Pharmacies in Jamaica are wonderful places, Aladdin’s caves of apothecarial delights, cornucopias of … well, you get the drift. I love browsing through their vast and varied stock. Besides medicines, their choice of sale is surprisingly unpredictable and might include stationery, toys, clothes, CDs, newspapers, cigarettes and vases. Very useful places indeed.
All pharmacies will have a big selection of natural tonics, most of them proto-Viagra performance enhancers for the “big bamboo”. Malt is usually the main ingredient, in case you were wondering, although there are other more exciting local ingredients, such as Arginine, known in Jamaica as Ram Goat Dash Along.
However, I was tickled to find a bottle of Lydia Pinkham’s medicinal compound on the shelves. As a child, I remember singing along to Lily the Pink, a UK number one by The Scaffold. I notice that great Liverpudlian poet, Roger McGough had a hand in the lyrics.
I also remember there was another verse popular in the playground …
And Peter Whelan (Peter Whelan)
He was sad
Because he only had one nut
Till he took some of Lydia’s compound
And now they grow in clusters ’round his butt.
A little research reveals that Lydia Pinkham was not only a pioneer in women’s health but also an early expert in marketing, using pamphlets, free gifts and personal testimony (see a fascinating example here). Women were encouraged to write to Lydia and received personal replies from the great lady, offering advice and of course recommendations for her product. Miraculously, the replies continued to appear some 50 years after Lydia had died. Now that’s what I call a tonic!
Closer to the truth, then as now, is that marketing is a crude mix of exaggeration, empty promises and outright lies. On the box cover here, it clearly states,
Now with Black Cohosh
This ingredient was the key element when Lydia first manufactured the product … in 1875!
So how does Lydia Pinkham’s medicinal compund actually taste?
Sweet, earthy and alcoholic
Sounds like a bad personal ad.