Cockle’s Antibilious Pills

Social History

Cockle’s Antibilious Pills

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Whether these pills would help a party hangover is debatable, but in the early 1800s James Cockle ran a highly successful branding exercise to promote his Compound Antibilious Pills among the upper echelons of society. Advertisements claimed the pills contained ‘no mercury, nor noxious ingredient whatever’, unlike many other medicines of the time. In essence a laxative, these cure-all pills were claimed to ‘ennoble nobility, induce the clergy to practise as well as preach Christianity, render gentlemen of the law conscientious, and wonderfully soften men’s manners, suffering them not to be brutish.’ However the Monthly Gazette of Health in 1822 suggested that not only did the pills not contain mercury, but they contained very little that would improve on the effect of mixing ‘half a drachm of extract of colocynth (a powerful laxative) and two drachms of aloes’ at a fraction of the cost of Cockle’s. Meanwhile, a number of his quoted users denied all knowledge of them.