Ambition Pills: The 19th Century ‘Wonder Supplement’…

If you thought the current supplement industry was farcical, you’re sadly mistaken.

Since Eugen Sandow first began to wow audiences in the 19th century, marketers have sought to provide quick fixes for building strength, ambition and combating ailments.

Take for example ‘Ambition Pills’, a product which emerged in America in the late 1800s and promised to cure impotency, nervous debilities and even cure evil forebodings.

So what exactly was in these pills?

In 1918, the Journal of the American Medical Association published preliminary findings on Ambition pills and found that

Louisiana chemists reported that each pill was found to contain a little over one-thirtieth of a grain of strychnin and about one-fifth of a grain of iron in the form of the sesquioxid (ferric oxid). Pepper, cinnamon and ginger were also found and what was probably aloes in very small amounts. These pills are sold at 50 cents a box, each box containing forty-two pills.

Under our present lax methods of permitting almost any dangerous drug to be sold indiscriminately, provided it is in the form of a ‘patent medicine,’ it seems, from the Louisiana findings, that it is possible for any one to purchase enough strychnin in a single box of Wendell’s Ambition Pills to kill an adult.”

You read that correctly, strychnine, the colorless, odorless toxic pesticide. Unsurprisingly the AMA report effectively killed off ‘Ambition Pills’ before any serious damage could be done.

So next time we hear of unwanted products in our supplements, remember that companies are following a long tradition of dubious practice.

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