Quackery, Claims and Cures - Elixirs of the Past - Magnetism

Dina Kamel, Manal Tareen, Ramtin Vafamansouri, Andrew I Spielman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quackery in medicine is as old as medicine itself.
In times of crisis desperate patients often believe
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
nostrums and liniments dating from approximately
1850 through 1940. In this paper, the FOURTH
in a series of articles featuring “Elixirs of the Past”
we bring to light four more samples claiming to
have magnetic properties: Dr. J.R. Miller’s Magnetic
Balm, Havens’ Electromagnetic Liniment, Headman’s
Magnetic Liniments, and Magnetic Cream. It goes
without saying that none of these had any magnetic
properties. 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)
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the history of dentistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Magnetism
  • patent medicine


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