Napoleon's Pectoral Pills / Expectorating Mixture

[ Napoleon's Pectoral Pills / Expectorating Mixture ] William Paine

Contributor Role
Contributor Name
William Paine

Date: Late 18th or early 19th century; exact date unknown.

Publication Format


chest congestion

ipecacuanha powder
squill powder
gum ammoniac
gum arabic
nitric acid

Source: William Paine Papers
Institution: University Of New Brunswick | Source Origin: Loyalist Collection | Reference: MIC-Loyalist FC LFR.P3W5P3


A recipe to treat chest congestion followed by instructions for an expectorant. The original source is unknown, but the instructions for Napoleon's Pills appear also on page 666 of the second edition of Arnold James Cooley's A Cyclopedia or Practical Receipts (London: John Churchill, 1845), and in the "New and Improved" edition of G.W. Francis' The Dictionary of Practical Receipts (London: J. Allen, 1853), where the pills are specified to treat "difficulty of breathing or oppression of the chest." (p. 247). Given that the first remedy was supposed to have been used on Napoleon's soldiers, it likely originated in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

Image use courtesy of American Antiquarian Society.


Napolean's pectoral Pills

Of the root of ipecacuanha in powder

thirty Grains.

Squil Root in powder

Gum Ammoniac of each Two Scruples.

Mucilage of Gum Arabic Sufficient

to form a Mass. When properly

mixed so as divide into twenty four


Take night and morning. two.


           Expectorating Mixture

Rx The nitric acid two Drachms

diluted in half a pint of of Water,^pour iton

two Drachms of Gum Ammoniac, and rub

them together in a Glass Mortar, until the Gum

is dissolved.

Dose. A TableSpoonful in {...} Water

every two, or three Hours.


A Central and South American plant used to make the purgative ipecac.
A flowering bulb used for a variety of medicinal purposes. (Also squill)