Description: During the Victorian period cures for diseases were often more dangerous than the illness itself. 

Laudanum is a notable example of the Victorian cure. Pharmacies could prescribe the dangerous drug over the counter unchecked. It would be taken for many ailments including headaches and menstrual cramps. Some women would even use the drug to obtain a pale complexion, as frailty among women was considered attractive. 
However, Laudanum was addictive due to its opium content. Notable addicts were Lord Bryon, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who wrote the poem Kubla Khan while in a Laudanum induced state), Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Edgar Allen Poe. The drug is also mentioned in numerous Victorian books; such as Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Neuralgia was a fairly unknown disease till John Locke in 1677 was asked to help the Countess of Northumberland. Previously numerous doctors had tried to describe the condition but failed to fully understand the illness. Locke was able to decrease the pain the Countess was feeling by treating her with laxative therapy.
Later during the 1700s other doctors built on Locke’s ideas and started to prescribe surgery to help the patient. By 1820 Charles Bell had completed the research by separating the disease from others and actually caused the condition to be named trigeminal neuralgia. The medicine pictured would have been prepared by Dale’s Chemist, Stoke-on-Trent from Adams’s recipe to ‘cure’ Neuralgia.

Most Victorians were poor and life was hard: drugs and medicines were vital. Chemists were available for free whereas doctors were not, and most Victorians got their drugs over the counter, without a prescription. The wide range of these drugs was intriguing. The Victorian chemist stocked not only patent and proprietary medicines, ready made, but nostrums made by himself and raw ingredients for home remedies. There was laudanum for dysentery, chlorodyne for coughs and cold, camphorated tincture of opium for asthma. Opium pills were coated in varnish for the working class, silver for the rich, and gold for the very rich. Angelic children frolicked on the bottles of Ayers Cherry Pectoral, a mixture of alcohol and opium that would now be deemed a poison. Coca leaf, from which cocaine is now obtained, was advertised as a nerve and muscle tonic, to “appease hunger and thirst” and to relieve sickness.

Laudanum, for example. The formula is simple. It is made from opium, harvested from the seed case of the poppy flower and then mixed with alcohol. At first I was reluctant to drink it, but Oleander bid me do so, and I soon understood why.  It creates the most delicious feeling in the brain. It sharpens my senses like an arrow, until the World and its wonders are made vivid beyond words. 


I made an Amnesia: The Dark Descent t-shirt to celebrate my favorite horror video game.
Painting by myself freehand (no tracing, screen-printing, etc.). Acrylic on cotton.

In case I get severly injured by Grunts or the Kaernk while traversing Brennenburg Castle, I made these Laudanum Bottle earrings. A tiny dose ought to do the trick in those situations, right, Daniel? And that is a replica of an actual laudanum bottle label from London in the 1800s.

As an alternative to the Laudanum, I also created a set of Orb earrings. I’m not sure whose orbs these are, though. Daniel’s from the excavation site in Algeria, perhaps? Alexander’s, which he once stole from Agrippa? Hmm~ Even with only two, I’m already starting a collection like Weyer.

I just hope the Shadow isn’t after me now…


Laudanum Addiction- Late 19th Century Addicts Were Disproportionately Upper-Class Southern, White And Female

By the beginning of the civil war, there was probably some opium of some form in most household medicine cabinets. In The Plantation Mistress, a 1982 study of women’s life in the antebellum south, author Catherine Clinton writes that she found home remedies, all containing opium, for many common illnesses. She observes, “Laudanum was commonly used throughout the antebellum era, prescribed with unfortunate frequency for ‘female complaints’…..contrary to the 20th Century image….., the late 19th Century profile indicates that addicts were disproportionately upper-class, Southern, white and female. The women of the Jefferson Davis family, treated by a Dr., liberal in his dosages, became dangerously addicted."  Most people using opiates did not become addicted.

Confederate society figure Mary Chestnut, writing in her diary in Richmond, Virginia, during July 1861, told of her refusal to take laudanum, a tincture of opium mixed with alcohol and water. "I have no intention of drugging myself now.” she asserted. “My head is addled enough as it stands, and my heart beats to jump out of my body at every sound.” Later, in March 1865, Mrs. Chestnut was a refugee in Lincolnton, N.C. She was accidentally given an overdose of Dover’s powder, a mixture of opium and ipecac (what??!!). She slept for 2 days and nights. After her Dr. remarked that she was hard to kill, Mrs. Chestnut speculated,“ Maybe I was saved by the adulteration so often complained of in Confederate medicine."  

Under the Influence: Marching Through the Opium Fog 
by James Street, Jr. : Photo Of Mary Chesnut

Bizarre Victorian fact of the day...

Mrs Beeton’s ‘Book of Household Management’ had a wealth of advice for Victorian housewives, including how to cope during a medical emergency. She lists the following items, some of which are now known to be highly toxic, as essential household supplies:

“Antimonial Wine, Antimonial Powder, Blister Compound, Blue Pill, Calomel, Carbonate of Potash, Compound Iron Pills, Nitre, Oil of Turpentine, Opium, (powdered), Laudanum, Sal Ammoniac, Senna Leaves, Soap Liniment, Opodeldoc, Sweet Spirits of Nitre, Turner’s Cerate, Common Adhesive Plaster, Isinglass Plaster, Lint, A pair of small Scales with Weights, An ounce and a drachm Measure-glass, A Lancet, A Probe, A pair of Forceps, and some curved Needles.”