The History of Leith

January 6, 2012

Grana Angelica

Here in the Lawnmarket, in the lofty tenement dated 1690, on the second floor, is the “shop” where that venerable drug, called the ” Grana Angelica,” but better known among the country people as “Anderson’s Pills,” are sold. They took their origin from a physician of the time of Charles I., who gave them his name, and of whom a long account was given in the University Magazine, and locally their fame lasted for nearly 250 years. From his daughter Lilias Anderson, the patent, granted by James VIL, came “to Thomas Weir, chirurgeon, in Edinburgh,” who left the secret of preparing the pills to his daughter, Mrs. Irving, who died in 1837.

Old and New Edinburgh

Patent medicine refers to medical compounds of questionable effectiveness sold under a variety of names and labels. The term “patent medicine” is somewhat of a misnomer because, in most cases, although many of the products were trademarked, they were never patented (most avoided the patent process so as not to reveal products’ often hazardous and questionable ingredients). Perhaps the only “patent medicine” ever to be patented was Castoria.[1] In ancient times, such medicine was called nostrum remedium (“our remedy” in Latin). The name patent medicine has become particularly associated with the sale of drug compounds in the nineteenth century under an array of colourful names and even more colourful claims.

The promotion of patent medicines was one of the first major products highlighted by the advertising industry, and many advertising and sales techniques were pioneered by patent medicine promoters.[2] Patent medicine advertising often talked up exotic ingredients, even if their actual effects came from more prosaic drugs. One memorable group of patent medicines — liniments that allegedly contained snake oil, supposedly a panacea — made snake oil salesman a lasting synonym for a charlatan. for more click here

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