Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nervine: A Vintage Medication Pitched to Stressed Out Moms

Funny how now matter how much time passes, some themes never seem to change, such as the image of the stay-at-home mom stressed out by taking care of her children. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here is a vintage medical ad (click to enlarge) for Nervine, which was indicated for anxiety, sleeplessness, or restlessness, complete with a money back guarantee. Nervine was available in liquid or effervescent form and it had a large female following.

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.


  1. That's very interesting. I was looking up Miles Nervine because of a commercial for that product on an old time radio program "Lum and Abner."

  2. Good info. I ran across the ad in a window in the outstanding union film, "Matewan," the other day and was wondering what was in the stuff.

  3. I remember it was sold in tablets in a glass bottle with pink and white label. The caplets were also pink and High School kids took them with beer or soda to get high ! They contained bromides that were mild sedatives and if you took more than (2), usually (4) and mixed it with beer, booze or even cola, it made you drowsy and stupefied. They were sold right out in the open (next to the aspirin and Allerest). A bottle of 30 was $ 1.89 (,c.1973-74), and we would go into EJ Korvettes and steal them right off the shelves as young teenagers.

  4. My mother used.this product faithfully. I understand now why she.never gotnout if bed before 2:00pm

  5. Bromo Seltzer also contained bromide along with aspirin and ingredients to make it effervescent when added to water. The bromide was removed at some point, and the aspirin was substituted with acetaminophen. It's hard to find today...Alka-Seltzer has most of the market share.

  6. I have old empty bottle of this. I wonder how old it is


Your comments are welcome.