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What are the current medical treatments versus the mysterious 'miracle cures' of the past?

The Detroit Record, a printed precursor to the Detroit Lakes Tribune, used to advertise hair food. Yes, you read that right. Ayer's Hair Vigor, food for the hair that cured dandruff, falling hair and restored all of the hair's rich color of early life was advertised in a 1905 issue of the paper, but as one Sanford Health family nurse practitioner said, men experiencing baldness today should probably stick to Rogaine or Minoxidil.

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An advertisement for Peruna Tablets featured in the Sept. 26, 1916 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives
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DETROIT LAKES — It wasn't until the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 that, for the first time, drugs needed to be proven safe and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the products could be marketed.

Before then, products could be advertised to miraculously cure a range of illnesses and conditions. Some of these products were advertised in local community newspapers, like the Detroit Record, a precursor to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.

Ronica Wahl, a Sanford Health family nurse practitioner with 15 years of experience, said the FDA is charged with approving all over-the-counter and prescribed medications, but many supplements, vitamins and probiotics don't fall under the FDA's purview.

"Those things are not regulated by the FDA, so when people come in and want advice on those things, we can't, there's just not a lot of medical evidence-based research that goes into those things," said Wahl. "It's just very interesting that (the old medical ads) don't have to list any active ingredients."

She also said modern medicine has come a long way in terms of antibiotics, surgeries and other treatment options, which makes these miracle cures from the past kind of funny.


"Our medical knowledge is changing, it's evolving, we're updating guidelines," said Wahl. "We've started working off of evidence-based medicine, so going off of studies and not just doing things because it anecdotally works. It's because we know, it's been studied, it's been tested and that's the best way to go."

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An advertisement for Ayer's Hair Vigor featured in the Jan. 20, 1905 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives

Ayer's Hair Vigor, Detroit Record, Jan. 20, 1905

As advertised in the Detroit Record, Ayer's Hair Vigor "checks falling hair, makes hair grow, completely cures dandruff and always restores color to gray hair."

In the advertisement's testimonial from Rebecca Allen, of Elizebeth, N.J., she stated: "My hair was always falling out badly and I was afraid I would lose it all. Then, I tried Ayer's Hair Vigor. It quickly stopped the falling and made my hair all I could wish it to be."

Wahl said current treatment options for thinning hair aren't as simple as Ayer's would have people believe. Surgical implants, Rogaine and the generic Minoxidil are the best treatment options today. However, Rogaine and Minoxidil are recommended for men only, since some of the components react to the high level of estrogen in women and can cause serious side effects.

"Some females, once you get to a certain age, if they are not within child bearing age, they are able to take it," she said.

Wahl added that when doctors look at treating baldness, they look at a variety of possible causes.

"Hair loss is a symptom, a lot of times, of skin conditions, poor nutrition, estrogen imbalance, testosterone imbalance, those types of things," she said. "Sometimes male-pattern baldness, we know, runs in families, so there's nothing we can do about that."


She also said dandruff is considered a skin condition.

Wahl noted that anyone seeking current medical advice on issues with hair and the scalp should consult a local dermatologist.

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An advertisement for Peruna Tablets featured in the Sept. 26, 1916 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives

Peruna Tablets, Detroit Record, Sept. 26, 1916

As advertised in the Detroit Record, Peruna Tablets have "helped thousands" and provide a "foe to catarrh."

Chronic catarrh is an excessive build up of mucus in the nose or throat.

According to the ad: "(Peruna Tablets) gives vitality to the system, restores tone to the membranes and enables these to perform their functions. In many cases, its benefits begin at once."

Wahl said,currently, build-ups of phlegm can be caused from a variety of reasons.

"A lot of times phlegm is a symptom of viruses, allergic rhinitis, or like, allergies," said Wahl. "In that case, antihistamines, like Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl at night, those things can actually reduce the amount of phlegm you have."


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An advertisement for Dr. Fenner's Kidney and Backache Cure featured in the Dec. 16, 1904 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives

Dr. Fenner's Kidney and Backache Cure, Detroit Record, Dec. 16, 1904

As advertised in the Detroit Record, this miracle cure was good enough to treat multiple bodily systems at once.

According to a testimonial in the advertisement: "Now, the first bottle didn't stop those wearing backaches, but it did afford me great relief. The second bottle, however, did eventually put a stop to those racking backaches. Occasionally, they returned when strenuous business affairs exhausted the physical forces, but a dose, or two, of Dr. Fenner's Cure gave instant relief."

Wahl said currently, if a person is experiencing muscular or skeletal back pain and then pain from a kidney stone, there is no miracle cure.

"There are things that can alleviate some of the symptoms, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, that would take away the symptoms of inflammation that causes pain in the body," she said, adding that there are no current drugs that can purify a person's blood.

She also said people seeking medical advice for a kidney disorder should consult a urologist; for a skeletal disorder, they should consult a neurologist; and for a blood disorder, they should consult a hematologist.

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An advertisement for Stoligal featured in the April 28, 1922 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives

Stoligal, Detroit Record, April 28, 1922

As advertised in the Detroit Record, Stoligal cures stomach disorders, ulcers, gall-stone trouble and chronic appendicitis.

According to the advertisement: "Stoligal will put pep in your step. It will make you eat well, sleep well, ambitious and regular ... Remember, if after reading this message you do not take Stoligal, then you will have yourself to blame when you are told there is no hope for you."

Digestive health is a large concern for many practitioners today, said Wahl.

"The gall bladder is actually pretty important because that's where a lot of our digestive enzymes are stored," she said. "They kinda sit there and wait to be excreted through that common bile duct when we eat a meal, and that helps the stomach break down the food."

Wahl noted that currently, there isn't one pill that can treat all the different parts of the digestive system.

In terms of controlling indigestion, acid reflux, or ulcers, she said a doctor would probably prescribe a proton pump inhibitor or an H2 blocker to control the enzymes.

"Proton pump inhibitors work in the stomach to decrease the amount of acid that our acid-producing cells are dumping into the stomach," she said. "An H2 blocker, blocks one of the enzymes that makes that acid."

People seeking medical advice for a digestive condition should consult a local gastroenterologist.

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An advertisement for Hanford's Balsam of Myrrh featured in the Sept. 20, 1912 issue of the Detroit Record, one of the precursors to the Detroit Lakes Tribune.
Detroit Lakes Tribune Archives

Hanford's Balsam of Myrrh, Detroit Record, Sept. 20, 1912

As advertised in the Detroit Record, Hanford's can be used on cuts, bruises, burns, sprains, strains, lame back, old sores and open wounds.

Wahl said doctors still use topical numbing agents today. Many of them, like IcyHot, can be purchased over-the-counter at any drug store.

"They'll take your symptoms away for a little time, except for the bruising, I don't agree with the bruising," said Wahl, adding that an ice pack with some compression helps treat bruising, not a topical cream.

As far as cuts and burns, Wahl said, the same topical cream could be used, since the purpose is to prevent infection. Open wounds should be washed out immediately and an antibiotic ointment used on the wound right away.

"Keep it covered, and away from dirt, or friction," she said. "Depending on the size of the wound, you need to leave it open to air."

She also warned not to continue to use peroxide after the wound's initial cleaning because the chemical can eat away at the healthy tissue surrounding the wound.

Multimedia News Lead Reporter
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