18 April 2010

Asthma cigarettes

Asthma cigarettes were real and -- theoretically -- effective bronchodilators.  I've not seen the cigarettes, but when I first moved from Texas to Lexington, Kentucky in 1978, a local pharmacy there had on the shelf a product called "Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador" which claimed "to relieve the distress of bronchial asthmatic paroxysms."  The directions say to put a half- to one teaspoon of the powder on a plate and ignite it ("allow sulphur to burn off match") and inhale the vapor or smoke into the lungs.

The active ingredients are stramonium and belladonna, both of which are anticholinergic bronchodilators, but the problem of course would be that the combusion process creates so many other byproducts that are bronchoconstrictors that the resultant inhalation would be a chancy process.

Erowid offers the following comments re the CNS effects:
Asthmador, a physically fine powder, is a nonprescription mixture of belladonna and stramonium; the directions on the package state that the powder is to be burned and the smoke inhaled to relieve bronchial asthma. The mixture contains between .23 percent and .31 percent alkaloids... The patient stated he took no particular care in measuring out one and one-half tea- spoons; he probably ingested between eight and 12 and perhaps as much as 20 mg of hyoscyamine. The description of atropine toxicity in this dosage range includes hyperpyrexia, accelerated pulse, mydriasis, confusion, delirium. hallucinations, exaltation, and bizarre neurological symptoms(2, 5).

Datura stramonium (one of the ingredients of Asthmador), of which hyoscyamine is the principal alkaloid, was used in the Middle Ages in demonology, and to evoke hallucinations. It was smoked by the Arabs and Swahili of East Africa and in the Bengal legion of India in recent times. It has been ingested in the Darien and Choco regions of the Americas, by the Aztecs and by Indian tribes in the southeastern and western United States to evoke hallucinations and for religious and ceremonial purposes...
Image via My Ear-Trumpet Has Been Struck By Lightning.


  1. Datura stramonium is also called the "zombie cucumber" in Haiti and is fed to people as they awaken from the catatonia induced by the zombie powder. See "The Serpent and the Rainbow" by Wade Davis (the book, not the film)

  2. I read the book many years ago; it's fascinating.

  3. Sixty years ago, a Jamaican lady who worked for my parents suffered from asthma. After serving dinner, she transferred some of her medicine to the lid (the can resembled an old Mustard tin), lit the powder and inhaled deeply. She swore by it.

    Fifteen years later, I met up with the same pungent odor in Harvard Yard.

  4. Yes, my Asthama was so bad I used it in the 1950's. I wish I could find some now as my breathing is hard to treat with the meds available now. any suggestions where it is available?


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