Lydia Pinkham’s Cures All

Long before Prohibition, women feeling unwell had sought relief in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a patent medicine. Made of 21% alcohol, it certainly provided a big swig of relief! There weren’t many vegetables in Ms. Pinkham’s miracle compound, but each bottle had the equivalent of almost 8 ounces of 80-proof whiskey, enough to make a patient feel high or even drunk. The odd thing is, Ms. Pinkham was a temperance devotee, but maybe making money trumped personal preferences.

I’ve been interested in these patent medicines because one of my characters is a bootlegger and in the third book of the series, he runs a scam at a drug store that involves medicinal alcohol. His scheme is to capitalize on the ability of doctors, dentists, and even vets, to write prescriptions for liquor if it was intended for medicinal use. I did not make this up! I didn’t need to–people in the Roaring Twenties came up with hundreds of ways to work the system and get legal prescriptions for alcohol. 

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