No, this is not a tell-all about drug abuse, but a focus on how accepted medicinal practices of the past are considered so dangerous now and are no longer used.
My parents were loving, caring adults—particularly my mother, who nursed me through measles, mumps, whooping cough, and several other childhood diseases. She was not necessarily a believer in natural remedies. She mainly relied on over-the-counter medicines that her mother used on her when she was a child.
Unfortunately, these days we know that some of those old-fashioned remedies that seemed to work so well back then were rather toxic in the broad scheme of things.
I remember my mother giving me tincture of opium (Paregoric) that she bought at the local pharmacy to sooth my coughs and to remedy a tummy ache. She was never without a bottle in the medicine cabinet. Fortunately, she used it sparingly and didn’t turn me into an opium addict.
Whenever I had an eye irritation or a stye—a bacterial infection of the eye gland near the eyelid—my mother would use yellow mercuric oxide ointment to cure those eye infections. As an active kid, I often got dirt and stuff in my eyes while playing and sometimes ended up with minor eye infections. The treatment worked well, and in no time I was back out playing in the dirt again with friends.
Fortunately, these days there are specific antibiotic eye ointments available—prescription only in the US, however—and the only non-prescription eye ointments now contain soothing ingredients like petrolatum or glycerin. These are not anti-bacterial, however.
Also, as an active kid, I had more than my share of scrapes and cuts. My mother always had the answer by painting my injuries with either mercurochrome or Tincture of Merthiolate. Both were red alcohol-based liquids of a mercury compound. They burned something fierce with the alcohol on a fresh cut, and the red streak it left on skin assured my mother that she had completely covered the wounded skin area. Little did she realize at the time, she was giving me a nice dose of toxic mercury.
As with the above-mentioned mercury-based eye ointments, mercurochrome and Tincture of Merthiolate are no longer on the market in their original form. Skin antiseptics named as such these days are only “in name only” products that no longer contain mercury as the antiseptic ingredient. Mostly, the active ingredient in these products now is the much safer benzalkonium chloride, and the clear liquid tincture of iodine is considered a product of choice for simple skin cuts and abrasions.
All in all, I think I survived my early years well, even with my mother treating me with toxic products. However, I can’t be sure my love of writing about murder is not linked to those earlier chronic doses of mercury. I usually think of myself as a rational and sane person, but mercury is associated most definitely with a dangerous past.
For more about the evils of mercury poisoning, check out my previous musings on that subject in my Mad as a Hatter blog HERE.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!