Historical Uses of Various Candies As Medicine

Medicinal Candy

It's been a very old European tradition to use sugar to make medicines more attractive and palatable to children, and in some cases, it was seen as proper to encourage eating SMALL amounts of some candies because of the medicinal affect. Peppermint has always been known to help settle an upset stomach, Licorice, which is a member of the pea family of plants, and has been one of the most widely used of medicinal plants contains a substance that is 15,000 times as sweet as sugar, licorice was viewed by Romans soldiers as a necessary ration, as it could lessen hunger, encourage stamina and help heal the injured and sick as a rejuvinator. Among the most common candies sold as "medicinal" in early General Stores were Peppermint, Licorice, Horehound (for sore throats), and clove, or Bay Berry (toothache).

It should be noted that it was a common practice to place the medicinal and cheaper candies on the lowest shelf at the General Store,and closest to the door, so that when parents said "You can have a candy from the bottom shelf" what they would usually get was one of the candies which was cheapest, and had some lasting medicinal effect. Oddly enough,Licorice, long known as a way to decrease hunger, was popularized as a

candy that actually LESSENED appetite, contained less sugar, and was not high in calories. The popularity of the candy came primarily from it's

cheap cost, high flavor, and it's action to lessen appetite. Popular home remedy kits nearly always contained a stick or two of clove candy, which

was just as effective for adults suffering from toothaches as children.

 If we were a little more aware of the actual value of some old-fashioned remedies, we might be less wary of allowing children (or adults!) to have candy, the problem seems to stem from a total ignorance of the uses, medicinal purposes and effectiveness of these age-old remedies, and how thay have proved valuable to our ancestors, and could prove just as strong in use by us. I currently work in a museum, and we have a General Store, the LEAST favored candies are the Clove, Horehound and to be honest, we don't even carry licorice! When I asked why we don't carry licorice, which was hands down, the FAVORITE candy of the 19th century, I was told "no one wants it, so we don't carry it."

Seems to me that our forefathers (and mothers) were a lot more informed than we are today when it comes to encouraging proper allowance for sweets. My Grandmother used to tell me she loved the taste of licorice, and it was because it was the only candy they were allowed to buy at the local General Store,.... That General Store was demolished in 1974, and to this day I recall being in that store as a kid and walking in to find the lowest shelf held the glass jars with penny candy, the very first jar was black licorice whips,....

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Sy Kravitz
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Posted on Jul 27, 2009