From the name NERVINE, you can guess one of the purposes of this medicine was to help nerves—nervous exhaustion, to be exact. It was also prescribed for headaches, insomnia, backaches, epilepsy, sexual dysfunction, and miscellaneous pains and spasms. Sounds like a miracle drug, doesn’t’ it? This product was sold until the mid-1960s.
The active ingredient in Nervine was bromide, a form of bromine (chemically related to chlorine). It was a predecessor to present day sedatives. The makers of Nervine claimed it to be “. . .among the safest of effective medications to calm the nerves,” but as with many drugs, this wasn’t the case. The amount of bromide needed to sedate a person was near toxic level. Excess use of bromide led to bromism. Classic symptoms of bromism include alteration in central nervous system functioning with headache, irritability, fatigue, slurred speech, ataxia, emotional instability, tremor, hallucinations, gastrointenstinal, and dermatological symptoms.
The FDA does not currently approve bromine for treatment of any disease. It was removed from all over-the-counter sedatives in 1975.Today bromine (and forms of bromide) is still used today in pesticides, disinfectants, flame retardants, as a gasoline additive, and for swimming pool maintenance. (Remember that bromides are chemically related to chlorine.)
The Borrowed Book blog isn’t the place for me to pursue present day use of bromide, but if you’re interested in doing a little research, here is a link that contains images of products that containbromide and bromated products. You can pursue the topic from there. Apparently some of those companies whose products are pictured in those images are now in the process of removing forms of bromide from their products.
To conclude, I’d like to return briefly to my original topic--Nervine. The term “nervine” actually means (1) of or pertaining to the nerves; (2) acting on or relieving disorders of the nerves; soothing the nerves.Thus the name of the medicine, Nervine.
A product is available today called Nervine Tonic. I found it on Amazon. It’s an herbal remedy containing fresh passionflower herb tip, fresh valerian root, fresh oat seed in milky stage, black cohosh root, fresh skullcap herb and fresh betony herb. These are herbs known for their calming effects. Valerian root is traditionally used in herbal sleep remedies. Black cohosh root is a remedy for hot flashes.
And one more interesting tidbit: “A bromide” was used as a phrase or platitude to describe someone whose speech was a verbal sedative. A bore.