NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA-- Often times, the scariest things come from the ignorance within ourselves. The history of medicine is wrought with pain and mistakes.
Owen Ever, is a historian at the New Orleans' Pharmacy Museum and says, "many occasions, people have come into the museum and felt a sensation. I'm certain this place is haunted. It is like time traveling here and so I believe the dead like to stick around and there certainly was death here. It is a place of medicine and it's full of a lot of tools that inflicted a lot of scary treatments and pain."
In 1823, a french immigrant, named Louis J. Dufilho Jr. opened the first official licensed pharmacy in the United States. Medical practice at this time in history was not as we know it today.
"The job description of the pharmacist or the druggist or the apothecare was broad. It was pretty sweeping, medical regulation was in it's infancy. The pharmacist did diagnosing, compounding and administering. This included things that we now know as being toxins, such as mercury, arsenic, cyanide strychnine," says Ever.
New Orleans in the 19th century was a nexus of infectious disease. Yellow fever, malaria, and cholera were seemingly supernatural. It was also during this time that soda was invented as a medicinal prescription.
"If you had a toothache back in the day and you were adverse to that, they could mix in cola nut which is high in caffeine which is what you want with your cocaine and then sweet syrups and bubbly water to make the medicine more palatable," says Ever.
The civil war-era blades in side the museum, that once serrated flesh now rest. The blood is but a distant memory.
"They didn't know the cause and they would to the pharmacy desperately seeking any kind of care and attention. When it comes to yellow fever, the treatment was all over the place. Everyone would get mercury. It was the sampson of the Materia Medica. They thought if we use enough of it, it would cure you and it didn't. Doctor's could do literally anything to you," says Ever.
The Pharmacy Museum is a wealth of intrigue and knowledge and definitely worth a visit the next time you find yourself thirsty for history whilst in the French Quarter.
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