What medicines do you remember?

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned treatments and medicines that aren’t so commonly used any more although they were very popular in their time. If you can remember any of these, or would like to tell us about any other common medicines or treatments that you can remember, please let us know in the comments section below.

M&B 693

In the post about influenzal colds in 1940, the medical book notes that the children were treated with 693 tablets.

693 was a name for an antibiotic medicine called sulphapyridine. It was produced by the firm May and Baker and so was often also known as M&B.

The drug was first discovered in 1937. In tests it was found to be an effective treatment for pneumonia and it was also used to treat other infections such as sore throats and gonorrhoea. In fact, it became so popular that it was widely used during the Second World War and May and Baker had trouble keeping up with wartime demand for the drug.

Famously, Winston Churchill was successfully treated with M&B when he was suffering from pneumonia in 1943 which he contracted shortly after attending the Teheran conference that finalised the strategy for the war against Nazi Germany.

693 was later superseded by penicillin and other antibiotics.

Cod liver oil

In the post about tuberculosis in the early 1900s, we find that when John was ill, but before the cause of his illness was known, he was treated with cod liver oil.

Cod liver oil contains vitamin A and vitamin D and it is still used today as a supplement to help with joint problems. In the past it was regularly given to children; this was to help prevent rickets, which was very common in the early-20th Century.

Presumably, as in the case of John, it was also seen as a cure-all that could help to relieve someone’s symptoms when they were ill.

Port wine and brandy

Another treatment mentioned in the post about tuberculosis in the early 1900s is the use of port wine and brandy. When John entered a convalescent home with tuberculosis, he was prescribed port wine, brandy and a generous diet to help build up his strength.

Alcohol has been used as a medical treatment for a long time and spirits such as brandy were popular in the late-19th and early-20th Centuries. They were often used as cardiac stimulants that were thought to increase blood pressure, but some doctors used them as treatments for a whole variety of diseases.

One of the uses of brandy and other spirits was as a supposed aid to digestion and metabolism. They were often prescribed in the diets of people convalescing from illnesses and it is probably for this reason that they were prescribed for John.

Fresh air

In a number of cases we see that children convalescing from illnesses were sent out to homes in the countryside or on the coast. Several of The Children’s Society’s children’s homes were built on the coast for this reason, such as St David’s Convalescent Home in Broadstairs, Kent and St Agnes’ Convalescent Home at Pevensey Bay, Sussex.

Photograph from a leaflet advertising the Children’s Union, showing boys on the beach at St Agnes’ Convalescent Home, Pevensey Bay, Sussex, c1936

Leaving the big cities was thought to aid recovery although, interestingly, a number of children’s homes in London took in children with illnesses too. This was because a stay in London meant that the child would be able to attend hospital for treatment. Often they would be sent to London for a brief period of time and then go out to the countryside once the hospital treatment was complete.

What do you remember?

Do you remember any of the treatments I’ve mentioned here? Please tell me in the comments. It would be interesting to find out how popular they really were.

And that’s not all. I’d love to hear about other treatments and medicines that you remember. I’m sure my list is just the tip of the iceberg!

129 thoughts on “What medicines do you remember?

  1. I remember being given lemon and barley water for bladder issues, sulphur tablets (not sure why!), cod liver oil capsules, and some kind of malt syrup. Not sure why on that one either. I was raised in England in the fifties and I think some of these were reminiscent of my mother’s childhood.

    • Dear Glenys,
      This is great. Thanks for sharing! I wonder if anyone else was given malt syrup or sulphur tablets and if they know the reason why? I’ll look out for them in our records here to see if they were used in the early part of the 20th Century too.

      • We were given codliver oil and malt not sure why but later sulpher tablets to get ride of face spots and it worked cant find where to buy them for grand children

        • Dear Brian,
          Thanks for adding your memories. I’ve not heard of sulpher tablets being used for face spots before so thanks for mentioning them. They don’t sound like a medicine that would taste very nice!

        • Sulphur tablets were given for face or back spots. My mother gave me a mixture of Flowers of Sulphur (a yellow powder) & treacle. It tasted quite nice and it certainly worked. My back was covered in spots and they disappeared and never returned. The malt syrup was called Virol. It was in a very large dark brown jar and a teaspoon was dipped into it. Delicious. It was given along with a teaspoon of cold liver oil and a teaspoon of orange syrup – both from clear medicine bottles. These three products were all given daily when I was a child.

        • I had bronchitis for the first 7 years of my life & was always given sulphur tablets.

      • Malt syrop could have been Robeline, and Supher was Spring medicine to clear the blood.

      • The ‘sulphur’ tablets mentioned in a couple of previous posts were actually Sulphanilamide, used as a tablet and also in powder form for infected sores. Very effective.

      • Lemon and barley water was disgusting but effective. Sulphur is a good remedy for skin problems, I use it on my white English Bull Terriers who are prone to skin issues. Don’t know if it’s available at the chemist but is certainly available at farm suppliers.

    • I was a War baby I took a spoonful of castor oil and same of malt every morning before school – supposedly kept us healthy.. loved it but couldn’t now

  2. Calamine Lotion – a pink creamy milk used for sun burning before ‘sun block’ hit summer seaside beaches a decade or two later. It quickly dried to a white layer of ‘powder’ on the skin. The initial cool application was soothing, though I doubt it did more than that ‘sooth’ initial effects of sunburn. It is still available in chemists. Tincture of Iodine – used out of a distinctive brown fluted side ‘poison medicine bottle’ for scratches and abrasions or as a general antiseptic. Medicinal iodine left purple dye marks on the skin that took a while to fade away. Malt – a delicious brown glutinous treacle (sourced from hop production of beer one believes) delivered out of a large brown glass jar onto a desert spoon – the spoon needing to be rapidly twisted and turned else the treacle would drop off – whereupon, the child was ready open mouthed as the spinning spoon stopped at the opening gape and was immediately thrust by ‘nurse’ into the child’s mouth. Malt was given to undernourished ‘waifs’ who were deemed needing an extra medicinal boost which Malt was believed to supply to 1940’s and 50’s spindly children who, even if well fed in institutional care, still showed signs of a skinny diminutive demeanour against other of their peers who had grown robust and fulsome to expectations of child growth of that era when much Malt was thrust down many a small child’s eager throat. Yes, and of course, their was Cod Liver Oil which always nasty. So, ‘nurse’ held the child’s nose with one hand while offering a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil with the other. Or, the child might opt to hold their own nose while swallowing the medicinal muck they daren’t taste. And, what a display after swallowing of tongue-wagging gasp and disgust?

    • Dear Bobbie,
      Very interesting stuff! And thanks for the extra information about malt syrup. It sounds like it really was swings and roundabouts with regards to the tastes of these different medicines. I was given calamine lotion for chicken pox as a child and it’s the sickly smell of it that I can remember the most.

      Apologies if you had difficulty submitting this comment. Comments only go live on this site once I’ve had a chance to log in and ok them.

      • Thanks, Janet. It’s interesting that the uses of calamine lotion have changed very little over the years. I wonder how long it has been used for chickenpox.

  3. I remember several medicines, or tonics given to me as a child but particularly M&B tablets when I was ill. I had bronchial pneumonia when I was about 5 yrs old; my mother kept by my sick-bed a small pan of very hot water which held a tin of kaolin and she regularly plastered my chest with squares of lint spread with hot kaolin. I’m surprised I don’t have blistered skin still. In hospital it was found I had a “patch” of TB on one lung, so that may have been when I was first given the M&B cure. Later I was given tonics such as Parrish’s Food, Minadex, Virol to build me up. My mother had never told me about the TB and I only discovered it many years later after an X-ray of my lungs. Later, as a young teenager, I had terrible pains in my legs: my mother said they were “growing pains” and gave me a bottle of an oily very smelly linctus which when rubbed hard on the skin became hot. I think it was called Dr Sloane’s linament and had an illustration of an Edwardian gentleman with large moustaches and an academic demeanour.

    • Dear Jillian,

      This is fascinating stuff, especially the possibility of using M&B to treat tuberculosis. Thanks so much for sharing.


  4. For some reason I remembered being given M&B tablets and googled them to see of they existed. I was six years old and had pneumonia and pleurisy and was apparently very ill. This was in 1950. I also had to use a peculiar inhaler, consisting of a rubber bulb with a glass funnel and I remember the kaolin poultices, they smelled quite nice. I was left with residual lung damage and my parents carried out chest physio and postural drainage.
    I also was given malt-I think it was Virol, which was quite nice but another type was horrible. I was encouraged to play outside a lot, especially if it was frosty and fresh.
    Was there ‘sunlight’ treatment where you had to wear goggles?
    I ended up being a nurse!

    • Dear Patricia,

      Thanks for sharing! This is all really interesting. I didn’t realise there were different types of malt with different tastes.

      We have records of ‘artificial sunlight’ treatment here in The Children’s Society Archive. You see pictures of children wearing dark goggles while sitting under bright lamps. I think it was used to treat things such as rickets and tuberculosis. I’ll have to try and put a picture of it up on this blog sometime.


      • oh my, I too had the “sun ray treatment” back in the 50’s. also remember galloways cough medicine which tasted so darn good! there was another medicine that before you shook it, was white in colour until you got to about 1″ off the bottom which was a brownish liquid? anyone recall this? and was there ether in some of these medications?? love to hear more.

          • My colleague & I were discussing this brownish medicine that used to be on our meds trolleys back in the 80’s. We can remember the bottle & the look of the mixture & we can both definitely remember the distinctive smell but neither of us can remember what it was called..it’s driving us made lol hence me doing a Google search & finding this article. Any ideas anyone please?

          • I thought this was kaolin and morphine – really yummy. Does anyone remember Wintergreen ointment? Highly aromatic, for bad chests I think. My favourite medicine was gripe water, must be Woodwards, which was available until quite recently. I had a bottle for my birthday every year until quite grown up!

          • Only brown vile medicine i remember was called Indian brandy .. used when felt sick .. you’d have a spoon and would make you throw up within minutes .. notbthe cure i wanted but didn’t feel sick afterwards 🤣

        • A lincture that was “ white floating above brown “ given a good shake then a tablespoon or so stirred into a cup of Hot Milk , It would then turn pink and tasted something like Aniseed .
          It certainly had an “ Active Ingredient “ and was Pungent it was taken for Tight Chest or colds .
          I recollect the label having a trade mark that looked like a Mortar & Pestal ( or similar ) ? Ring a bell with Anyone ! .

    • Wow thanks! I have a distant memory of back in the early 1960s getting some pink cotton wool type stuff put on my chest in bed, I don’t remember anything else, but I have no idea what it was, or what it was used for?!?! 🤔

  5. I was given M&B’s in 1950 as the doctor thought I might have meningitis, after taking them I eventually recovered. I remember having to take Sanders specific, you had to gargle it then spit it out, this was for sore throats, it burned your throat awful stuff. (like battery acid) I suffered from constant colds and I was given LANTIGEN B (Bottle with eye dropper)

    • Dear Arthur,
      Thanks for sharing with us! From the responses we’ve had on this post, it seems like M&B tablets really were used a lot; it’s interesting that they could be used for meningitis too. And thanks for the information about Sanfers specific and LANTIGEN B, although the Sanders specific doesn’t sound like it was very pleasant to take!

  6. It’s interesting looking back on childhood medicines that one encountered! I can remember quite a range! At the palatable level, these included cherry-flavored cough syrup and orange flavoured chewable Bayer children’s aspirin. There were also tiny little Haliborange tablets – about the size of a lentil, I recall – that I used to get every day at breakfast time in the winter as a daily dose of vitamin c to prevent colds. They used to come in small glass jars with a fippable plastic top that had a distinctive shape.

    There was also Vick’s vapor rub. This would come out when there were congestion, cough and breathing problems. I can remember steam vaporizers, or simply putting Vick’s in a basin with boiling water and then having to inhale the resulting vapour with a towel draped over my head. Sometimes Vick’s was just rubbed direct onto the chest at night or a blob put under the nose during the day. It used to work too!

    Witch Hazel I remember being used for bumps, scratches and bug bites. Pink coloured Germaline cream was used for the same purposes; this used to come in a small cream coloured tin and had a distinctive smell.

    My grandmother had a cure-all for anything and eveything – raspberry vinegar! She used to make this and I remember having to drink it diluted in boiling water whenever a cold or infection looked likely!

    • Thanks, Ian!

      I wonder how common it was for children to be given vitamin c and other supplements. According to my Mum, I was given flouride tablets as a child (all I remember myself is that they tasted quite nice).

      I used to be fascinated by Vick’s vaporub when I was younger. I think it was something to do with the strong smell, which was quite a shock when you opened the small blue tub. Vaporub under the nose is never pleasant though; the smell is fine but the greasy feel of it is always a bit strange.


  7. I can remember having cod liver oil and malt,I loved it.i think I may have had T.B.but I was young and can’t remember everything.i was attending Grt Ormond St.having blood tests,and looking down my throat.i had a plaster on my back and they said if a blister came up I had it.but my mum said it wasn’t a blister,and that something had come up.Of coarse in those days they didn’t tell you anything.They wanted to send me for convalescent to Clacton but I didn’t want to go and cried.So they sent me to an open air school.I think I must have been about 5yrs old.

    • Dear Maureen,

      It sounds like you weren’t the only one who really enjoyed being given malt! And that’s really interesting information about tuberculosis: first testing for it, and then the use of open air schools for treatment. Thank you for sharing!


  8. in 1943 I was given M&B to save my life. Apparently I had double pneumonia and the doctor tried the drug as a last resort . Later the story was always told that I was cured by the same drug that cured Winston Churchill.

    • Dear Rita,

      Wow. That’s a real success story! Especially as the drug had only been around for six years by then. Thanks for sharing with us.


  9. Indian Brandie Brandy and warm water. Great for an upset tummy.
    Unusually for a medicine it tasted great as well.

    • Dear Brian,
      Thanks. Sounds rather nice! I wonder if anyone else remembers this?

      • I can remember Indian Brandie, I was still buying it when I was a young married woman in the early 1960s. It came in very small bottles – I think it was 6 pence (old money!) Mixed with hot water it was great for stomach upsets.

        • Thanks for the comment! It sounds like Indian Brandie was pretty popular stuff.

        • You can still buy Indian Brandee (mixed with a little warm water and sugar) and really works – for stomach pains caused by wind – and both my children still take it when necessary. It’s delicious. Buy from chemists.

  10. I was born in 1944 and remember many of the medicinal remedies mentioned here. Codliver oil and a bottle of concentrated orange juice were free from the clinics for babies and young children. My mother would give me the cod liver oil while I was in the bath tub as I tended to dribble it out – yucky. Orange was okay. Germalene for cuts and scrapes and a liquid called Dinnifords for colic (I think that is still available but as I live in the USA now I have never seen it.) I also was given M&B after a tonsillectomy which turned very septic and made me deathly ill.

    The thing I really remember and loved for a tummy upset was a small bottle with a brown liquid and just a few drops were put into some warm water. To me it tasted great like the Fishermen’s Friend cough lozenges. It was apparently addictive and I am sure is no longer over the counter or even available. I suspect it had some type of opiate in it which stopped the painful tummy cramps. Could have been a paragoric type. I saw someone mentioned Indian Brandy maybe it could have been that. But it worked very well and I have never known what it was called or what the magic ingredient was.

    • Dear Diane,
      Many thanks for sharing your memories with us. Does anyone else recognise the brown liquid for tummy upsets? Could this be Indian Brandy?

      • I think it sounds as if it could be Collis Brown’s Chlorodine. That came in a small dark brown bottle. An unusal shape – fluted? It tasted vile and yes it was addictive and used as a legal high in the 60s/70s. However it’s original use was for upset stomachs.

        • Dear Liz,
          Thanks for adding this. A quick internet search suggests that Chlorodine contained a lot of opiates, which would explain why it seemd to work well and why it was addictive! I’m interested to see that it’s still available today, although presumably the ingredients will have changed over time.

    • I think the brown mixture was Dr Collis Browns chloradine, I used to have it too

    • This is to say you can still get Germolene though not in the wee tin, it now comes in a tube like a toothpaste tube.i remember when it came in a tin.
      M and B tablets I remember getting them as a child it must have been in the 40’s though what for not sure.

    • In the 1940s, I remember being given cod liver oil and also a strong dark orange colored syrup whose taste I just remembered when I took a spoonful of concentrated elderberry juice. Was it likely concentrated orange juice? Anyone know?

  11. What an interesting website and a delve into the past. I’m currently suffering a horrible sore throat which is making me feel somewhat sorry for myself and, having taken Paracetamol and Codeine for three days I’m wondering whether I should continue with it for a fourth day, or not, as the directions say don’t take for more than three days as it’s addictive! Needless to say I’ve succumbed as I know it will give me several hours symptom free!! This led me to reflecting on my childhood when Codeine was available OTC as opposed to current day restrictions where you have to request it from the pharmacist, and I’ve only ever managed to find it included with Paracetamol. In return one gets faced with a suspicious frown which is obviously trying to assess your use of the drugs. Reading the comments on your site, I’m delighted to find out that you can buy Codeine OTC in France as I’ve just booked a short break in the Bordeaux area!

    I so enjoyed reading about other readers’ comments on all the old fashioned remedies that those of us who grew up in the fifties knew as normal. The horror of the spoon of Cod Liver Oil every night that was quickly compensated for with a fabulous desert spoonful of Cod Liver Oil and Malt! I was also interested to read about Indian Brandy which I believe to be J Collis Browne’s mixture, given to us for diarrhoea. It came in a small glass bottle and I have a feeling that the glass was not smooth but had a sort of serrated effect all the way round the bottle. Having just Googled it, I’m not surprised to read the contents are as follows:
    Each 5ml contains:Morphine hydrochloride equivalent to 1.0mg anhydrous Morphine Peppermint Oil 1.5 microliter. Sounds good doesn’t it!!

    How the ageing brain feels so efficient when delving into the past! Syrup of Figs just flew into my head so feel I have to give it a quick mention as no one else has included it to date. I was given a spoon of it along with my brother on a Sunday evening after a weekly bath before returning to school. Apparently, it was supposed to “make you regular”. I have no recollection of its effect on my system but maybe it worked long term as I have never had any problems in that area!!

    • Dear Janet,

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the website. That’s interesting to hear about the Indian Brandy; no wonder people enjoyed it!

      Thanks for mentioning syrup of figs. It would be really interesting to compare the history of these different dietary supplements to find out if they’ve become more or less popular over the years.


      • Yes I used to have syrup of figs when I was constipated, I hated prunes which was the other remedy on offer. I used to have rose hip syrup every day to build me up and give me a vitamin boost since I was a delicate child.
        I remember Vicks Vapour Rub on a tissue for a cold or bad chest and inhaling it over steam if I was really blocked up.
        Another old remedy is comfrey aka knitbone, I didn’t have it as a child but I used to use it in living history when we were doing English Civil War Society events. So many people recommended it, that I have used the ointment ever since.

        • Thanks for this, Alison.
          It’s interesting to hear about the syrup of figs and rosehip syrup being used as supplements. I’d not heard of comfrey before. A quick internet search suggests that it’s been used for a long time, although could be dangerous if not used correctly.
          And thanks for mentioning Vicks Vapour Rub being inhaled over steam. I wonder if this method was particular to Vicks or if there were any other medicines that could be taken this way?

  12. Germolene – pink and pungent! This was a thick antiseptic ointment with a distinctive pink colour, scented with oil of wintergreen that came in nostalgic tins. It was invented by cough mixture tycoon Sir William Henry Veno, in 1925.

    • Thanks for adding this. I didn’t realise Germolene had such a long history!

  13. Germolene (the smell was unforgettable); calamine lotion; witch hazel. I found Victory Vs good for colds – but I fear I was addicted to the ether and chloroform (that apparently they no longer contain).

    • Thanks for sharing, Tim.
      I’ve been talking to my colleagues about how the smells and tastes of different medicines really linger in the memory. I’ve not had Victory Vs, but I imagine they have a very distinct taste as well.

  14. I was a child in the 1970s but still given Virol sometimes – I concur, it was delicious! I remember kaolin and morphine mixture for stomach upsets – shake the bottle to distribute the sludge! – and some yellow antibiotic medicine which was absolutely foul.

    Benylin for coughs still had alcohol in it when I was younger, and tasted much nice for it! Also I remember that being ill was the only time you ever saw Lucozade – with that distinctive yellow cellophane round the bottle. I didn’t think it tasted very nice, but maybe that was because of the associations it carried with it.

    • Thanks, Caroline.

      It sounds like Virol was tasty stuff! As for tastes, I really enjoyed Lucozade myself but it seems that the taste isn’t for everyone (I can understand why, though, if it just reminds you of feeling ill).


    • I remember the yellow foul antibiotic in the 70s! I can’t remember what the name of it was, though, but I doubt I ever finished a bottle. Maybe that’s one reason my ear infections kept recurring.

  15. I too remember cod liver oil, and orange juice, both in square-shouldered flat bottles with screw-on metal caps, free from the clinic (I was born in 1945). But also Scott’s Emulsion – a cod liver oil preparation with a picture on the label of a sou’westered fisherman with a huge codfish on his back. I suspect my mother regarded this as a superior product because she had to pay for it. Also Virol delicious!) and California Syrup of Figs. But for anything external – spots, grazes, chapped skin – there was Cuticura Ointment – a greasy, green substance in a tin with a black and orange lid listing unheard-of ingredients. I don’t think it’s obtainable now, and when I have a cold and the sore nose from much blowing thereof, I still miss Cuticura. There was also something called Melrose for chapped lips and chilblains – another greasy preparation but in the form of a stick or lump.

    When I had bronchitis with measles at the age of 5 I was given a penicillin injection, and taken on holiday to relations in the country air of Norfolk. It was probably 6 months later that I was given penicillin tablets for ‘congestion of the lungs’.

    The remedy for diarrhoea was a raw egg beaten up in milk. For a sore throat adults would gargle with potassium permanganate (‘permanganate of potash’) which left a purple stain.

    • Dear Margaret,

      Thanks for adding in your memories! It’s really interesting to see the huge variety of treatments and supplements that were out there. I’m particularly interested to see that bronchitis was treated with a mixture of antibiotics and fresh air (for some reason, I had assumed that fresh air treatment would have stopped once antibiotics started to be used, but clearly the two were used in conjunction instead).


  16. Perpetual bottles of antibiotics in the fridge, not really sure what they were supposed to taste of, possibly banana. Glycerine and lemon for coughs. Whatever the 1960s/70s equivalent of calpol was. Possibly calpol. And Calamine lotion, for external use obviously, that was pretty smelly. Plasters smelled different. Cod liver oil, something that tasted like Covonia but wasn’t Covonia,

    • Thanks, Carol.
      I can remember antibiotics tasting of banana too, or at least fake banana. It’s interesting to hear that you remember plasters smelled different; I wonder how they’ve changed over the years.

    • God Bless Covonia and all who sail in her! Interesting that most of the old treatments/remedies were very strong tasting and smelling, positively pungent. One’s childhood was adorned with these aromatic aromas, hadn’t thought about these things for years but quite magical in hindsight.

      • Talking about smells, had a sudden memory of Elliman’s Embrocation,( now there’s a word that has fallen out of use). Very strong smelling, to be rubbed on sore muscles, good for people and horses, don’t know if it is still available, possibly another one for farm supplies.

  17. I suffered nose-bleeds as a child. Circa 1950 aged six during a particularly alarming nose bleed my mother dangled a cold rim lock door key tied to a string down the back of my neck until the key reached inside my clothing the skin of my backbone. The discomforting purchase against my skin of the cold key was assured as a reputable efficacious remedy in my mother’s old-fashioned wives tale eyes. I have no memory as to whether the nose bleeding had already slowed or whether the cold key nursing worked.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Bobbie.
      As a fellow sufferer of nose-bleeds as a child, I remember hearing about the key treatment although I don’t think I ever tried it. I do remember being told to tip my head back though, which didn’t seem to stop the bleeding and just felt awful to boot!

      • As another nosebleed sufferer I also remember the cold key treatment, suspect the shock caused your blood vessels to contract. Same thing was promoted as a cure for hiccoughs. My mother’s guardian, who came from a medical family, always used the juice of half a lemon with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to be drunk while frothing, as a cure for any sort of tummy pain. Still use this as very effective. Anyone remember lead and opium mixture for strains and sprains? As an outdoor child and avid horse rider I often had bandaged bits, usually ankles, and lead and opium soaked cotton wool covered with a bandage was the standard treatment.

  18. I remember Calamine lotion for bites and stings, Indian Brandy for upset tummies, and Lion Drawing Ointment to get splinters out. I loved the brown card circular box of Lion Drawing Ointment, with the picture of the lion on it. We were always given Lucozade after being sick for a long time, or unable to eat. Oil of Cloves for toothache.

    Otherwise many remedies seemed to revolve around alcohol. Whisky and hot lemon for a cold or sore throat, brandy for stomach ache, brandy rubbed on the gums for toothache, Sanatogan (?) tonic wine when feeling tired or run down. I do remember Cod Liver Oil and Raspberry Syrup, but I refused point black to take that. Beehchams powder too for a cold. The powder was wrapped in white paper, and the powder was put on your tongue and you had to swallow it down. It tasted awful.

    • Dear Barbara,

      This is all really interesting. We’ve not had anyone mention Lion Drawing Ointment yet; I wonder if anyone else remembers the box it came in?

      Thanks for mentioning all the treatments involving alcohol. It sounds like they were very common! And it’s interesting to hear that the Beechams powder was just swallowed without being dissovled in water first; it doesn’t sound like it was very pleasant!


      • Do you remember the name of the grey poultice that we used to buy in a tin and was used to treat boils?

  19. From the mid 1960s to the start of the 1970s my brother and I both suffered badly from excema (from childhood pretty much up until puberty). It effected the backs of our knees and inside our elbows and in my brother’s case his eyelids and toes. Mum gave us regular salt baths and applied Betnovate cream.

    I also remember at school being given sugar cubes with the polio vaccine on them.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jane.

      I don’t think we’ve had anyone mention treatments for eczema yet, although I’ve found quite a few mentions of it in our case files. See this example of how eczema was treated around 120 years ago.

      And thanks for mentioning vaccines. I remember looking forward to my polio vaccine because I’d heard it came on a sugar cube. Sadly, they didn’t use the sugar cube for me, so I had an unpleasant surprise when they squirted the polio vaccine straight into my mouth with nothing to take the horrible taste away.


  20. M & B . I believe my sister aged 3 in 1941 was the first civilian to have it – she had pneumonia. All other supplies went to Catterick camp where the soldiers were.

    Virol – Yummy. Some people hated it. I loved it.

    Gees Linctus for colds.

    Friar’s balsam in a pottery inhaler to help one’s breathing. (Still use it when desperate- the Balsam, not the pottery part.)

    Vick of course still exists.

    Kaolin poultice for boils. I suffered from them a lot.

    Cold tea for bathing styes. A remedy from an uncle who was an RAF Medical orderly. Works magic and it is now known it is the tannin that is the active ingredient.

    Rose Hip Syrup – to keep up your Vitamin C in the war, along with National Orange Juice.

    Calamine lotion – sunburn and all sorts of spots.

    Painting the back of your throat with Gentian Violet (sore throats & lost voice)

    Syrup of figs (Constipation)

    And not exactly a medicine – but jelly- because it was the only thing I could swallow when I had mumps!

    • Thanks for the comments; there’s lots of interesting information in here. Going from the other comments we’ve had, it seems like Virol, syrup of figs and rose hip syrup were really popular supplements. And there are several medicines here that no-one else has mentioned yet. Does anyone else remember these?

      • As a child in the country we used to pick rose hips and take them to school where we were paid three pence for each pound of hips. If we managed to pick fifty pounds of them we got a free bottle of rosé hip syrup. All the pupils spent the Autumn covered in scratches from the rose bushes.

    • I forget which way round it is – Wasp stings and bee stings. For one you apply blue bag (used for ‘whiter than white’ in laundry) and for the other it is Bicarbonate of Soda. (Kitchen variety) The principle is to apply acid to an alkaline sting, and alkali to an acid sting, but which is which does not come to mind. I don’t think there was anything for ants except ‘suffer in silence’. They are certainly of the acid variety anyway, so the Bicarb ought to do the trick. Try it someone!

      Milk of magnesia for tummy upsets.

      Surgical spirit for cold sores (Still works better than any proprietary product)

      Oil of cloves or crush an aspirin between the teeth for toothache.

      and for me ‘sunlight treatment’ at the clinic every week. How we hated sitting there in our knickers with all the boys as well as girls. Most embarrassing at the age of 9! This because I was always as white as a ghost, suffered continually from colds, and had a calcified gland in the neck which pained every time I had an infection. The real cure was to have my tonsils out, but that did not happen until I was 22. I was born in 1936 and I think it was then that the value of the Vitamin D in sunlight began to be appreciated.

  21. For some reason this morning, M and B tablets came to mind , so I searched it and found you. Some great memories which I cannot improve on although M&Bs terrified me and many other kids but I cannot remember why , I have the feeling that they were quite big and difficult to “get down”

    Eventually I joined th RAF and became a Physio, sytionrd at RAF (H) Ely. One night in the mess in the early 70s , the conversation got round to this very subject and we started dicussing old treatments,medicines supplements etc . I mentioned how I loved Cod Liver Oil and Malt ., Our dispenser said there remained some tins of it just left over from who knows when. . He nipped out to the dispensary and brought a can back. It tasted quite different following a few beers, but theb taste brought memories flooding back . .

    I must say, it tasted different after a few beers

    • Barry,

      Many thanks for sharing your memories. Yes, you’re not the first person to note that M&B tablets were large and difficult to swallow. We’ve not heard about the Cod Liver Oil and malt preparation before.

  22. I remember as a child I was stung several times while I innocently stood in the path a swarm of bees were taking. Thank goodness I as not allergic. My grandmother had some sort of blue medicine in a bottle with a round sponge on it. She dotted each bee sting with the blue stuff. I had blue polka dots all over my legs, arms and face. And it was not a wash off in a few hours kind of thing. It stained my skin and I had to go to school like that for a few days before it wore off after several baths. Does anybody remember what that blue stuff was? I’d really like to find out. This was back in the late 60’s.

    • I believe that it was gentian violet, a medicine that actually works! Antiseptic and antifungal. Probably did not do much for the pain but would stop any secondary infection and the colour would reassure a child that something had been done

  23. Well, how long have you got? – M&B tablets were brilliant – they made one sweat and by doing so sweat most of any infection out of you. I was born in 1938 and was certainly in the front line of M&B – When born I had a rash at the back of my left leg, the doctor stated that if this ever went away then I would get Asthma – it did and I did at 6 months old – at the same time my mother died and I was brought up by her sister who was a mum in a million and her husband a dad the same. Through my childhood I suffered from Asthma and had loads of time off school, it got so bad that I was sent away to school when I was nine and didn’t return until I was 11 years old, the school being N.D.C.C.H (North Devon County Council Home) at Lynton in Devon. There were 84 kids in this school from all walks of life from everywhere throughout the UK. – We were treated well but did not see any family during once stay – (a) because it was out on a limb (b) families did not have money (c) it was thought that seeing family would upset us an bring on an attack – I was introduced to my first syringe at this home, but it was mostly fresh air and exercise which was the main ingredients for better health. I was whisked away to the cottage hospital whilst there and spent around three weeks on one occasion totally delirious only waking up when they gave me a third injection of adrenaline – they thought they were going to loose me – but – I came round (still no visitors, but I knew it was for the best) as for all your readers views I remember all the medicines they mention and there were plenty more over the years including ‘Musterole’ ointment which not many adults would suffer never mind the kids, still sold today for colds and flu etc. I could go on and on but I think this is enough.

    • Thanks for your comment Ken. It seems that M&B tablets were an effective treatment before the days of antibiotics. You also mentioned a cottage hospital; these have very much become a thing of the past, it seems.

  24. Aged 11 in 1947 I contracted pneunomia and lost a month at school. I was delirious part of the time.

    My doctor said M & B tablets saved me.

    • Thanks for the comment Karl. You are in good company, because it was M&B tablets that cured Winston Churchill of his pneumonia in 1943 after the Teheran Conference, when he noted “This admirable M & B, from which I did not suffer any inconvenience, was used at the earliest moment and after a week’s fever the intruders were repulsed.”

  25. I may have missed it but how about ”Vaseline” that cured a lot of things also white oils , my grandfather & dad used to make it , Ammonia, White vinegar, White of egg, Pure turpentine, ect mixed up and rubbed all over in the winter
    Good for keeping the cold out, sniff it for sore throats, the only problem was it stunk, but no body seen to worry in those days.

    All these remedy’s seemed to work, unlike the rubbish you get today , a drop of color a drop of alcohol, sugar, the old remedy’s worked , dandruff rinse your head with vinegar,then wash hair as normal .
    Smelly feet or athletics foot wash them in pomanmate of potash in water, & swill the inside of your shoes put with it .

    I ‘m 80 & still going strong, all this high priced modern stuff ,,., you really don’t need it

  26. I was a very sickly child, suffering bronchial pneumonia on a regular basis, I owe my life to M&B tablets, my poor parents had to give me these huge tablets at two hour intervals all through the night when I had a very serious attack, I was near death but despite the awful nausea the tablets gave me I made it. Now at 81 years old I still get the occasional “chest infection” they call it now!, and what used to take weeks to clear up is now a few days- – – that’s progress, but I thank M&B for those 76 extra very full and worthwhile years.
    Peter B.

    • Peter, you are one of many for whom M&B tablets were a saving grace – literally. Thank you for sharing this information.

      • As noted in response to other other comments about M&B tablets, you are in good company, because it was M&B tablets that cured Winston Churchill of his pneumonia in 1943 after the Teheran Conference, when he noted “This admirable M & B, from which I did not suffer any inconvenience, was used at the earliest moment and after a week’s fever the intruders were repulsed.”

  27. Does anyone remember liquid of life a black thick liquid you only needed to take a tiny drop in a teaspoon – My mum started suffering from Hayfever really bad and my Aunt said why don’t you try this she was always very healthy no aches or pains so my mum tried it she didn’t even finish the bottle her hay fever disappeared that was over 40 years ago she has never had hay fever again.Liquid of life has been good for many things but one day it was taken off the market I must admit whilst my aunt took it she never visited a doctor and it was only once a day a few times a week. I asked the pharmacist why they took it off the market he said it was too good there was absolutely no harm in it was just decided to take it off the market every year they review and change if they want to mainly for cost reasons.
    sad so sad

    • Hi Pearl
      I am so glad you mentioned liquid of life I thought I was losing my mind….my mum gave this to me 3 times a week 35 years ago it was foul but I have always been a well person. I would love to know why it has been taken off the market if anyone knows.

    • I had all the old medicines that are mentioned, but does anyone remember Scott’s Emulsion, given as a supplement, like Virol. , Cod liver oil etc. It was disgusting white slimy stuff. Fennings Fever cure was nice, and Gripe Water. The little bag with the wooden peg was called Dolly Blue. Liquid of Life was recommended to me by a neighbour 52 yrs ago for severe upper right quadrant abdominal pain.. . The doctors had been treating me for 3 years for stomach ulcers, and I had been told to drink plenty of whole milk.. The pain just got worse, and I was desperate for help, so I took the Liquid Of Life as directed. After the first dose I co was rushed to hospital with a ruptured gall bladder and a partially collapsed lung.. I never bought any again!!!

  28. How about Liquifruita couch medicine, it tasted foul and I hated it as it smelled awful too! Chlorodine lozenges for sore throats, tincture of benzoin used for bed sores in the 60’s and I believe also used for inhalation from a Nelson’s inhaler.

  29. As a sick youngster (asthma & bronchitis) I was also treated at one time with pretty blue soft capsules with the ominous name of ‘Oblivon’, which I believe was a sedative (for nervous asthma?). One other I was prescribed was penicillin chewing gum for sore throat – small tablets that could be chewed for ages – can’t imagine that being used today!

  30. 1940s & 1950s: Anyone remember the name of a “childrens powder”? The powder was off-white and came in a fold of paper, like a small Beecham’s Powder. Also, a name like “Thermogene”, a red flannel-like substance to be placed against the skin (usually chest and back to treat a “bad chest”).
    Nurse Harvey’s Mixture – when given to my baby sister for wind I insisted on having some, too. It contained alcohol, I think
    Home-made remedies: My gran used to make up Gin-&-Black-Treacle for sore throats – I really liked that!

    • Thank you for your comment Roger. The National Trust Archive has a photograph of a Thermogene wrapper: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/937628 .

      St Helen’s Local History and Archives Library has a file on the manufacture of Thermogene:
      “Title: Thermogene medicated wadding
      Reference: BP/4/10/17
      Description: File on manufacturing processes and materials and some examples of packaging.
      Date: c.1951-1952
      Held by: St Helens Local History and Archives Library, not available at The National Archives”

    • Thermagene was pinned inside my Liberty Bodice, I remember, in the winter months, after I had been well rubbed with goose grease. Nobody really wanted to share my school desk !!

  31. I had an aunt who lived in Papworth in Cambs where, at one time, the hospital specialised in TB. I was about four in 1942 and during a visit there with my mother I was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer. I had to stay with my aunt for about ten months while this was treated with M&B tablets. It wasn’t a TB ulcer but M&B was the treatment the doctors used in the hospital where it had been hailed as a miracle cure for the disease,

    As for some of the other treatments mentioned here, cod liver oil and malt (vitamin B in the malt, I think), syrup of figs (still available, I use it myself sometimes!!) Scott’s Emulsion, sulphur for skin problems were in very common use in the forties. Was anyone else ever subjected to Senna Tea, Senna pods steeped in boiling water until a very strong, virilant brew resulted. Swallowing this meant “cleansing the system” of impurities (I was told) and also drinking the foul stuff meant being purged within an inch of your life! If I showed the slightest sign of being under-the-weather I was subjected to gallons of the stuff, or so it seemed, so spent my life praying all would be well on the health front!!?

    Red flannel and goose grease on the chest for a cough! Well, I am Welsh!!

  32. I used to use a thick brown cream on my kids’ nappy rash. It was called zinc and icthamol. It stank like the devil and was brilliant.
    I recently tried to buy some for my grandchildren and the pharmacist told me he could get it made specially for me- at £300!!!!

    I wonder if anyone remembers kaolin poultices?
    My father had a burn on his chest from a scald from a hot kaolin poultice as a child.
    Does anyone know when they went out of fashion.

    I was in medical school in the 1970’s and they were long gone by then.

    • Margherita Petrie

      As a small child I suffered regularly with earache. My father used to warm a wad of cotton wool dipped in camphorated oil and put this into my ear. I do wonder if this was a safe treatment? I can’t remember if it was this that helped or the TLC from my Dad. When he was young, he recalls having a piece of onion put Into his ear for the similar condition? Being Italian by birth he was taught a great many natural cures. I can remember seeing all manner of various herbs steeping in oil or alcohol. Bay was a favourite preparation for the hair.
      I could go on – this is why I am writing my Autobiography.

    • Glycerine and Icthyol solution was good for excema. I was a nurse in the 50’s, and most of these remedies were still in use, even in hospitals.. We used to make Kaolin poultices and heat then on the sterilizers.

  33. When I was a teenager, the Dr. gave me a small brown bottle with a brown liquid that you put on your pimples/acne. Worked like a charm. My husband said he used the same stuff. I am not 66 and he is 76. Does anyone know what that was and if you can still get it? My grandson has acne and nothing works and we don’t want to give him oral antibiotics.
    When we had sore throats, my dad would have us let an asprin dissolve in our mouths and into our throats. It did take the pain and swelling away, but tasted horrible.
    Violet oil for ear aches

  34. Hi, does anyone remember Mouse Ear syrup used for croup, very good for treating childrens coughs.
    I can remember going into the chemist and they made it up for you.

  35. My grandmother give use bay leaves mix with vinegar 4 fever n cold i must say it worked god bless her 4 the time she walk those long fields looking

  36. Does anyone else remember, in the 1960’s, receiving a small, squishy maroon colored pill with a yellow colored liquid inside? I remember having to line up at the water fountain at school and try to swallow that thing. I was not good at swallowing pills, let alone at a water fountain. If I would accidentally bite it, the liquid tasted awful. What could it be? Possibly cod liver oil?

  37. My brother had severe acne and was given sulphur tabs. We both were given those tiny haliborange tablets each morning – they had a very strong orange taste and our mum tried to convince us they were sweets (quite a dangerous thing to do probably – How things change!). Lactocalamine for rashes. This seems to have changed now as I tried it on my son when he had chickenpox and it was a lot runnier than I remembered. We were given John Collis brown mix for upset tums. Back then it was very concentrated and was diluted – a few drops in water. My mum said that you had to sign a book when you purchased it. Think this was because of the morphine content. It has since been diluted at source. You can still buy it OTC at Boots and Is gentle on the Tum than Immodium etc.

  38. I’m reading a 1933 journal of of my father’s 1st cousin. She was probably in her late 30s. She mentions going to Boise City, OK, and staying for several weeks while having plasters (white and blue ones) applied to her skin almost daily. Other people were there also for the treatment. Was this for skin cancer removal by any chance?
    It made one lady sick at the beginning of the treatment. However it didn’t bother her until much later.

  39. In the 1950’s and 60’s I remember being given Kaolin and Morphine for diarrhea, gargling with purple potassium permanganate to prevent infection and some sort of red cough linctus with codiene in it.

  40. Does anyone remember a liquid subtance called calmalative. Not sure of spelling. It was back in med 1970 that I seen this. Also geritol. I know geritol is a vitamin but the other I wondered for years why some drank it. It was pleasant tasting. Is like to know what it was for and what was in it.
    By the way, love this site. Thank you.

  41. sulphur and lyme lozenges were for spots/acne also I took them for I was a constant boil sufferer and they cleared them right away…malt or cod liver oil and malt was given to us daily to fend of rickets and other nasties… another old medicine was veganin which we took for toothache, gum boils and other large pains, hope this is some help

  42. I scraped my hand when I was 6 or 7, it must have been 1942 or 43;, in Tynesire; the scrape didnt heal up , and my Mam took me to the doctor; he put some powder out of a packet on to it; it healed up, but a short time later I began to feel very unwell, my arm ached; the doctor visited and was very serious – he told my parents I might have to have my arm off! I was taken to hospital, by this time the pain was bad in my armpit; looking back I think it must have been septicemia.. I was given some tablets called M & B, and in a few days the pain had gone and I was sent home. I have always been very grateful to those tablets because I think I must have been very ill.

  43. Can anyone remember a white horrible tasting medicine for stomach flu in the 70’s? I remember it was a prescription, and it had a white chalky part that separated from the clear liquid and had to be shaken. It made you want to vomit.

  44. Did anyone ever hear of placing an onion in your sock to lower your temperature when you were suffering from a fever. I seem to recall my mother doing this for me in the mid 30’s. It was an overnight cure for a fever .

  45. As children we lived on various farms and I am sure my mother would cut a mangle? Grown for animal feed similar to a swede,she would cut it in half and put sugar on top of one half and gradually this would become a liquid which was used as a cough mixture ,it was stored on the cold slab in the pantry ,as anyone else ever heard of this remedy ?

  46. IN the forties and fifties I had all of the medicines mentioned. I especially remember M and B tablets for a throat infection, codliver oil and malt and orange juice. Also the dreaded Scott’s Emulsion, which contained codliver oil, after breakfast. It had a vile taste and smell. And castor oil and zinc cream for chapped legs in the winter. My mother, who was born in 1910, told me she had to run to the chemist for a bottle of ipecacuanha for a cough. My father always administered Iodine for cuts and grazes and didn’t it sting! Much relief when Acraflavine was available. There is an interesting article on the internet about Scott’s Emulsion.

  47. When In was a kid in the I had hot Kaolin poultices placed on each knee, anyone know why? I think I was told it was for ‘poisoned blood’, I did have Scarlet Fever as a child, could this have anything to to with it?

  48. I was a child of 70s and 80s…used to love the taste of Collis Brownes liquid…think it was cough syrup, but sure I was also given it for upset tummy. I used to sneak in and hide in larder cabinet to steal a spoonful!

  49. I simply want to say a heartfelt thankyou for all of these postings. I have read them start to finish! Many I remember too

  50. Enjoyed all of these replies immensely. I also remember VICTORY VEE LOZENGES I loved them, years later went to a sweet shop in australia and they had some, sadly they tasted nothing like the original, apparently the CHLOR.ODYNE was removed as it was made up of CANNABIS, CHLOROFORM & ACACIA GUM. !!.
    I have a question for anyone reading this, regarding the giving of painkillers to children in hospital, I had bone operations on both knees at aged 13 and no painkillers where given to children As they where considered bad for them. Does anyone recall this?

  51. Loved T. C. P. Lozenges ! , in winter using “ Buxton rub “ better than “ Fiery Jack “ just had to make sure you washed your hands well before going for a wee ? .

  52. Hi, I grew up in Africa and the Middle East in the late 50s/early 60s and suffered very bad anaemia as a child. My mother used to give me a daily teaspoon of a thick sweet brown liquid (which I guess was a liquid iron supplement or it could have been malt)) and it was delicious! Now in my 60s I can still almost taste it but I can’t find any reference to it anywhere. I’m sure it was called Irradex or Irridex. I’ve tried all manner of spelling it but can still find no mention of it anywhere. I was so excited to find this website and thought it might be mentioned somewhere but alas no! Perhaps Irradex was only available overseas or perhaps it was called by a different name in the UK. Please help someone – this is driving me nuts!

  53. I am 89 and can remember my Grandfather using an ointment called Melrose on his hands in the evening to heal and soften them after working with sand and cement in the day,
    I think this must have been in the 1930s and/or the 1940s.
    I have found an American company making Melrose products now but they were not in operation at this time.

  54. Does anyone remember a patent medicine by the name of Fever Cure. As a child I was given this by my mother, it was readily available even from off licence shops, and I loved it. It was really quite astringent but I found it truly addictive, probably why it was withdrawn.

  55. I remember my mum giving me a medicine it was red at the top and oil at the bottom she used to shake it up and give me it for chest infection carnt find out what they call it

  56. I remember most of these , born 1945, but also gees linctus which I was given for coughs which tasted lovely but I think must have had some sort of sedative in

  57. I remember m and b tablets taken for a very long time around 1952 after falling and cutting my leg open . I was 4 years old . Mum crushed them in jam. I felt very silly at age 4 being pushed in a pram . . Also kalin poultice for the same injury. Red hot they were when applied.

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