Cannabis Infused Medicines From the Past

From cough syrup with indica to medicine for children with cannabis and chloroform, a trip to the old timey drug store could have sent you tripping

As the flu season approaches those feeling unwell are most likely to head to the drug store and not the pot store. But back in the day, a trip to the drug store could have sent a person tripping.

There were probably 100 different indications for cannabis in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Don E. Wirtshafter, executive director of Cannabis Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, told The GrowthOp. Cannabis was part of medicines for cough, epilepsy, consumption and tuberculosis, Wirtshafter said. He has collected hundreds of historic bottles with cannabis on the label.

“The history we have assembled (shows) how cannabis went from the apothecary to the modern drug store until it was banned for no scientific reason in 1937,” Wirtshafter said.

In 1860, the Committee on Cannabis Indica of the Ohio State Medical Society found cannabis could treat gonorrhea, asthma, rheumatism and intense stomach pain, Canadian licensed producer MedReleaf Corp points out in a report titled, History of Cannabis. Cannabis as a medical ingredient grew in the late-18th and early-19th century, the report adds.

With the list of conditions cannabis can help with seemingly endless, here’s one with some unusual, little-known medical blends:

One Night Cough Syrup

A bottle of One Night Cough Syrup packed a punch with not only cannabis listed in the ingredients but also chloroform and morphine. This old-timey medicine was manufactured in the late 1880s by Kohler Manufacturing Co. for 10 cents a bottle, Past Medical History, an online platform run by Dr. Marc Barton, notes in a morphine is generally used in hospitals for moderate to severe pain. Chloroform was once used as an anesthetic during surgery, which makes it an odd choice for cough syrup.

Victor Infants Relief

Medicine for children, Victor Infants Relief, contained cannabis indica, “sweet spirits of nitre” and chloroform, as pictured on a bottle on the website of Antique Cannabis Book, an online price guide to antiques. Taken for “looseness of bowels,” the dose instructions start for children just two days old. Caregivers were advised to repeat the dose from every 15 minutes to eight hours according to the severity of the disease.

“Victor Infant Relief contained some hard-hitting drugs like chloroform and cannabis,” medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris notes on Twitter. “It was first introduced in the 1880s by Dr. P.D. Fahrney and went out of circulation in the early 20th century,” she adds.

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Bliss Native Balsam


Bliss Native Balsam was manufactured in Washington D.C., Kansas City and Montreal, as per a listing on Antique Cannabis Book. Cannabis indica and alcohol are the only ingredients on the bottle. Bliss claimed to be a remedy for colds, coughs and bronchitis. The label notes: “It contains no habit-forming drugs and can be safely administered to children as well as adults.”

Eli Lilly & Co. Poison

Don’t let the name scare you off — this Poison contains mostly alcohol and cannabis sativa, and claimed to treat hysteria and migraines. Eli Lilly & Co. made this medicine in Indianapolis. This cannabis sativa homeopathic medicine was used for people who “feel disconnected and have out-of-body experiences,” The Herb Museum notes.

Dr. Macalister’s Cough Mixture

Manufactured in Chicago, the cough mixture contained cannabis indica, chloroform and alcohol, a photo on Antique Cannabis Book reveals. The mix claimed to be the “best remedy” for cough and cold in adults. It could also cure croup and whooping cough in children, the label reads. The “doctor’s” mix was registered to John P. Lee in 1878, the United States Patent Office lists.

Lloyd Brothers Specific Medicines

The Lloyd Brothers Specific Medicines Cannabis contained 74 per cent alcohol, water and, of course, cannabis. Nervous depression, melancholia and forgetfulness are listed as the specific indications this medicine cured. The instructions call for a teaspoon every two to four hours, followed by a warning: “poisonous in overdoes.”

John Wyeth & Brothers Cannabis Powder


This sleep-aid cannabis power dates from the 1890s to 1920s and was manufactured in Philadelphia, Antique Cannabis Book notes. The powered extract contains cannabis indica and hemp. Take the powder with hot brandy and water to get to sleep, the label reads. John Wyeth & Brothers evolved into a huge company known as Wyeth, which has manufactured well-known brands such as Advil, Preparation H. and Jiffy Pop, historian Jessica Griffin points out in a post on Old Main Artifacts.

Parke Davis & Company Cannabis Americana


Parke Davis listed around 100 different cannabis medicines in 1894, Antique Cannabis Book notes. An advertisement from this time period says the company’s Cannabis Americana is sold for considerably less than cannabis indica extracts. The extract is made from cannabis sativa grown in America and cannot be distinguished from imported “East Indian cannabis,” another advertisement notes. The extract, made with alcohol and cannabis, supposedly served as a sedative.


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