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1900s "One Night Cough Syrup" Scares The Internet With Wild Ingredients

It would stop your cough... and all of your organs, we imagine.


Jack Dunhill


Jack Dunhill

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

Jack is a Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer for IFLScience, with a degree in Medical Genetics specializing in Immunology.

Social Media Coordinator and Staff Writer

one night cough syrup

One Night Cough Syrup...if you can survive one night on it. Image Credit: Jonathan Harford/Flickr CC-BY-NC 2.0

Medicine in the 1900s was questionable. It pretty much consisted of hard drugs delivered far beyond reasonable dosages, and for almost any ailment, cocaine or opioids were just the thing you needed. Whether they worked is a long conversation (they didn’t), but one thing is for sure – they looked like a good time. 

Perhaps nothing was quite as good a time, though, as this “One Night Cough Syrup” from the late 19th century that has recently gone viral online for its questionable ingredients. Listed as the main components are 1 percent alcohol, cannabis indica, chloroform, and “morphia” (an old term for morphine). If you were having a disturbed night's sleep, it’s easy to see how this would do the trick. 

One Night Cough Syrup
Alcohol, cannabis, chloroform, and morphine sounds like a good time. Image Credit: Jonathan Harford/Flickr CC-BY-NC 2.0

It’s unclear quite when the bottle was made, but Kohler Manufacturing made this syrup from the 1880s onwards and these types of syrup were typical throughout the 1900s. All that is clear is that this particular syrup was made after 1906, as it is abiding by the “Food and Drugs Act 1906”, which prohibited the unlawful movement of food and drink in the US. 

Interestingly, while the syrup seems mind-boggling to us, it was highly typical of cough medicines at the time. Morphine, heroin, and other poppy derivatives were used for pain suppression and to stop coughing. Chloroform also supposedly helped with coughs and made the patient sleepy (maybe a bit too sleepy), and alcohol and cannabis helped take the edge off, again to aid sleep. 

Opioids became more regulated and chloroform use was stopped after the FDA found it increased risk of cardiac arrest and cancer in 1976, so cough syrups made a large pivot in the late 1900s, but there are plenty of examples of these wild remedies still intact. 


healthHealth and Medicinehealthmedicine
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  • alcohol,

  • medicine,

  • cocaine,

  • Cannabis,

  • morphine,

  • historic medicine