25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Unprescribed Drugs Cure It All
I took a friend to the pharmacy the other day and was amazed at the large number and variety of medications available to the general public. I was also amazed at the knowledge of the pharmacist in dealing with prescriptions. No so 25 years ago when only unprescribed drugs were available. What were the common medications of yester years and did they do the job properly?
Phensic, Aspro, and Mejoral:
These were like the miracle pills in everyone's home before the coming of the drug stores. They were good for headaches, any kind of body pains, tooth aches, ear aches and all kind of aches. They did the job very well to reduce fevers and illnesses associated with colds and flu. "Mejor mejora Mejoral" was the popular radio advertisement. It said: "Mejoral improves your health better than anything else." We used to buy these at two for five cents and most people would buy a packet of twelve, which was like a dose for anyone illness.
Vicks Vapor Rub: Well you know Vicks, which is still available today. Back then it was much more potent and had varied uses. You stuffed it in your nose when it was clogged up. You rubbed the bones when they ached. You put it in boiling water and inhaled it when you had a bad cold and a terrible flu and a sneezing frenzy. If you had a headache, you rubbed it on your forehead and if there was in inflammation, Vicks was sure to do the job. A few people even used it for insect bites, rashes, skin infections and at times when there was no iodine for wounds even there Vicks was applied. And do you know something, even though the warning said "for external use only" people like my dad would ingest a spoonful in the mouth and swallow it with hot milk to cure the flu. Oh, yes, Vicks was magical and there was a blue bottle at every home.
Andrews Liver Salt, Eno, Alka-Seltzer: used for all stomach upsets, loose bowels or hard bowels, throwing up, etc.
Alcohol, Bay Rum, and Bengay: For a fever, you bathed them with either of these. Aching bones, you did the same thing. Someone fainted or was knocked unconscious, you wet the forehead with bay rum and you got them to smell it. And the funny thing is that if you had an alcoholic person, he would steal the bay rum and drink it like an alcoholic drink as much as they would drink white rum.
Iodine: For all skin abrasions, wounds or punctures, there was red iodine or black iodine. The one which we dreaded was the black one because it burnt like hell. We smiled when mom took out the red iodine, but cried when she took out the black one. Mom had to blow on the wound for a good minute after applying the black iodine.
Purga or Castor Oil: This was everyone's nightmare. When one got skinny, or pale, or grouchy and lacked energy, mom suspected that one had some kind of worms in the intestine. Even while eating a child would grind his teeth and mom would say "Tienes bichos, hay que darte purga" (You have worms and you need a dose of Castor oil). This oily substance, whatever it was, had a terrible smell and a worse taste. One would normally throw up just by smelling it and that was the treatment twice a year when mom suspected us of having worms. Drinking castor oil meant loose bowels for two or three days and mom would observe if any worms were passed out in the feces. It surely killed the worms and I am not surprised it did not kill us.
That's it for the most part as far as medications were concerned 25 years ago. It was a small variety, but we surely kept healthy and guys lived to be ninety. Heart attacks were uncommon and one never heard of diabetes or low pressure and high pressure. People seemed quite healthy with the little medication they got. What was more common was "Mal de Ojo" and "Mal de Viento". Wonder why people were so healthy!