Vicks VapoRub has long history

As in many areas of the continent, we’ve had an unusually warm winter—and spring is continuing warm.
With that warmth has come lots of sickness, especially very “thorny” colds. Colds that last and last. Colds that make people ill and result in very low life energy.
Personally, I think the two are related–the unseasonably warm weather and the outbreak of illness. But, of course, I have no scientific evidence!
Be that as it may, my family has not been exempt. Since colds can’t be treated with modern antibiotics, it’s time to draw on the wisdom of the past.
So a few weeks ago, I got out my list of old-fashioned “tried and true” remedies. First is chicken soup and garlic. Also, drinking lots of liquids can help–pure water, orange juice, and plenty of hot drinks, including herbal teas.
And don’t forget the power of steam to unclog your sinuses. Take a hot shower. Then after your shower, rub a soothing vitamin E stick under your nose.
One special remedy my mother used to give me years ago was a mixture of honey and softened butter for sore throat. You can’t imagine how soothing honey-butter can be when your throat is raw.
But one old remedy I completely forgot until just a few days ago was Vicks VapoRub.
In its familiar blue jar, Vicks VapoRub has been used for generations. My mother used it, her mother before her, and my great-grandmother way back in 1918. And my daughter still uses it today.
A household name around the world for generations, Vicks VapoRub first was a homemade concoction by a pharmacist named Lunsford Richardson, who had moved to Greensboro, N.C. in 1890.
When Richardson’s three young children had very bad colds and respiratory problems, it seemed nothing helped. So the enterprising pharmacist set about to create a better remedy.
Richardson had travelled in France, where he observed the use of menthol, an ingredient from Japan. So he developed a new salve to treat colds, croup, and pneumonia—a salve that contained menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, thymol, and turpentine oil.
He named his new product for his brother-in-law, Dr. Joshua Vick.
Dr. Vick was well-known and respected in the area. And, what’s more, his name was short.
A smart idea! The “smart” pharmacist was pretty sure the world wasn’t ready for “Richardsons VapoRub.”
The blue jar of Vicks VapoRub was very important to the people who lived through the devastating ’flu epidemic of 1918. It was so popular that sales went from $900,000 to $2.9 million in just one year.
Since then, Vicks VapoRub has been a household name.
More recently, Vicks VapoRub has been used in new ways. Our home health nurse, Valerie, got us started using it to treat toenail fungus–it really works!
Other suggested places to try Vicks are on itchy mosquito bites, painful wasp stings, tennis elbow, and dandruff on the scalp.
So if cold season has hit you hard this year, remember to grab your arsenal of tried-and-true remedies.
Mom’s chicken soup and Vicks VapoRub are a great place to start!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at