A distinguished public health official and medical writer once made this jocular suggestion to me:

"Let us buy in large quantities the cheapest Italian vermouth, poor gin and bitters. We will mix them in the proportion of three of vermouth to two of gin, with a dash of bitters, dilute and bottle them by the short quart, label them Smith's Reviver and Blood Purifier; dose, one wineglassful before each meal advertise them to cure erysipelas, bunions, dyspepsia, beat rash, fever and ague, and consumption; and to prevent loss of hair, smallpox, old age, sunstroke and near-sightedness, and make our everlasting fortunes selling them to the temperance trade."

“That at sounds to me very much like a cocktail," said I.

"So it is," he replied. "But it's just as much a medicine as Peruna, and not as bad a drink."

Peruna, or, as its owner, Dr. S. B. Hartman, of Columbus, Ohio (once a physician in good standing), prefers to write it, Pe-ru-na, is at present the most prominent proprietary nostrum in the country. It has taken the place once held by Greene's Nervura and by Paine's Celery Compound, and. for the same reason which made them popular. The name of that reason is alcohol.* Peruna, is a stimulant pure and simple, and it is the more dangerous in that it sails under the false colors of a benign purpose.

According to an authoritative statement given out in private circulation a few years ago by its proprietors, Peruna is a compound of seven drugs with cologne spirits. The formula, they assure me, has not been materially changed. None of the seven drugs is of any great potency. Their total is less than one-half of 1 per cent. of the product. Medicinally they are too inconsiderable, in this proportion, to produce any effect. There remains to Peruna only water and cologne spirits, roughly in the proportion of three to one. Cologne spirits is the commercial term of alcohol.

What Peruna Is Made Of.

Any one wishing to make Peruna for home consumption may do so by mixing half a pint of cologne spirits, 190 proof, with a pint and a half of ,water, adding thereto a little cubebs for flavor and a little burned sugar for color. Manufactured in bulk, so a former Peruna agent estimates, its-cost, including bottle and wrapper, is between fifteen and eighteen cents a bottle. Its price is $1.00. Because of this handsome margin of profit, and by way of making hay in the stolen sunshine of Peruna advertising, many imitations have sprung up to harass the proprietors of the alcohol-and-water product. Pe-ru-vi-na, P-ru-na, Purina, Anurep (an obvious inversion) ; these, bottled and labeled to resemble Peruna, are self-confessed imitations. From what the Peruna, people tell me, I gather that they are dangerous and damnable frauds, and that they cure nothing

What does Peruna cure? Catarrh. That is the modest claim for it; nothing but catarrh. To be sure, a careful study of its literature will suggest its value as a tonic and a preventive of lassitude.


Dr. Ashbel P. Grinnell of New York City, who has made a statistical study of patent rnedicines, asserts as a provable fact that more alcohol is consumed In this country in patent medicines than is dispensed in a legal way by licensed liquor venders, barring the sale of ales and beer.


But its reputation rests on catarrh. What is catarrh? Whatever ails you. No matter what you've got, you will be. not only enabled. but compelled, after reading Dr.

Hartman's Peruna book "The Ills of Life," to diagnose your illness –is catarrh and to realize that Peruna alone will save you. Pneumomia is catarrh of the lungs; so is consumption. 1)Dyspepsia is catarrh of tile stomach. Enteritis is catarrh of the intestines. Surgeons please note. before operating-is catarrh of the appendix. Bright''s, disease is

catarrh of the kidneys vs. Heart disease is catarrh of the heart Canker sores are catarrh of the. mouth. Measles is, perhaps. catarrh of the skin, since "a teaspoonful of Peruna thrice daily or oftener is In effectual Cure" ('*The Ills of Life"). Similarly, malaria, one may guess, is catarrh of the mosquito that bit you. Other diseases not specifically placed in the catarrhal class, but yielding to Peruna (in the book), are colic, mumps, convulsions, neuralgia, women's complaints and rheumatism. Yet "Peruna is not a cure-all," virtuously disclaims Dr. Hartman, and grasps at a golden opportunity by advertising his nostrum as a preventive against yellow fever! That alcohol and water, with a little coloring matter and one-half of 1 per cent. of mild drugs, will cure all or any of the ills listed above is too ridiculous to need refutation. Nor does Dr. Hartman himself personally make that claim for his product. He stated to me specifically. and repeatedly that no drug or combination of drugs, with the possible exception of quinine for malaria, will cure disease. His claim is that the belief of the patient in Peruna, fostered as it is by the printed testimony, and aided by the "gentle stimulation," produces good results. It is well established that in certain classes of disease the opposite is true. A considerable proportion of tuberculosis cases show a history of the Peruna type of medicine taken in the early stages, with the result of diminishing the patient's resistant power, and much of the typhoid in the middle west is complicated by the victim's "keeping up" on this stimulus long after be should have been under a doctor's care. But it is not as a fraud on the sick alone that Peruna is baneful, but as the maker of drunkards also.

perunaad.jpg (965797 bytes)

This ad may take a long time to load

perunaad3.jpg (198757 bytes)

"It can be used any length of time without acquiring a drug habit," declares the Peruna book, and therein, I regret to say, lies specifically and directly. The lie is ingeniously backed up by Dr. Hartman's argument that "nobody could get drunk on the prescribed doses of Peruna."

Perhaps this is true, though I note three wineglassfuls in forty-five minutes as a prescription, which might temporarily alter a prohibitionists's out on life.. But what makes Peruna profitable to the maker and a curse .to the community at large is the fact that the minimum dose first ceases to satisfy, then the moderate dose, and finally the maximum dose; and the unsuspecting patron, who began with it as a medicine, goes on to rise it as a beverage, and finally to be enslaved by it as a habit. A well-known authority on drug addictions writes me:

"A number of physicians have called my attention to the use of Peruna both preceding and following alcohol and drug addictions. Lydia Pinkham's Compound is another dangerous drug used largely by drinkers; Paine's Celery Compound also. I have in the last two years met four cases of persons who drank Peruna in large quantities to intoxication. This was given to them originally as a tonic. They were treated under my care as simple alcoholics."

The Government Forbids the Sale of Peruna to Indians.

Expert opinion on tile nonmedical side is represented in the government order to the Indian Department, …the kernel of which is this:

"In connection with this investigation, please give particular attention

to the proprietary medicines and other compounds which the traders keep in stock, with special reference to the liability of their misuse by Indians on account of the alcohol which they contain The sale of Peruna, which is; on the lists of several traders, is hereby absolutely prohibited. As a medicine, something else can be substituted; as an intoxicant, it has been found too tempting and effective. Anything of the sort, under another name, which is found to lead to intoxication, you will please report to this office.

Signed  F. C. LARRABEE, Acting Commissioner."


Specific evidence of what Peruna can do will be found in the following report, verified by special investigation:


PINEDALE, Wyo., Oct. 4- (Special.) -"Two men suffering from delirium tremens and one dead is the result of a Peruna. intoxication which took place here a few days ago. C. E. Armstrong, of this place, and a party of three others started out on a camping trip to the Yellowstone country, taking with them several bottles of whisky and ten bottles of Peruna, which one of the members of the party was taking as a tonic. The trip lasted over a week. The whisky was exhausted and for two days the party was without liquor. At last some one suggested that they use Peruna, of which nine bottles remained. Before' they stopped the whole remaining supply bad been consumed and the four men were in a state of intoxication, the like of which they had never known before. Finally, one awoke with terrible cramps in his stomach and found his companions seemingly in an almost lifeless condition. Suffering terrible agony, he crawled on his hands and knees to a ranch over a mile distant, the process taking him half a day. Aid was sent to his three companions. Armstrong was dead when the rescue party arrived. The other two men, still unconscious, were brought to town in a wagon and are still in a weak and emaciated condition. Armstrong's body was almost tied in a knot and could not be straightened for burial."

Here is the testimony from a druggist in a "no license" town:

"Peruna is bought by all the druggists in this section by the gross. I have seen persons thoroughly intoxicated from taking Peruna. The common remark in this place when a drunken party is particularly obstreperous is that he is on a 'Peruna drunk.' It is a notorious fact that a great many do use Peruna to get the alcoholic effect, and they certainly do. get it good and strong. Now, there are other so-called remedies used for the same purpose, namely, Gensenica, Kidney Specific, Jamaica Ginger, Hostetter's Bitters, etc."

So well recognized is this use of the nostrum that a number of the Southern newspapers advertise a cure for the "Peruna habit," which is probably worse than the habit, as is usually the case with these "cures." In southern Ohio and in the mountain districts of West Virginia the, "Peruna jag" is a standard form of intoxication.

Two Testimonials.

A testimonial-hunter in the employ of the Peruna company was referred by a Minnesota druggist to a prosperous farmer in the neighborhood. The farmer gave Peruna a, most enthusiastic "send-off;" he had been using it for several months and could say, etc. Then he took the agent to his barn and showed him a heap of empty Peruna bottles. The agent counted them. There were seventy-four. The druggist added his testimonial. "That old boy has a 'still' on all the time since he discovered Peruna," said he. "He's my star customer." The druggist's testimonial was not printed.

At the time when certain Chicago drug stores were fighting some of the leading patent medicines, and carrying only a small stock of them, a boy called one evening at one of the downtown shops for thirty-nine bottles of Peruna "There's the money," be said. "The old man wants to get his before it's all gone." Investigation showed that the purchaser was the night engineer of a big downtown building and that the entire working staff had chipped in" to get a supply of their favorite stimulant.

"But why should any one who wants to get drunk drink Peruna when he can get whisky?" argues the nostrum-maker.

There are two reasons, one of which is that in many places the "medicine" can be obtained and the liquor can not. Maine, for instance, being a prohibition state, does a big business in patent medicines. So does Kansas. So do most of the no-license counties in the South, though a few have recently thrown out the disguised "boozes." Indian Territory and Oklahoma, as we have seen, have done so because of Poor Lo's predilection toward himself of depression with these remedies, and for a time, at least, was shipped in in unlabeled boxes.

United States District Attorney Mellette, of the western district of Indian Territory, writes: "Vast quantities of Peruna are shipped into this country, and I have caused a number of persons to be indicted for selling the same, and a few of them have been convicted or have entered pleas of guilty. I could give you hundreds of specific cases of 'Peruna drunk' among the Indians. It is a common beverage among them, used for the purposes of intoxication."

The other reason -why Peruna, or some other of its class is often the agency of drunkenness instead of whisky is that the drinker of Peruna, doesn't want to, get, drunk, at least she doesn't know that she wants to get drunk. I use the feminine pronoun advisedly, because the remedies of this, class are largely supported by women. Lydia Pinkham's variety of drink depends for its popularity chiefly on its alcohol. Paine's Celery Compound relieves depression and lack of vitality on the same principle that a cocktail does, and with the same necessity for repetition., I know an estimable lady from the middle West who visited her dissipated brother in New York-dissipated from her point of view, because she was a pillar of the W. C. T. U., and he frequently took a cocktail before dinner and came back with it on his breath, whereon she would weep Over him as one lost to hope. One day, in a mood of brutal exasperation, when he hadn't bad -his drink and was able to discern the flavor of her grief, he turned on her:

"I'll tell you what's the matter with you," he said. "You're drunk-maudlin drunk!"

She promptly and properly went into hysterics. The physician who attended diagnosed the case more politely, but to the same effect, and ascertained that she bad consumed something like a half a bottle of Kilmer's Swamp-Root that afternoon. Now, Swamp-Root is a very creditable "booze," but much weaker in alcohol than most of its class. The brother was .greatly amused until he discovered, to his alarm, that his drink-abborring sister couldn't get along without her patent medicine bottle! She was in a fair way, quite innocently, of becoming a drunkard.

Another example of this "unconscious drunkenness" is recorded by the Journal of the American Medical Association: "A respected clergyman fell ill and the family physician was called. After examining the patient carefully the doctor asked for a private interview with the patient's adult son.

I am sorry to tell you that your father undoubtedly is suffering from chronic alcoholism,' said the physician.

" 'Chronic alcoholism! Why, that's ridiculous! Father never drank a drop of liquor in his life, and we know all there is to know about his habits.'

'Well, my boy it's chronic alcoholism, nevertheless, and at this present moment your father is drunk.

“Why, for some time six months, I should say father has often complained of feeling unusually tired.  A few months ago a friend of his recommended Peruna to him, assuring him that it would build him up.  Since then he has taken many bottles of it, and I am quite sure that he has taken nothing else.”

Want to Learn More?

Thousands of people ask Digger questions about their bottles. 

Read their Questions In 'Ask Digger' and Digger's Answers