Nervine was not only sold as a treatment for anxiety, sleeplessness, and restlessness but also for exhaustion, epilepsy (seizure disorder), spasms, fits, pain (including backache, headache, and nerve pain), depression, and St. Vitus dance. St. Vitus dance is a disease characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements mainly affecting the face, feet, and hands.
In the general sense, a “nervine” is a plant that has some type of positive effect on the nervous system. However, the active ingredient in Nervine was bromide (a form of bromine), which was once used as a sedative and an anti-convulsant (a medication used to treat seizures). While Nervine was claimed to be “…among the safest of effective medications to clam the nerves” this was not the case. The problem is that excess consumption of bromide can lead to bromism, which is a condition that leads to various psychiatric, neurological, gastrointenstinal, and dermatological symptoms.
Bromine and/or forms of bromine (e.g., bromides) are currently used in pesticides, disinfectants, flame retardants, as a gasoline additive, and for swimming pool maintenance. Its use has been limited in the U.S. but is still contained in some food products. Bromine has no known essential role in human health. The FDA does not currently approve bromine for the treatment of any disease and it was removed from all over the counter sedatives in 1975.
Nervine was the product of Dr. Franklin Miles, who started Dr. Miles Medical Company (which became Miles Laboratory in 1935) in Elkhart, Indiana. The company was in existence independently from 1885 to 1979, at which point it became a subsidiary of Bayer until 1995. The company achieved its initial success from Nervine, which led to a popular mail-order business and a free publication called Medical News which was really an advertising platform for the product. Nervine (which was often referred to as Dr. Miles Nervine) was taken off the market as a curative medication in the 1960s.