I don't have to go much farther than my Google Search History to find inspiration for something to document - I read Wikipedia like regular people read the Sports section. While most of my recent searches are stupid and pedestrian ("How long until doxycycline works?", I wondered at 12:42pm), there are a few good ones in here. Today's topic: 'elixir terpin hydrate', a medicine of years past.
Terpin hydrate is derived by high-temperature acid treatment of "oil of turpentine", which is composed mostly of alpha- and beta-pinene. These compounds are termed "terpenes", but they are more often known in science as "isoprenoids"; they share a common biosynthetic pathway in plants and some insects. Traditional biochemistry obsesses over lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, and amino acids... this is a very animal-centric perspective, and I think that isoprenoids are only excluded because they don't have a connection with the publicly well-known Big Three in nutrition (fat, carb, protein). They are the major component in all essential oils and most natural resins.
A medicine called "Elixer Terpin Hydrate" was available from the beginning of this century right up until the early 90's, and was a popular expectorant used to treat bronchitis. My parents remember the stuff fondly, but the FDA pulled it off the market because there was no indication that the active ingredient actually did anything. The original version was loaded with codeine and contained more alcohol than vodka... so that could explain why it was so popular.
See "Patent Medicine" for a fascinating look at the not-so-distant past of the pharmaceutical industry.
4 years ago