Father John's Medicine

From Kook Science

Father John's Medicine
Father John's Medicine - box, bottle.jpg

4½ fl. oz. bottle of Father John's Medicine
(c. 1925)

Medical Claims "A reconstructive tonic in Coughs, Colds, Spasmodic Croup, Bronchitis, Asthmatic Coughs and for Building Up the System."
Creator(s) Named for Father John O'Brien, formula from his unnamed physician
Year created 1855
Vendors Carleton & Hovey Co.; Father John's Medicine Company

Father John's Medicine is the brand name for a cod liver oil tonic, formerly manufactured and sold by Carleton & Hovey Co. (later rebranded Father John's Medicine Company) of Lowell, Massachusetts, which was reputedly based on an 1855 formula preferred by Father John O'Brien, the tonic's namesake. A modern formulation of the same name, now containing dextromethorphan (DXM), is manufactured by the Oakhurst Company (Woolfoam Co.) to this day.


The original formula has been given as a mixture of cod liver oil, gum arabic, glycerin, with licorice and sugar water.


  • "THE STORY OF FATHER JOHN'S - An Interesting History of Fifty Years.", Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 17 Oct. 1903 

    In 1848 Rev. Father John O'Brien, a noble man, came to Lowell, Mass., to do the Master’s work in St. Patrick's Parish. In 1854, Father John, as he was fondly known to his people, was attacked with a serious cold, which, developing into a stubborn cough and affliction of the lungs, caused the greatest alarm for the health of the beloved clergyman.

    Medical skill seemed unable to stay the progress of the disease. Finally an Eminent Specialist was consulted, who gave Father John a prescription to cure the cold and remove the lung trouble, as well as to build up and strengthen the body. The clergyman took the prescription to the old drug store of Carleton and Hovey, Lowell, Mass,, the firm by whom Father John's Medicine is prepared. The cough soon disappeared, and his people rejoiced when he declared that he had been made as well and strong as ever.

    Father John recommended the medicine to his parishioners and friends, and thousands were made well and strong by taking it. In getting this prescription they always called for "Father John's Medicine," and so. it was named by the people and advertised — all with the approval and sanction of Rev. Father O'Brien, because he knew of its merit and desired that all who were ailing might benefit by its power to cure.

    This old-fashioned, wholesome remedy is unequalled as a body builder and tonic. It restores health and strength to all run down systems. Its gentle, laxative effect strengthens the stomach and corrects the digestion. It drives out all impurities. It is a food medicine, and contains only pure nourishment. It is not a patent medicine, and it is free from opium, morphine or poisonous drugs in any form, which are found in the majority of patent preparations.

    While it is not a "cough syrup" or "balsam," nothing equals this prescription for coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, consumption and all throat and lung troubles. It has a most soothing and healing effect, and at the same time builds up the body and makes strength.