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‘Universal Pills No 4’ — coloured lithograph published by W. Spooner, c. 1830s

James Morison, a famous Hygeist, attracted the ire of the medical profession with his universal pills that claimed to purify the blood, leading to the publication of a series of mocking lithographs.

‘Universal Pills No 4’ — coloured lithograph published by W. Spooner, c.1830s

Source: Mclean/RPS Museum

Lithographs were commonly used in the 1800s to circulate political cartoons, caricatures and even newspapers

Many caricatures were published during the 1830s ridiculing James Morison’s ‘Universal Pills’, including this example by an unknown artist in which a man has sprouted a carrot for a nose after taking one too many.

The Universal Pills found success following an intensive publicity campaign promoting the superiority of vegetable-based medicines over the chemical and mercury-based medicines recommended by the medical profession.

The Hygeian theory of medice, which Morison famously followed, claimed that all diseases originated from impurities in the blood. His Universal Pills allegedly purified the blood, therefore curing all medical conditions. High doses were recommended for effective treatment, but this resulted in several deaths and numerous court cases brought against Morison.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207282

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