Laudanum, an Old Fashioned Pain Killer

If you were to go back to the late 1800’s you would find laudanum being sold without a prescription over the counter. It was commonly used as a painkiller, cough suppressant and for the treatment of diarrhea. Laudanum is a tincture of opium and highly addictive.

Old-fashioned medicinal Laudanum bottle

Until the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 restricted the manufacture and distribution of opiates, including laudanum, and coca derivatives in the US, you could purchase it almost anywhere without a prescription.

Today it is not normally used for medical purposes, although it has a proven record as a pain reliever. The possession or distribution of opium and laudanum are serious felonies, and I am in no way suggesting that you grow opium poppies or make laudanum.

However, for informational purposes only I am going to give you several old formulas that I found for the manufacture of laudanum. The first three formulas are copied from an 1890 publication:

  1. Sydenham’s Laudanum “According to the Paris Codex this is prepared as follows: opium, 2 ounces; saffron, 1 ounce; bruised cinnamon and bruised cloves, each 1 drachm (18 ounce); sherry wine, 1 pint. Mix and macerate for 15 days and filter. Twenty drops are equal to one grain of opium.”
  2. Rousseau’s Laudanum: “Dissolve 12 ounces white honey in 3 pounds warm water, and set it aside in a warm place. When fermentation begins add to it a solution of 4 ounces selected opium in 12 ounces water. Let the mixture stand for a month at a temperature of 86° Fahr.; then strain, filter, and evaporate to 10 ounces; finally strain and add 4½ ounces proof alcohol. Seven drops of this preparation contain about 1 grain of opium.”
  3. Tincture of Opium (Laudanum), U.S.P., attributed to the United States Pharmacoepia of 1863: “Macerate 2½ ounces opium, in moderately fine powder in 1 pint water for 3 days, with frequent agitation. Add 1 pint alcohol, and macerate for 3 days longer. Percolate, and displace 2 pints tincture by adding dilute alcohol in the percolator.”
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Opium tincture is still used occasional for the treatment of severe fulminant diarrhea that does not respond to standard therapy (e.g., Imodium or Lomotil). The usual dose is 0.3 mL to 0.6 mL (about six to 12 drops) in a glass of water or juice four times a day.

The following is a Civil war recipe from “Dr. Chase’s Recipes” by A.W. Chase, M.D. 1874.

Laudanum – Best Turkey opium, 1 oz.; slice, and pour upon it boiling water, 1 gill (1/4 pint), and work it in a bowl or mortar until it is dissolved; then pour it into the bottle, and with alcohol of 76 per cent proof, 1/2 pt., rinse the dish, adding the alcohol to the preparation, shaking well, and in 24 hours it will be ready for use. Dose — Form 10 to 30 drops for adults, according to the strength of the patient, or severity of the pain.

Thirty drops of this laudanum will be equal to one grain of opium.  And this is a much better way to prepare it than putting the opium into the alcohol, or any other spirits alone, for in that case much of the opium does not dissolve.”

The best information I have been able to find on dosages is as follows. The usual starting dose for laudanum in adults is 1.5 mL by mouth every 3 to 4 hours, representing the equivalent of 15 mg (approximately 1/4 grain) of morphine per dose. Opioid-tolerant patients may require higher than normal dosing. There is a danger of overdose in treating pain with opium tincture.

Again, I want to warn you about the dangers of trying to make or use laudanum or any other opium products. The dangers are both legal and physical. The misuse of opium products can kill you. Even in a severe emergency like TEOTWAWKI I would not recommend using laudanum without competent medical advice.

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40 thoughts on “Laudanum, an Old Fashioned Pain Killer”

  1. I wish it was the 1800.s I.SUFFER From severe migraines on a daily basis to the point where my prescription percocetes don’t even work at all.

    1. I’m in a pain management clinic and have daily migraines. I am on a cocktail of Norco or Vicodin and Fioricet. One of the medications almost catches it, but both together do. I’ve also been told not to drink caffeine. But, if you notice, most migraine medication has caffeine. Have a strong cup of coffee. I’ve had the migraines for over 30 years and have been on every mood elevator, doggie downer, blood thinner, supposed migraine medication, sumatriptans, etc. I’m sure you’re getting the picture. The medication cocktail seems to work. They are trying to get me to do Botox, but I will not do that. (If you notice on the commercials, they are advertising it for migraines and diarrhea-is the a general catchall medication that has to be repeated every 3 months). I don’t like needles

      1. Both my wife and mother in law suffered from severe migraine. They removed sugar from their diëts completely and haven’t suffered since!
        Sugar is added to nearly all products now a days, so it takes some effort…

    2. I was finally prescribed Aimovig. It has been a game changer. I acquired my migraine after having COVID and getting my vaccines made it worse.

    3. I wish I wasn’t terrified to try this. Better yet, I wish I was a doctor so I’d know what I can take without killing myself.
      I’ve been prescribed Vicodin 10-500/325 4x daily for over two decades now for chronic back pain and it barely works.
      I found that Naproxen Sodium works better but… my doctor doesn’t recommend it. Besides that it causes severe stomach pain.
      Apparently surgery isn’t an option either.
      Don’t laugh but the best temporary relief I’ve found was building a midevil torture “rack” where I can stretch myself. It provides almost instant relief but is very temporary.
      Other methods like leaning against a wall, while on crutches, extended too long, so my feet are somewhat off the ground helps… until my arms go out. Then there is floating vertical in the pool until I look like a bald Sharpei puppy.
      Severe chronic pain causes some of us to try some crazy sounding solutions. Crazy or not, the ones mentioned work.
      If my luck holds out maybe I’ll find something permanent.

    1. There’s not one pain management doctor in Houston texas that gives pain meds. I went to scott and white in college station and he looked at my file and said I’m sorry but you have had everything done and theirs nothing else we can do for you. I just had a pacemaker put in and they cut my breast open and after surgery said we don’t give out pain meds.

      1. Oh, KathyJolliffe,
        I am SO sorry anyone would EVER do that to another human person. For shame on that person.

        Now along with migraines, you have MORE physical pain. I went to my eye doctor for my early set of TWO. I have MS so I go two a specialist and a regular doctor for glasses. I also go to a neurologist and now a physiologist.

        Along with MS, I have migraines and chronic lower back and hip pain. My eye doctor now suspects due to extremely dry eye (possible Sojurnes Disease), it could be causing inflammation to my 5th Cranial Nerve – TN. And could be bothering my ON which is part of my Multiple Sclerosis.

        I believe that doctors are SO very quick to hack up a female’s body, they are wary to seek additional answers. Second and third, referrals, prayers, and waiting are sometimes so much more important than going with that first solution to ‘just solve’ the problem for the quick fix.

        I wish you luck.

  2. Notice is better than being addicted to this cocktail, trust me you are harming you brain, liver, kidneys, and who knows what else.

    1. Okay. Let’s have a small but much needed conversation about your comment. People who live in constant chronic pain are known to have a greater chance of an early death. Chronic pain verses a pain medication schedule that helps you to live a somewhat better life enjoying some pleasures with your kids, grandchildren, friends, ect….. No one should ever fear a pain medication regimen because their afraid of liver damage and others you mentioned. The real truth is, it’s a known fact that chronic pain alone without any help with meds is extremely hard on the heart and will also cause withdrawal from family and friends because deep down no one wants to see a loved one suffer so you begin to slowly die if not from the pain then usually by suicide because one can only take so much. Please note that I’m speaking about chronic pain and it WILL kill you before any pain medication will especially if you take what’s allowed and don’t abuse it!!!! So your comment is completely ignorant. And I’ve been on the same regimen from my oncologist first and pain management for 2 decades and my liver is fine!! Mind you, I DON’T drink and live a healthy lifestyle. Thank God that everyone doesn’t think like you or I would have been dead along time ago and I’m only 50 years old.

        1. Yes, and I do not understand why they aren’t just going after doctors that prescribe too much instead of moderate amounts for people who live with pain daily. It restricts any productivity. On the other hand, why are they pushing legalizing marijuana so hard. Its not doing well in the states that have it.

          1. Medical marijuana has much less side effects that the opiates prescribed in even small amounts. Do some research. Many have been able to get off the big pharma opiates and lead normal lives again on med marijuana.

          2. Gee Karen your logic thank god escapes me?Yes lets go after the men /women who study for 14 yeasrs to prescribe the MEDICINES opiates for those of us unwillingly afflicted w/long term medical condition that are physically painful?!Your logic mean their will be NO DOCTORS left to help the physical ill in physical pain,and how is that helpful?U now nothing factually of who you deem ,”over-prescribe,”,, but your ideology has denied 1,000 of our Vets and medically ill in physical pain access to effective dosages of medicine.Soo please tell me,,why do you think you have the right to decide,who forcible suffers in agony from physical pains due to medical issues ad who doesn’t?maryw

      1. You should have been a little more nice when explaining that to Delores, she is probably not ignorant just not educated on the facts smh lol people who don’t have or know about chronic pain probably can’t relate to what you are fedling and she just thought she was being helpful…no need to be so snippy about it lol dang. However, I agree with you as I have always said its QUALITY of life not QUANTITY. If I have to live in pain, what would be the point?

      2. So right! Because many people abuse these drugs doctors are terrified to give them. My opinion is that doctors need to stop trying to see a patient every 10 mins and do proper follow up on their patients. The truth is if you have daily intense pain you don’t give a hoot about liver damage down the road. I have had migraines where I wished I would just pass out and not wake up ever until it was gone. The current fashion of withholding meds is outrageous. Doctors make too much money and seem to care about it more than their patients. Don’t bother defending doctors because I know what they make and it is obscene.

        1. You unknowingly stated a LIE. Doctors do NOT hand out pain medication easily! I was left in severe intractable pain after the corrupt FDA allowed a product on the market that destroyed my health. Then the corrupt CDC lied and blamed doctors and patients for the opioid epidemic when it was the corrupt CIA that flooded the country with drugs. It fits their depopulation goals: killing off young people and killing off the old who are denied pain relief so they commit suicide. Look up Agenda 21.

      3. Any thoughts on this since this recent lock down on opoids? My mother is suffering so bad right now from an old back injury. Likely a fracture. The doctors are refusing to give her anything, even just to get her through the waiting for appts and an MRI. I can’t tell you how insane this and not right to make decent people suffer in agony.

        1. So sorry your mom is suffering so much. I too am a chronic intracatble pain sufferer, 12 plus yrs of doing everything medical community told me to do including failed fusions,I was on same stable higher dose of opiods for 8 yrs with success, I lived life, functioned, was the mom my kids deserved, was able to take walks, shower, cook meals, Since the fictious opiod epidmic, which is filled with corruption, just look into Andrew Kolodny/PROP, the man responsible for the aiding in the cdc inhumane guidelines and is pushing to have all opiods off the market, I was abandoned by my dr in April, handed my last scripts which he cut way back and told me his license was more important, I have not been able to find a dr willing to prescribe the LIFESAVING PAIN MEDICATION I require to sustain a Quality of life. I a, now homebound, shut off from family, no more walks, or attending my sons games or cooking him meals, he eats alot of microwavable stuff, I can no longer shower daily, the pain is overbearing and I beg God to take me daily! The DEA failed war on drugs is a full blown attack on pain drs and pain pts, Pain drs are dropping their pts like garbage, we are being denied pain relief at ER, treated like pill seeking junkies, addicts and criminals, Gov. Christie I have contacted multiple times, got a form letter back yesterday. not one word about chronic pain, all about the VICTIMS (his words) of addiction, addicts are victims..they deserve the ut ost care and compassion, us pain pts, well we are the problem, we are being silenced and forced to the streets for relief or suicide. I have lost many brothers and sisters in pain over the past few months to suicide to end their pain as they were cut off their lifeline, left in agony, I am furious, I bet though Congressman Scalise is on pain meds, after being shot and all those surgeries, he was on Fox this morn amd said he has alot of nerve damage and a long way to go, I bet his pain is being controlled, bet hes not treated like an addict or drug tested or given surprise pill counts, Just read an article before from a oharmacy by the white house and how they deliver hundreds of meds to the white house daily, the corrupt lawmakers will never suffer, they have private drs and pharmacies bought off, they get what they want, we the people are left to exist in a torturous hell! This is INHUMANE, BARBARIC, CRUEL, DISCRIMINATION, TORTURE AND THAT IS CRIMINAL! They all have the blood of every pain pt, including our Vets who took thier lives to end the pain. What kind of country are we living in that aloows the chronicly ill to suffer u til we kill ourselves!? All the propaganda bullshit the media is spewing to create mass hysteria is adding to pain pts being denied pain relief,

      4. This is for R. Raines,
        I totally agree with you! I have a sister that was told that her body would shut down if not for her pain meds! also after 20yrs her liver -lungs -heart -are still holding up and she dosn’t get doped up! So if this is what she needs then i say yes so be it!!!

      5. I just could not agree more. No can help but notice the constant drumbeat about opiate addiction abuse. Since no one was going for paying for climate change (it’s after all what they want) they picked on another way to gain billions of dollars from us. It’s like if you are for ICE you’re racist if you are for opiates you are a lowdown drug seeking scum. Nothing about pain is even mentioned much less an alternative.

        My guess besides money and power is maybe we’re pulling out of Afghanistan where opium is from. I’ve heard more than once that the CIA was behind amping up massive drug availability and use in this country around the late 90’s again – about money. This country needs addicts and lower class and full prisons to feed their addiction. In the meantime the chronically pained patient suffers from agonizing pain. CVS is proud of their 7 day supply and a nurse in Siskiyou county is working on eliminating narcotics in their hospital. So very sad. We’ve come such a long way from patients’ right to relieve pain as fast as possible in the E.R. I don’t want to hear about drug seekers either.

      6. Silence the Conquerer

        A flipping men! I can’t tell you how many people start lecturing when they find out I am on controlled, monitored, bi-weekly, pain management contract. They are always shocked I am not dead.. but don’t bother asking how I am working two jobs whilst raising a kid, and running a city. Well that was three years ago – and now the CDC and DEA are making sure my meds (which I have spina bifida, osteomyelitis, spinal curvature and degeneration, and all that come with it, including no shoulder supportive tissue from using crutches and wheelchairs.. so now.. my life is my bedroom and video games, and I keep no company, and practically forgot what being out in public is like. My former good health is in sharp decline THAT is what happens when you take away pain management that WAS working – also good liver, heart, etc, and I also don’t drink, smoke, or eat badly. WELL DONE AMERICA , you sure solved that problem with ignorance! My prayers and heart go out to the fellow sufferers… Namaste….

      7. It would be extremely helpful if the millions of Americans would be able to have your mindset. Unfortunately they do not. Intruduce the right drug to the wrong person and we have what’s called an opiate epidemic but good for you you are the few that the drug was mentioned for btw calm the ego and consider your self lucky not. Different you stop takeing tour meds for 3 days and see how it feels

      8. I was terrified when my dr first prescribed Vicodin (Hydrocodone) for the first time as many have become addicted & many died from it.
        He assured me that taken as prescribed, it’s safe.
        I’ve been taking the maximum doseage for over two decades now. I can’t say it’s very effective, but I’m still alive.
        My advice is to find a doctor you can trust, then follow his or her instructions to the letter.

  3. Pain management specialist. I was given the infamous cocktail in shot form. Mine was so bad I couldn’t walk I was crawling in the doctors office. It would take two shots to get relief.

    I researched migraine triggers. I’m still a chronic migraine sufferer but if I wake up with one it’s coffee or Mountain Dew. Then, I take Excedrine Migraine. My doctor is fine if it works because I have other health problems.

    Also, watch Chinese food, chocolate, sour cream and anything with MSG. Major triggers.

  4. Everyone is bouncing all around the real truth of the drug situation. It’s the media behind this! They can shape and make the public do anything they want. They do it for profit. The return on drug abuse is documentaries,news segments and tv shows .as long as they sell ads & have sponsors they will continue!
    we now are seeing cancer patients not receiving medications until 2 weeks before death,treating broken bones with ice and the elderly medications for severe arthritis stopped all due to the media.
    If people go after the sponsors of the networks this will stop
    we are not advocating drug use but are seeing people needing this medication for the right reasons suffering. just like you folks.

  5. I myself suffer from chronic back and leg pain to the point now that I don’t have a constructive life. I am cut off from family and friends the t.v. is my only entertainment and at this point pain management is only keeping me alive from one appointment to the next. I was on better meds but they were taken away when I lost my insurance. I just simply cant afford them! Thanks Obama! But I have come to the conclusion that whatever life I have left I will have but no choice but to self medicate… Law be dammed! I stumbled onto this thread doing research into making tinxures. But at this point I don’t care and I don’t have any other choice. Time to grow the poppies!

    1. i suffer from same things you describe, try kratom it has made a world of diffirance in my life, it can be addictive but has gave me my life back.

    2. Before you go that route, try some form of vertical traction. (See my other reply)
      It’s very temporary but also very effective and almost instant relief.
      I’ve found that if I can get break every few hours or as needed when I just can’t tolerate the pain anymore, even a few minutes of relief really helps.

  6. FYI…. Try treating your MIGRAINES with migraine meds and not PAIN MEDS. Taking all that pain medication only exacerbates migraine symptoms. Trust me. Been there done that. Cut back on the pain meds as much as I could for neck and back pain and started treating the migraines. Cause what your doing is literally making your headaches worse. Go to a neurologist for your migraines not pain management. It’s worth it to get it under control.

  7. Everyone, please stay away from ….Pain Management Clinics? If you, for some reason mess up taking your pain meds from them, they will :

    (1) Take you off. , (2) Acuse you of being a druggie. (3) They’ll send your name out everywhere, including ….doc offices and ER. (5) You will not get NO pain medicine NO where for at least…..1-2 years! It’s not worth it.

  8. I am 61 years old and I have suffered from sciatica for most of my life. I have multiple injuries which required surgery not just in my back but in my cervical spine, knees and suffered a fractured shoulder. I have nodules in my hands (finger joints) which indicated a form of arthritis. I was a law enforcement professional. I loved my career, and still yearn to go back to it. I made a difference, and I regret everyday I can not return to work.
    In 1986, I was pressured into a Laminectomy with the wording “you’ll spend the rest of your life in a wheel chair if we don’t operate.” Without a second opinion, I consented to the surgery. I ended up experiencing the worst pain I have ever felt in the recovery room. Since, I have suffered greatly. That’s easy to say, but few really know the reality of suffering.
    Only a fellow sufferer can know what I’m talking about. The surgeon who operated on me wrote opinions that I was suffering from a mental disease. He never took responsibility for his poor results. This surgeon never took my history before operating or had any studies done prior to surgery.
    For over two years, I was confined to bed. I lost half my body weight. I lost all my friends and my home. Everyone expects a young man who was relatively healthy to recover. I did not. I’ve lived alone for over thirty five years. I still live alone in a home without running water. I have been punished in ways you can not possibly believe for being disabled.
    I was finally admitted into a pain clinic after the failed back surgery, and eventually had an interthecal pump implanted into my body with a catheter inserted into my spinal canal. I did receive some relief, but not nearly enough. When the totality of all my pain was added up, I was also prescribed Oxycodone along with the medications in my pump, within the last two years. I believe I am lucky to be believed. Only my stubbornness and personal strength has kept me alive. I no longer believe in god. What god would allow the suffering, which I’ve experienced (and seen in my career.)
    I urge all of you to use a combination of relaxation exercises, a good diet, and physical therapy in conjunction with whatever pain meds. are provided, to never give up. Even if you don’t have pain meds. DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t ever take the easy way out and commit suicide. The only way change comes about is if we stand up to together. The media uses buzz words like the “drug wars” or “overprescribing” to scare the public.
    Most do not know how much suffering goes on unless they experience chronic debilitating pain. Unfortunately, most people will discover they too will experience chronic pain at the end of their lives. I know this won’t help those in desperate circumstances but remember there’s always someone, other than yourself, who suffers more, and lives. Living with these symptoms is winning.
    Write your State’s medical board, tell your story, but don’t ever die by your own hand. No one benefits, if you do that. If you do have a belief in god, and commit suicide, you’re condemning your soul to hell. I don’t believe any real god would do that to someone who has suffered for so many years. Find something to believe in that is a benefit to others.

  9. Dan, I suffer from chronic back pain as well. I’m also retired peace officer. (but don’t want to return to work!)
    I am more fortunate than you in that my doctor warned me about the danger(s) of surgery. He suggested I wait until “the fat lady sings”.
    Besides the things you suggested, I use “vertical traction” and nerve ablation as needed.
    The nerve blocks work rather well along with pain meds. For brief periods, I can pretend I’m normal.
    I’m not one to give up either so I commend you for your tenacity.
    Medical technology advances daily. There is still hope they can fix this while we are still here.

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