5 Cough remedies that we cannot believe are real


An occasional cough is normal and healthy, but if you look at the history of cough medicines and what has been prescribed as medicine in the decades (and centuries) past, you will think coughs were the very worst condition that befell human beings.

Fortunately, that is not really the case, and science and medicine have come a long way. Still, here are 5 cough remedies that we cannot believe were really prescribed to patients!

Opium, Morphine and Heroin

Opium still provides the chemical structure for many narcotic pain medications today, but back in the 1800s, opium laced cough syrups were in use in America. Morphine, like Opium, is also made from the poppy plant, and was added to cough syrups as a suppressant in the middle of the 1800s. In the latter part of the century, a German drug manufacturer released a cough syrup under the brand-name ‘Heroin’ which was even marketed as a safer alternative to morphine.[1]

One Night Cough Syrup

Sold in the late 1800s, it contained alcohol, cannabis, chloroform, and morphine! It was available over the counter and promised to eliminate cough in one night, so people could get some sleep. Of course, with that ingredient list, it is easy to imagine that people would lose their consciousness rather quickly! [1]

One Minute Cough Cure

This syrup, sold from 1894–1906, claimed to only need a minute to cure many diseases of the throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs, including pneumonia, bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, whooping cough, sore throat, difficult respiration, pains in the chest, night sweats and more! [2]

Now, after reading the three aforementioned ‘medicines’, you would think things couldn’t possibly get any stranger. But they do, starting with:

Medicinal Cigarettes

While it seems-and-is- counter-intuitive, in the 1940s you could buy cigarettes for minor bronchial and throat irritations. One of the active ingredients was cubebs, an herb said to help loosen mucus along the respiratory tract. [3]


Sold in the 1930s, the list of active ingredients in these “Laxative Cold Tablets” included a truly odd combination of dangerous and unusual items like camphor (which is unsafe to take orally), quinine, and even capsicum! [3] 

In recent times, ingredients are better researched, while there are potential risks associated with some ingredients, it's important to use these medications responsibly. Here are some common ingredients found in modern cough medicines:

Dextromethorphan, commonly known as DXM, this cough suppressant and expectorant is found in many over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. It may produce euphoria and dissociative effects or even hallucinations when taken in large quantities, much greater than the recommended therapeutic dose.  

Promethazine-codeine cough syrups are common today. Codeine is an opioid that acts as a cough suppressant and can also produce relaxation and euphoria when consumed at a higher-than-prescribed dose. [4]

It's crucial to follow the recommended dosage guidelines when using these medications to minimize any potential risks and ensure safe and effective treatment.

There are many natural ingredients that are clinically proven that you can consider, including what’s in the Helixia® Family – the #1 natural cough medicine recommended by Canadian pharmacists [5]

Prospan® by Helixia® is made from naturally sourced premium dried ivy leaf extract and relieves cough and loosens mucus and phlegm - providing effective relief for people aged 12 and up. It is also available in a fresh new menthol flavor.

Prospan® by Helixia® Kids provides effective relief for kids aged 1 to 11 and is naturally sourced and clinically proven with kid-approved taste.

Helixia® Kids Natural Defense®, Naturally sourced and proactive protection to keep sore throat, cold and ear infections at bay using premium dried oyster mushroom. [6]

These products may not be right for you. Please read and follow the label before use for a list of contraindications, warnings, precautions, and adverse reactions.

Helixia® and Helixia® Kids Natural Defense® are registered trademarks owned by Norwell Consumer Healthcare Inc.

Prospan® is a registered trademark of Engelhard Arzneimittel GmbH & Co. KG used under license by Norwell Consumer Healthcare Inc


[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/one-night-cough-syrup#old-time-ingredients

[2] https://insider.si.edu/2015/01/scary-cough-scarier-cough-medicine/

[3] https://www.si.edu/stories/six-cold-and-flu-medicines-youre-not-taking-today

[4] https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/over-counter-medicines

[5] https://www.helixia.com/

[6] https://www.helixia.com/helixia-kids-natural-defense


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