Gombault’s Caustic Balsam was originally used as a veterinary medicine for various horse aliments such as thrush, diphtheria, skin disease, pink eye, blemishes and splints. The popularity of this product soon led to claims that it was just as effective for humans to remedy rheumatism, sprains, and sore throats.
J.E. Gombault, an ex-veterinary surgeon to the French Government, developed the formula for this balsam in France. While the formula is still not known, the resemblance of this product to a remedy in the 1911 Physicians Formulary provides a basis to infer the contents. These ingredients are cottonseed oil, croton oil, oil of camphor, oil of turpentine, kerosene, and sulphuric acid. Mixtures of camphor and cottonseed oil have been used as a counterirritant, similar to the claimed effect of Gombault’s Balsam; however, croton oil is a skin irritant, and it’s inclusion in the formula is counterintuitive.
The Lawrence-Williams Company was started in 1881 by Mortimer J. Lawrence, originally from France. The company was immediately successful due to sales of Gombault’s Caustic Balsam, which led to the future growth of the company in America.