Grasshopper Ointment was registered in 1874 and the name was trademarked in 1884. It was still listed in Martindale’s Extra Pharmacopoeia in 1989, where the ingredients were given as rosin, yellow beeswax, larch oleoresin, arachis oil, white soft paraffin and copper acetate – but no grasshoppers. The copper would have given it a green tint appropriate to the name.
I have no idea why it was called grasshopper ointment but because it was also recommended for chilblains – and this is purely speculation – there could be a connection with the Provençal tradition of using praying mantises (known as tignos) as a chilblain remedy. You had to cut the mantis in half and rub the resulting juice onto the chilblain, whereupon absolutely nothing happened, according to J Henri Fabre in the The Life of the Grasshopper (1919).
There was also a widespread old practice of applying a live grasshopper or cricket to a wart in the hope that it would eat it off – in which case the ointment was probably a better bet.
OH MY LEG!
AH, poor sufferer! Do you know the cause? If not, I
will tell you. Your leg is poisoned. All that poulticing
and fomenting with water and lotion only increases your
misery. The poison must be extracted. Send at once for
ALBERT’S GRASSHOPPER OINTMENT. A certain cure
for bad legs and every known disease.
78, Farringdon-street, London, and all chemists, 1s. 1½d., 2s.,
Sir,—For nearly two years I had suffered great pain from
a white swelling or housemaid’s knee, brought on by constant
kneeling at my work as a carriage cleaner on the North
After refusing an operation, I was cured by your Ointment
in five weeks.
………….R. JEFFERY, 63, Bridge-street, Canal-road, Bow.
Source: Reynolds’s Newspaper, Sunday 19 July 1885
The company also made Grasshopper Pills for headaches, insomnia, liver, kidney and digestive complaints. The picture below is kindly provided by Leo Reynolds, who took it at Niagara Apothecary Museum.