Guest Post: Lydia Pinkham’s Compound–Reverse the Curse!

A guest post from Judith Gray:

Barbara invited me to blog about Lydia Pinkham, since I have a personal connection (my aunt married a Pinkham descendant), and I have always been interested in her story. I was probably the only junior high school student to write a report on her, based on the  book Lydia Pinkham Is Her Name (c.1949)  and original source material from the company president.

Now there is another book about her, Female Complaints: Lydia Pinkham and the Business of Women’s Medicine (c. 1979),  and lots of information  on the web, ranging from scholarly articles  to  drinking songs spoofing the alcohol content of her “vegetable compound” (You can listen to one at

During the nineteenth century the standard treatment for menstrual cramps was the removal of ovaries, which had a 40% mortality rate.  The most popular drug of the day was calomel, a mercurial toxin.

Medical care was expensive and many women couldn’t afford it.  Lydia appealed to women’s desires to take care of their own health instead of leaving it to male practitioners, who charged big fees and usually did more harm than good.

Lydia suffered from the curse of menstrual cramps and brewed up a mixture in her kitchen to ease the pain.  It consisted of black cohosh, life root, unicorn root, pleurisy root, fenugreek seed, and a substantial amount of alcohol.   She gave it away for free, and it was quite popular with her neighbors.

Of the ingredients, black cohosh, is suggested by the alternative medical community as providing  relief from menopausal symptoms due to its  natural oestrogens. Perhaps that, combined with the alcohol and power of suggestion, made the compound effective.

In the Panic of 1873, Lydia’s husband, Isaac, was financially ruined and narrowly escaped prison for debt; his health was destroyed by the stress.  Lydia, at the age of 55,  urged on by her son,  decided to make a family business of her product,  expanding from stove-top to  factory production.

She excelled at mass marketing, and was the first woman to have her photograph appear on a product label.  She published the “Pinkham Pamphlets” providing answers to women’s medical questions and using testimonials from grateful women.

The company was extremely successful, peaking in 1925 with annual profits of $3.8 million.

While she was ultimately motivated by financial need, Lydia Pinkham deserves  credit for drawing attention to women’s health issues and reaching out to women who were not being served by the  medical community.

Her daughter created the Lydia E. Pinkham Memorial Clinic in Salem, MA in 1922 to provide health services to young mothers and their children, and it is still operational today.

I recently discovered that Lydia lived for a short period of time in a house a couple of miles from mine in Bedford, MA and dispensed her compound from there.

Her family bought property on a small secluded lake in New England and built five grand houses to share, known as the Pinkham Family Compound.  My uncle grew up in one of these, and my dad built a small cottage on the same lake, where I have been enjoying summers since childhood.

Once we found an old Lydia Pinkham medicine bottle on the bottom of the lake.  Thanks Lydia, and thanks Dad!

Judith Gray has worked as a librarian in public and university libraries for 32 years, most recently as Head of Reference at the Concord (Massachusetts) Public Library.  She retired from full-time work a year ago and is easing the transition by working part-time, while she reinvents her life.  She lives in Bedford, Mass. with her husband of 32 years, and shares a beloved lake cottage with her brother and sister.  She enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, all forms of exercise, and visiting her children in Connecticut and New York.

Bottle Photo:  Lydia Pinkham  bottle, circa 1880-1890, found by Judith’s scuba diving brother-in-law, off the shore of the Pinkham Family Compound.

Lydia’s Photo is from the cover of Female Complaints: Lydia Pinkham and the Business of Women’s Medicine

Photo below:  Judith Gray!  Judith and I worked together years ago at the Dedham Public Library in Massachusetts.

And finally…

Judith thought this picture worked well on a post about the female curse, but it really refers to another curse. Here’s her explanation:”Reverse the curse'”was a rallying cry of my local Boston Red Sox fans.  The “Curse of the Bambino” referred to the dramatic downturn of the Red Sox and the upturn of the New York Yankees after Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees in 1919.  The Red Sox went 84 years before winning the championship again in 2004, coming back from down 0-3 in the playoffs against the Yankees in a memorable series and then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.  This sign on Storrow Drive in Boston was a local landmark until it was replaced after 2004.



Menopause, Menopause Symptoms

Menopause: Helpful Herbs in Antiquity and Today

A guest post by British menopause expert Eileen Durward:

Herbs have been used since antiquity for treating the many ailments that we have experienced through the passing of time. Herbs that have worked well have travelled with us through the ages and many of the natural medicines we use today have a long medicinal history.

However, one area of health that has no ‘herbal history’ as such is the menopause. Why? You may ask, as menopause must, surely, have been around in ancient times too.

Well there are two main reasons. One is that many women would not have lived to menopausal age, as life expectancy was much shorter.

Secondly those women in cultures where life was extended tended to be healthy, and if they reached menopausal age, they very rarely experienced any symptoms worth noting.

But today, women in the west seem beset with major trials and tribulations during the menopause, and many, finding that they don’t want to go down the chemical route, have demanded natural remedies from those that provide them.

Most information regarding the modern phenomena of menopausal symptoms stems from after the 2nd World War. A sudden upsurge of convenience foods, factory farming and changes to women’s role in society has all combined to unbalance and stress the female body’s response to hormonal change. Commonly experienced symptoms now include hot flushes and sweats, low mood, aching joints and muscles, loss of libido, memory decline, loss of confidence and many more.

Today there is a large choice of natural remedies available to women to help them through the menopause, ranging from those that treat sweats to those that actively balance the hormones. Many of these herbs and supplements have now been the subject of worldwide research to ‘prove’ that they really can help.


Sage is thought to work on balancing the hypothalamus, thus reducing hot flushes and night sweats.

 Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh contains natural oestrogens, called phyto-oestrogens, which help to balance the body’s shortfall of oestrogen, thus reducing general menopausal symptoms

Red Clover

Red Clover is another phyto-oestrogenic remedy.

Maca and Eleutherococcus

These herbs are known as adaptogens and work on supporting and balancing adrenal function, which, in turn can help to reduce menopausal symptoms.


These are combinations of plant extracts that contain phyto-oestrogens.

Many companies now offer combinations of these herbs and supplements to help address the many menopausal symptoms.

Because of the nature of the Modern Menopause, many women find that just taking a remedy on its own doesn’t always help enough. It is very important to look after one’s self by having a healthy diet full of natural, fresh foods (especially magnesium rich ones); drinking plenty of plain water, as dehydration is a major cause of flushing; and dealing with stress itself by making space for relaxation and ‘me time’. Combining these strategies with an appropriate herb can help women sail through their menopause, happy and healthy.

Please note that not all herbs and supplements are suitable for everyone through the menopause, especially if you are on existing medication. It’s advisable to discuss using herbs with a practitioner or your healthcare professional before use.

For more tips & advice on the Menopause, plus the chance to speak to Menopause Expert Eileen Durward live, visit the A.Vogel Menopause page for more details.

Eileen Durward has worked in the health industry for over 20 years, including work in vegan catering and health store retailing. For the past 15 years she has worked in the Education Department at A Vogel, lecturing and playing a key role in running the Helpline.

Her public talks are always popular, due to her wealth of knowledge and experience. Eileen’s interests include keeping up to date with research on complementary medicine, and she is also qualified as a Reiki Master Teacher. She specializes in the menopause, having both her own experience to inform her and that of hundreds of woman who ring the helpline.

This post is sponsored by A Vogel. Don’t forget to check out the excellent menopause resources on their website as well as chat with Eileen!