ketchup used medicine

Was Ketchup Really Used As Medicine in the 1830s?

Did you know that ketchup, the most popular condiment in America, was once sold as a medicine? However, back then it wasn’t much like the Heinz ketchup we know today, and ketchup recipes were likely to contain ingredients like mushrooms, walnuts, or even anchovies. Here’s the story of how ketchup was used as a medicine.

Ketchup Was Sold As Medicine

Dr. John Cooke Bennet created a tomato-based ketchup recipe in 1834 claiming that it cured diarrhea, jaundice, indigestion, and rheumatism. He even had his recipe made into pills, and his ketchup was sold in the 1830s as a medicine.

Soon copycats made and sold their own tomato-based cure-alls, and a ketchup war erupted. The snake oil salesmen selling their own version of medicinal ketchup often didn’t even use tomatoes.

Some scoundrels looking to make a quick dollar simply repackaged laxatives and sold them as miracle ketchup medicine, making outrageous claims that they could cure scurvy or even mend broken bones!

ketchup medicine ad
Dr. Kilkenny’s ketchup – Compound of extract tomato est. 1830

Because of rampant fraud and complete loss of public trust, the whole ketchup medicine house of cards collapsed by 1850.

However, there was some truth to doctor Bennet’s claims of medicinal ketchup, as tomatoes are very healthy. In fact, even the American Cancer Society agrees that tomatoes are a great source of vitamins, folate, and antioxidants including lycopene.

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ketchup history

So, while it’s wild that ketchup was sold as medicine during the 1830s and later, incorporating ketchup and tomatoes into your diet is actually a healthy habit.

Maybe just get the natural ketchup to avoid excessive sugar and preservatives. Oh, and don’t try to use ketchup to fix a broken bone!

ketchup history medicine

So, the next time you’re at the dinner table in one of the 97% of American households that have a bottle of ketchup, you can share the fun fact that ketchup used to be sold as medicine.

*This article was featured on Product Hunt