More patent medicine
Cardui | Dr. Grace Feder Thompson's letter appealing for patients | Dr. Pierce's medicines | Dr. E. C. Abbey's The Sexual System and Its Derangements (1882) | Dr. Young's rectal dilators | Lydia Pinkham's medicine | Orange Blossom medicine | ad for Dr. Schenk's Mandrake Pills, appearing on a trade card for journalist Nellie Bly.
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepageMUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets for girls (mostly) directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | facts-of-life booklets for girls | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | menarche booklets for girls and parents | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor | olor | pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | puberty booklets for girls and parents | religion | Religión y menstruación | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | Seguridad de productos para la menstruación | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants & panties directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.

Wampole's Vaginal Cones with Picric Acid
Small boxes of old American patent medicine for women's diseases,
headache, stomach illness, menstruation, and birth control

Murray & Nickell Blue Cohosh Root | Murray & Nickell Cotton Root Bark | Allaire Woodward & Co. Oak Bark-White | Wampole's Vaginal Cones with Picric Acid | Humphreys "31" | Orange Blossom Suppositories |
Dr. Pierce's Vaginal Tablets | Micajah's Medicated Wafers | Santrex Formula 52T | Sedets
SarahAnne Hazlewood generously donated the medicine to this museum, part of her huge gift of medical instruments, books and advertising material about women's health.
Harry Finley created the images.

It's hard to imagine why Wampole put picric acid into these suppositories meant for the vagina - but as a reader pointed out, the main use for these suppositories might have been to kill sperm, which sufficiently strong acid can do.

But the Canadian Medical Association Journal, September 1931, reports another, maybe more likely use: to treat trichomoniasis, which the report says it does well. See the bottom of this page for a summary.

(See a package insert and 1930 legal judgment against another kind of Wampole's vaginal cones.)

However, "Picric acid or Trinitrophenol is, by far, one of the more dangerous chemicals being used today. Classified as a flammable solid when wetted with more than 30% water (UN1344, class 4.1) and a class A high explosive with less than 30% water (UN0154, class 1.1D), it has some very interesting properties. It is explosive but also highly shock, heat and friction sensitive. In fact, detonation with a speed and power superior to that of TNT can occur by a 2 kg weight falling onto solid picric acid from a height of 36 cm. Picric acid is toxic by all routes of entry, it's also a skin irritant and allergen and will produce toxic pro-ducts on decomposition.

"Picric acid is used primarily in the manufacture of explosives and as an intermediate in dye manufacturing. It is also present in many laboratories, for use as a chemical reagent. Water is added to picric acid to act as a desensitizer. The wetted product is significantly less shock sensitive than the dry acid. Picric acid is highly reactive with a wide variety of chemicals and extremely susceptible to the formation of picrate salts. Many of these salts are even more reactive and shock sensitive than the acid itself." (From

On 18 August 2008 the German online Spiegel magazine(, Germany's most prominent news magazine, reported that experts are demanding that picric acid be banned from schools because of the danger of explosion. Accompanying photos showed how two ships carrying the acid and TNT destroyed part of Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. ("PIKRINSÄURE-ALARM 'Das Zeug gehört nicht an Schulen.' Von Carola Padtberg. In den Chemieräumen unzähliger deutscher Schulen lauert Gefahr: Trocknet Pikrinsäure, wird sie explosiv wie TNT. Im Unterricht ist der unheilvolle Stoff längst überflüssig. Darum fordern Experten: Weg damit!,",1518,572376,00.html)

Derived from Greek, picric means bitter.


The pack of two boxes measures 3" x 2 3/16" x 1 7/8" (both boxes together) (7.7 x 6 x 4.5 cm).
Acetanilid: "A white crystalline compound, C6H5NH(COCH3), formerly used in medicine to relieve pain and reduce fever. It has been replaced by safer agents because of its toxicity"(from Hydrastine is "[a] poisonous white alkaloid, C21H21NO6, obtained from the root of the goldenseal and formerly used locally to treat inflammation of mucous membranes," according to The American Heritage Dictionary. Thymol derives from coal tar, the first substance implicated in cancer (1775).
Below: An acetanilid death record.


Putting fingers into the vagina was one of the problems Tampax skirted by inventing an applicator (see one of its earliest tampons here), although several early American tampons had no applicators (for example, Wix). The Catholic Church didn't want virgins putting ANYthing into their vaginas, including tampons and you-know-what, which caused problems with sales. Read an early study about the relative merits of pads and tampons that mentions this.


A possibly contemporary account of picric acid use occurs in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, September, 1931, as summarized below in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 872-73. I thank Assoc. Prof. Robert Maytáš, Ph.D., University of Pardubice, Institute of Energetic Materials, Czech Republic for sending a PDF of the article. He's writing a history of picric acid and is using one of the pictures above.
A simple and effective treatment for infection with trichomonas vaginalis.
Trichomoniasis or trichomonas vaginitis is a well-recognized clinical
entity and is caused by the trichomonas vaginalis, which probably
originates in the bowel. The symptoms are purulent discharge, pain in
the vagina, pruritus, intertrigo, extreme tenderness on examination and on micturition. On examination the vaginal vault is seen to be injected and filled with yellow or greyish-yellow thin purulent liquid containing bubbles of air. The vaginal walls often present a strawberry appearance.

The disease does not appear to be transmissible to the male.
Microscopically a hanging drop of pus in saline is found to contain
motile organisms and moving pus cells. The organism is readily
destroyed by douching and cannot he found after so doing for two or
three days. Although the exposed organism is easily killed, the vaginitis is very persistent. Ordinary treatment is ineffective and requires to be of long duration. Two requisites are essential for good results, viz., the use of an acid antiseptic and application for prolonged periods. These two desiderata are obtained by using a vaginal cone soaked in one per cent picric acid in a slowly dissolving vehicle. The cone should be placed high in the vault of the vagina on retiring to bed. A simple acid douche should be used once daily.

There is a marked tendency for the disease to occur after the next
menstruation. A renewal of the treatment controls this.
Twenty-two cases are reported, four of which were treated during
pregnancy and three in the puerperium; the results were uniformly
successful. The average course of treatment was from five to 10 days.
It is simple and not irksome. The pruritus disappears after the third
treatment, and the pus after the fifth or sixth. Desquamation follows and by the tenth day the mucosa looks healthy.

Trichomoniasis is particularly distressing during pregnancy. Treatment should be carried out during menstruation and for several days after. The writer regards picric acid a specific in trichomonas infection.

(See a package insert and 1930 legal judgment against another kind of Wampole's vaginal cones.)

<··· NEXT ···>
Dr. Pierre's Boro-Pheno-Form and introduction | Murray & Nickell Blue Cohosh Root |
Murray & Nickell Cotton Root Bark | Allaire Woodward & Co. Oak Bark-White |
Wampole's Vaginal Cones with Picric Acid | Humphreys "31" | Orange Blossom Suppositories |
Dr. Pierce's Vaginal Tablets | Micajah's Medicated Wafers | Santrex Formula 52T | Sedets

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