Paregoric, or camphorated tincture of opium, also known as tinctura opii camphorata, is a medication known for its antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic properties.
In the early 18th century Jakob Le Mort (1650–1718), a professor of chemistry at Leiden University, prepared an elixir for asthma and called it "paregoric". The word "paregoric" comes from the Greek word "paregoricon" which was originally applied to oratory and to a particular form of oratory in which distraction of attention was the predominant feature. It then passed through various shades of meaning from "consoling" to "soothing" and finally came to have the same significance as "anodyne". Le Mort's elixir, consisting of "honey, licorice, flowers of Benjamin, and opium, camphor, oil of aniseed, salt of tartar and spirit of wine," became official as "Elixir Asthmaticum" in the London Pharmacopoeia of 1721. Paregoric was used in various formulations for hundreds of years, and its ingredients "were assembled out of the obsolete humoral philosophy and quasiscientific reasoning of the Renaissance." In 1944, two clinicians who evaluated the expectorant action of Paregoric concluded: "The survival of paregoric through the centuries, and particularly through recent critical decades is probably due to keen clinical observation and stubborn adherence to the clinical deduction that paregoric is useful in certain types of cough."
Paregoric was a household remedy in the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was widely used to control diarrhea in adults and children, an expectorant and cough medicine, calm fretful children, and to rub on the gums to counteract the pain from teething. Two formulas, one for paregoric and another for a similar medication, taken from an 1870 publication, are, for Paregoric: "Best opium 1/2 dr., dissolve it in about 2 tablespoons of boiling water; then add benzoic acid 1/2 dr.; oil of anise 1/2 a fluid dr.; clarified honey 1 oz.; camphor gum 1 scruple; alcohol, 76 percent, 11 fluid ozs.; distilled water 4-1/2 fluid ozs.; macerate, (keep warm,) for two weeks. Dose--For children, 5 to 20 drops, adults, 1 to 2 teaspoons." The other, for BATEMAN'S PECTORAL DROPS, is: "Opium in powder, catechu in powder, camphor gum, red saunders, rasped, of each 1/2 oz.; oil of anise 1 dr.; dilute alcohol, (alcohol of 76 percent, and water in equal proportions,) 1 gal. Keep warm for 2 weeks. The opium strength of this is about equal to paregoric, and it is used for similar pruposes, and doses." During the 20th century its use declined as governments regulated it.
Full article ▸