Peruna Elixir

Peruna Elixer

Peruna Elixer

Peruna Elixir was invented in 1877 by Dr. Samuel Hartman, a well-respected traveling physician from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to cure “catarrh”, or inflammation of the mucus membranes. Hartman was also a great businessman. Through aggressive advertising claiming that catarrh was the root of nearly all diseases, he created a large market for his concoction.   Production was moved to Columbus, Ohio and at the turn of the century, Peruna Elixir was the bestselling drug, with sales of $120,000 a day.  The popularity of the drug was no doubt helped by the fact that it contained 28% alcohol.  With the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which required manufacturers to disclose the amount of alcohol in their drugs, sales of Peruna Elixer declined. The government also banned Hartman from selling Peruna Elixir on Native American reservations because of its addictive qualities.  In a fatal mistake for his business, Harman secretly changed the formula, making it less boozy and adding a laxative. Sales plummeted, and by 1912 Peruna Elixir was no longer sold.


Cramp, Arthur Joseph. Nostrums and Quackery and Pseudo-medicine. V.1-3. Vol.1. Chicago, IL:  Press of American Medical Association, 1911. Pgs. 690-693.

Hunter, Bob. A Historical Guidebook to Old Columbus: Finding the past in the Present in Ohio’s Capital City. Athens: Ohio University, 2012. Pgs 197-199.

Lovelace, Craig. “Shaping Columbus: Samuel Hartman, Owner of Peruna Drug Manufacturing Co.” Bizjournals. Business First, 27 Apr.2012. Accessed  7 Nov., 2012 from:

Paschen, Robert. “Columbus 200: (White) Lightning in a Bottle.” Columbus 200: (White) Lightning in a Bottle. 614Magazine, 1 Mar. 2012. Accessed 15 Nov., 2012 from:

Peruna Held an Alcoholic Beverage. The Virginia Law Register. Virginia law review. 09/1910 Coverage: 1895-1928 (Vol.1- New Series Vol.13)

PERUNA PROTECTS THE FAMILY: Coughs and Colds Grip and Catarrh. Southern Cultivator (1843-1906); Jan 1, 1901; 59,1; American Periodicals. Pg.6



Tero Vilkki

December, 2012