Page 30 - Pharmacy History 37 Nov 2009
P. 30

39th International Congress for
the History of Pharmacy, Vienna
Austria 2009
The attached paper was presented at the Congress to give an Australian flavour to the program.
The theme of the Congress was Remedy and Society to stress the manifold scientific, economic, political, social and cultural, impacts on the development distribution and the use of remedies.
The traditional apothecary’s role as a producer of medicines has changed considerably in
the last two centuries and whilst many have been superseded by more efficient and aesthetic preparations, it is interesting to recall how some have stood the test of time. Of particular interest in this paper are two bush remedies peculiar to Australia, which were developed by non pharmacists and were sold and distributed along similar lines to the ‘quack’ medicines so familiar in Europe since medieval times.
Australia - beyond the black stump
Geoff Miller BPharm FPS
A writer in Elizabethan times claimed that ‘one would as soon find a black swan on the Thames, than an honest quack.’1
Eventually explorers found black swans in Australia, but the real question is, did the honest quack thrive here also?
The early Europeans who came as convicts or free settlers to Australia would have brought many of their own familiar remedies with them, but they soon learnt to observe how the indigenous people, who have survived for 40,000 years in the harsh environment of Australia, were able to treat all manner of diseases and ailments from the flora and fauna around them.
Some may remember Eichorn’s Remedy after its inventor, August Eichorn.
This was popular as a general purpose remedy and was in most household’s medicine box, along with the Enos fruit salts and even a bottle of chlorodyne.
Originally the Remedy was produced
by Eichorn and his wife at their home near Sydney and according to the package insert is, ‘manufactured from the secret formula of the late Mr August Eichorn’. Currently the recipe
is prepared by the Gundagai Pharmacy in northern NSW, and it contains capsicum 1.08% , ginger 2.17%, nutmeg 2.71% in ethyl alcohol, but the product no longer bears the Eichorn name.2
Eichorn’s main market was at the fairs and shows in the small country towns of NSW and Queensland.3
Like a true showman, whenever Eichorn rode into town, he wore a special vest adorned with medals all over his chest from ‘grateful’ people
he claimed to have cured of many common diseases including abrasions, boils and carbuncles to blackheads and
spongy gums. His catch cry was ‘there is help in every drop’.
Although he earned a living selling his Remedy, Eichorn, like all bush- men was always aware of the dangers of snake bite and he spent much of his life trying to find an anti-venom from native plants as the Aboriginals apparently had been able to do.
Success with natural materials from
the bush eluded him, but from his experiences with handling some of the most dangerous snakes in Australia, he claimed that he had devised a means of treating victims of their bites, as a result of observation and trial and error.
30  Pharmacy History Australia
volume 5 no 37 NOVEMBER 2009  

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