Quackery, Claims and Cures – Elixers of the Past - Electricity

Mike Jaafar, Emily Kakos, Vaughn Ayroso, Andrew Vorrath, Fareed Tareen, Andrew I Spielman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quackery in medicine is as old as medicine. In times
of crisis desperate patients believe in extraordinary
claims. In the annals of pain killer quack medicine,
elixirs, nostrums and liniments hold a special
position. The College of Dentistry at NYU received
a collection of 234 bottles of quack medicine dating
from approximately 1850 through 1940.
In this paper, the THIRD in a series of
articles featuring “Elixirs of the Past”, we focus on
five particularly notable samples claiming to have
“electric” properties: Electric Brand Oil Compound,
Hunt’s Lightening Oil, Electric Indian Liniment,
Regent’s Electric Liniment and Haven’s Electromagnetic
Liniment. Needless to say, none of these
contained electricity or even electrolytes for that
matter. In 1906, Congress enacted The Pure Food and
Drug Act to prohibit exaggerated or unsubstantiated
claims in the marketing and labeling of household
products and to control the use of potentially
harmful ingredients. The modern-day use of
internet advertisements to make unsupported
claims is in some ways even more brazen than the
advertisements from a century ago.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the history of dentistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • electricity
  • patent medicine


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