Sunday Morning Medicine

A weekly check-up of gender, medicine, and history in the news.

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David Harley

The discussion of Coca-Cola’s health-giving effects, in the first of these articles, is curiously deceptive.

Carbonated water had, of course, been popular since that ingenious Huguenot, Mr Schweppe, introduced his drink flavoured with the extract of cinchona bark in 1771. Being carbonated would prevent it from becoming a stagnant source of miasmatic vapours and keep it potable on board ship, while the cinchona would be useful as prophylactic against the ague.

The distinctively medicinal feature of Coca-Cola in its early years was that it was a coca wine (NOT a cocoa wine as is often stated), modelled on the French drink. This was why it was touted as curing, or alleviating the symptoms of, so many ailments. Not until Americans began to panic about recreational drugs was the coca removed from the recipe, to be replaced with caffeine.

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