Medical experts argue about the health benefits of soft drinks. Sodas have been linked to our country’s growing obesity problem as well as to a lengthening list of other diseases. But a review of the history of two popular soft drinks indicates that the argument is not a new one.
Created by Charles Griggs in 1929, Seven-Up® was originally named “Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda” and was used as “a pick me up” drink. It contained seven ingredients and that long mouthful of a name was eventually shortened to 7-UP® as the product became more popular.
Seven-Up® was originally marketed as an over-the-counter remedy to cure hangovers. Early advertising stated that “7-Up takes the ouch out of the grouch!” It was the ultimate mood elevator. That’s because until 1948, the product contained lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug.
Lithium citrate, a popular patent medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “evened out” a person’s psyche and brightened the outlook of depressed patients. In later years, lithium became an early treatment for bipolar disease. It was particularly beneficial in softening the manic phase of manic-depression.
By the 1950’s, 7-Up (stripped of its lithium citrate additive) became a popular mixer in alcoholic beverages—again being used to soften one’s mood.
Another popular remedy was Coca-Cola®. Conceived in 1886, first bottled in 1899 and originally called “Pemberton’s French Wine Cocoa”, the product was initially a version of the European French Wine Cocoa. It was formulated at the Eagle Drug and Chemical Company, a drug store in Columbus, GA owned by pharmacist John Pemberton.
The European version contained both cocaine and alcohol. I should mention that when cocaine and alcohol are ingested together, they form a chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene works like cocaine in the body, only it produces more euphoria than cocaine alone. Needless to say, the product was very popular in Europe.
The American version contained no alcohol because the Georgia county where Pemberton had his drug store passed prohibition legislation in 1886, making the original French formula illegal. But Pemberton’s product did contain cocaine.
It was recommended as an aid to cure many diseases, including headaches, hysteria and melancholy, and morphine addition. Pemberton himself was a morphine addict because of chronic pain that resulted from a Civil War injury. Pemberton eventually increased the popularly of his product by adding sugar syrup to the formula and calling it “Coca-Cola: The Temperance Drink.”
Coca-Cola® quickly became a popular cocktail among wealthy society people as an “intellectual beverage” and was marketed as a valuable “brain tonic” and “nerve stimulant.” Early advertising stated that the product was a delicious, exhilarating, refreshing and invigorating beverage.
Until 1905, Coca-Cola® still contained cocaine, and it took until 1929 to perfect the extraction process to finally remove trace amounts of coca’s psychoactive elements from the Coca-Cola product marketed at the time. The Coca-Cola Company finally trademarked the name “Coke” in 1944.
The Coca-Cola® that’s sold today still contains coca, but the psychotropic alkaloid is completely removed from it. A New Jersey chemical processing facility has that unique job. It’s been reported that the chemical company imports almost 200,000 kilograms of coca each year for Coca-Cola®, or enough to make more than $200 million worth of cocaine.
So in view of the fact that until the early 20th century, two of our most popular soft drinks were actually carefully disguised psychotropic street drugs, the current argument against consumption of these products because of potential obesity and deteriorating health doesn’t seem so immediate as it once did. At least now you can swear off sodas without having to go to rehab.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!