Tag Archives: patent medicines

“Perfectly Harmless, and Sure to Do Good”

Advertisement for Lyon's French Periodical Drops

Advertisement for Lyon’s French Periodical Drops

Women’s History Month got you down?  Maybe it’s just those women’s “monthlies.”  From the Helm Family Papers in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives of WKU’s Library Special Collections, we give you Lyon’s French Periodical Drops and Female Regulator.  “Powerful in their action, but harmless in their operation,” these miracle drops were the concoction of Connecticut-based, Paris-trained physician John L. Lyon.

Advertised from the Civil War until the early 20th century, this contribution to the vast pharmacopoeia of American patent medicines was for relief of “Irregularities, Painful and Imperfect Menstruation” or “Monthly Sickness of Females.”  A mere $1.50 paid for one bottle of Drops, to be taken daily by teaspoonful with an equivalent dose of molasses or honey.

Embedded in the lengthy advertisement was some fascinating text that instructed in the regulation of more than the monthly cycle.  The drops, warned the doctor, should not be taken if “Pregnancy be the cause of the stoppage” as “they will be sure to cause a miscarriage.”  On the other hand, three-times daily doses ahead of an “expected period” would operate “TO PREVENT CONCEPTION.”  Along with the honey-or-molasses chaser, Dr. Lyon also recommended “Strong Tanzy” or “Pennyroyal Tea”—both traditional abortifacients—as “beneficial in some cases in connection with this medicine.”

Lyon’s French Periodical Drops eventually fell victim to Progressive-Era regulation of food and drugs.  After a look and a sniff in 1908, the Kansas Board of Health found [surprise!!] alcohol in a compound marketed as “entirely vegetable.”  The Board dismissed the rest of the ingredients as a probable (and toxic) “aromatic solution of ergot and oil of savin.”

For more of our collections that feature medicines and prescriptions, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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