Although Warner bragged that his Safe Kidney & Liver Cure was composed of rare herbs gathered from Europe and North and South America, the truth of the matter is that his formula was somewhat more commonplace. In his book, Mike Seeliger reports it as:
Extract lycopus virginiana 308 grains
Extract liverwort 322 grains
Extract wintergreen 7.5 grains
Potassium nitrate 39 grains
Alcohol (90%) 2.5 ounces
Glycerin 10 drams
Water sufficient to make 1 pint
So what is this stuff. First, lycopus virginiana is also known as Bugleweed and is a fairly common perennial. I have some in my yard, which is not very exotic. Having said that, the plant is available from herbalists and is apparently known to have medicinal qualities, including use as a sedative and for treating an overactive thyroid.
The next ingredient, extract liverwort, also know as Hepatica americana, is also apparently endowed with herbal medicinal properties including as an astringent and diuretic. Apparently, large doses can produce symptoms of poisoning.
Extract wintergreen or Gaultheria procumbens is also a diuretic and in small doses as a stomach stimulant. Large doses induce vomiting. Potassium nitrate, better known as salt peter is a component of fertilizer and fireworks, but its medicinal value is doubtful, except, as Seeliger notes, as a stomach irritant. Glycerin is a sweet-smelling emollient that is a byproduct of soap making. It apparently has the tendency to absorb moisture.
The remaining ingredients of alcohol and water need no explanation. As Seeliger notes, alcohol is a kidney irritant as well as a depressant. It is safe to say that at least some of Warner’s customers were looking for little more than something to fortify their nerves. Whether these ingredients actually had some beneficial effect is difficult to say since the almanacs and pamphlets marketing Warner products were uniformly positive in their reviews.
Photo of Safe Cure half pint courtesy of Jack Stecher.