Monday, January 30, 2012

Take A Deep Breath….

Chloroform has developed a bit of a bad reputation. Where once it was used as an anesthetic to replace ether (at a time when surgery was a bit like butchery), now we associate it with someone being mugged with a chloroform-soaked rag by an antique hoodlum — probably because actual hoodlums did in fact utilize the drug this way.

Those undergoing surgery were probably very thankful for it (it beat taking a big gulp of whiskey and biting down on a cloth), but unaware of the danger they were in if they inhaled a tad too much. A chloroform OD is not called “Sudden Sniffer’s Death” for nothing. It’s also officially listed by the FDA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

It’s been banned in the US since 1976, but one can still find it in cough syrups sold in the UK. What is probably not recommended is this cure for a toothache from the same era in which Queen Victoria was using chloroform to birth her last two children. If you have a hole in your tooth the size of a pea, you should go to the dentist. Even if you are reading this in 1852. 

A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1852

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