Some science behind the scenes


Paregoric,  also known as tinctura opii camphorata, was a medicine used to treat coughs and diarrhoea and as a pain reliever.  It was used in the 18th and 19th centuries, by both children and adults and had a special use in ‘calming fretful children’, and to ‘rub on the gums to counteract the pain from teething’!

There were recipes for making it at home.  The quantities varied but included opium, distilled boiling water, honey and alcohol.  It also used benzoic acid.  Benzoic acid occurs naturally as benzoic acid esters in many berries   - cranberry and  bilberry both contain benzoic acid, so cranberry juice or bilberry juice would substitute today.  The acids in the juices would help a lot to potentiate the effects and help to dissolve the alkaloids in the opium.

The other ingredients are not so appealing – camphor and anise to help with the breathing. 

The original Paregoric didn’t contain much opium -  Laudanum contained 10 milligrams of morphine per milliliter, 25 times more than Paregoric. It is still available on prescription, believe it or not.