Did you know tomatoes were sold as medicine in the 1830s?

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Makansutra14 May 2012

Text and Images by Cheryl Teo @ Makansutra

Did you know tomatoes were sold as medicine in the 1830s?
Did you know tomatoes were sold as medicine in the 1830s?

In November 1834, Dr. John Cook Bennett announced that tomatoes could be used to treat diarrhea, nausea, indigestion and even fight Cholera.  Bennett went as far as to predict that a chemical extract of the tomatoes would replace Calomel – a toxic substance used frequently by the physicians then for its laxative effect. Bennett resigned from the study in 1836 however, due to ill health.

There were also other claims made by researchers that tomato sauce remove headaches, improve bowel movement and relive tightness in one’s chest.

The health claims made by the various researchers were quickly undone in modern day’s ketchup with the addition of salt, sugar and preservative.

The most popular recognition of tomatoes’ medical benefits came with the launch of Dr. Miles’ Compound Extract of Tomato and Dr. Phelps Tomato Pill Box.

The former, named after its creator, Archibald Miles, is a series of pills that possess an extract of tomato. The pills were said to have an effect on our biliary organs and were sold at 50 cents per bottle. The Compound Extract of Tomato was a cure for a wide range of diseases, from cold to liver infection and like what Bennett predicted, indigestion as well.

The mania for tomato pills only lasted till the 1840 as Phelps ended his advertising in spring while Miles, in summer.

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