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.,
2s. 9d.
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
London Railway.
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.

grasshopper pills

5 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone know if this Grasshopprr Ointment is available in Ontario Canada. If I would like to know as I’m in dire need of it.
    Bob Terry – Simcoe Ontario

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