Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Bitter medicines

Medical remedies have a long history of unpleasantness, either because their nasty taste could not be masked or perhaps because of a traditional prejudice that a prescribed remedy would not work unless it was bitter, fizzed when dissolved in water, or was painful if given by injection. Classical examples are treacle, castor oil, and medications containing small quantities of strychnine for the relief of gastrointestinal disorders. This painting from ca. 1894 pays homage to this tradition, showing the administration of castor oil to an unwilling recipient.

Bitter medicine. Philip Fleishcer. c1894. US National Library of Medicine.

Winter 2020



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