Mugwump and other Nostrums


Patent medicine (do not confuse this with Pharmaceutical patents) can also be called a “nostrum.”  Nostrums are often widely advertised, purported to be over-the-counter solutions (medicine) with little regard as to actual effectiveness.  The wide-spread fraud resulting from snake oil (liniment) salesmen resulted in the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration instituting serious regulations to prevent fraud.



For those who’ve read “Li’l Abner” comic strip, Sagwa was the nostrum which inspired Al Capp’s “Kickapoo Joy Juice.”   Mugwump, Sagwa, and Swamp Root, are just a small sampling of the early 19th century patent medicines, which (contrary to popular belief) did in fact have results, although many times with very dangerous results due to the ingredients of the elixir.  One example is a medicine advertised as “infant soothers,” which contained opium, as it was legal at the time.  An ingredient often used was “catarrh snuff” which contained cocaine, also legal at the time.  Nostrums were purported to cure just about everything from tuberculosis to cancer.  Every manufacturer always included a published list of testimonials regarding their product.  The illnesses they claim to be healed were (most of the time) almost always self-diagnosed, which makes every claim highly suspect.

As you might expect, it reminds me of a story regarding The Healer, where those observing the obvious miracle which took place, tried everything in their power to debunk the truth of it.  It goes like this…

Jesus and the disciples are walking along one day and passed a blind man.  Naturally, the inquisitive disciples posed the question of their Master, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”  You see the mindset here right?  Every malady known to man, must be the result of sin, at least that’s seems to be what their question implies.  But watch what happens with the answer Jesus gives.

John 9:3-5
“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

As the narrative goes Jesus spat on the ground, used the spit to make a couple of clay mud salve pies, and put this on the blind man’s eyes.  Then he told the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  When the man obeyed this simple command, the Bible claims, “He came back seeing.” (vs.7)  His friends, his neighbors, and his family were so shocked by what had happened, they could not believe it… “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”

The Jewish leaders cast dispersions on his character, and Jesus’ character, suggesting they were both just con men, deceiving the people with their lies.  Long story short, this man born blind had to defend his experience so many times he became exasperated with the process that he gave this amazing and glorious testimony of exactly what happened to him.

John 9:30-33
“Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.  We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.  Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

Why did Jesus heal this man?  Jesus told us why right up front.  It wasn’t about advertising false nostrums.  Jesus said this healing was to be done, “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Jesus authenticated His own claim to be God’s Son, when he healed a man who was born blind… no one else has the power to do that!

Why is this important?  Even the man born blind had to deal with the reality of this truth.  So Jesus asked the man, after it was all said and done, after the leaders had dismissed him… “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The man answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus explains, “… the one who is talking with you.”  In that moment the man stepped over the line of faith and declared, “Lord, I believe.

What ails you physically today may not be curable with modern scientific technologies or drugs.  What ails you spiritually can be cured, by the One who calls Himself … the Light of the world.  This is no nostrum.  This is a fact captured in the now world renown favorite hymn, Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now, I see! 

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