburn, palpitation of the heart, nervous headaches, hysteria, neuralgia, deafness, noise in the head and ears, pains in the pit of the stomach and between the shoulders, erysipelas, eruptions of skin, impurities and poverty of the blood, acrofula, cough, asthma, consumption, dropsy, rheumatism, gout, nausea and sickness during pregnancy, after eating, or at sea; low spirits, spasms, epileptic fits, spleen, general debility, inquietude, sleeplessness, involuntary blushing, paralysis, tremors, dislike to society, unfitness for study, loss of memory, delusions, vertigo, blood to the head, exhaustion, melancholy, groundless fear, indecision, wretchedness.

What the advertisement did not state, was that “Revalenta Arabica” was simply made from lentils. Whilst it was a healthy food to eat, it was not a cure for anything. However, it was probably of some use as a placebo, particularly for what might be termed psychological conditions such as “dislike to society”, “unfitness for study”, “groundless fear” and “indecision”, and at least was harmless, unlike many quack medications of the time. But claiming it had the ability to cure deafness, paralysis, etc, was ambitious to say the least!


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About Windows into History

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