Candy for Flu

October 6, 2010 at 9:38 am 4 comments

With the cold and flu season bearing down on us like a cold wind from the north, it is time to take stock. Are you eating enough candy?

Today we think of sugar candy as good-tasting poison: not just tummy aches, but obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and an early grave are attributed to excessive candy indulgence. (Chocolate, with its mysterious and exotic flavonoids, appears exempt.) But well into the twentieth century, many cast enormous store in the medicinal properties of sugar candy.

Here’s a report from 1922 extolling sugar-candy as a potent remedy to cure heart weakness brought on by influenza. Dr.  F. Thompson of Sunbury-on-Thames explains:

I was sent for on Sunday to see an old woman of over 80 with a pulse of 140 beats to the minute. I gave her sugar-candy at once, and next morning her pulse was down to 88.

Dr. Thompson’s success with this patient inspired him to prescribe sugar candy to all his patients. What medical results this produced we cannot know, but I suspect it led to a substantial increase in his professional popularity.

An unnamed physician at a London hospital explains the powerful effects of sugar candy on the ailing body:

Sugar-candy, and sugar generally, are wonderful heart foods, great heat producers, and easily utilized by the body. Cases in which strong heart stimulants have failed have been immensely improved by the consumption of sugar. It is a very valuable agent in post-influenza cases both for the heart and the lungs.

The miraculous curative powers of candy even inspired one man of medicine to discard his pharmacy in favor of confectionery:

A London doctor, who was cured in this way of extreme heart weakness, has given up medicine, and has taken to eating sugar.

Legal disclaimer in case you’re thinking about treating your next bout of flu with a Whitman’s Sampler: Would I advise the same? Dear me, of course not. I’m a candy professor, not a doctor! But if you’re stuck in bed anyway, a little candy might be nice…

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Source: “Candy for Flu,” Confectioners Journal, April 1922, p. 100, quoting an article originally published in the London  Daily Mail.

Entry filed under: Medicine, WWI to WWII. Tags: .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark D. (sugarpressure)  |  October 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Behold…the power of SUGAR!!!!!

    I won’t mention this to my children. I can see them pretending to be sick to get candy.

    Reply
  • 2. Candy Professor  |  October 6, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Oh, dear, does that mean you’ll have to put a parental filter on CandyProfessor!

    Reply
  • 3. Meina  |  November 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Have you seen the Bach rescue pastilles? More candy that’s masquerading as medicine: http://www.bachrescuepastilles.com/ No better than a placebo, I’d say it’s just nice to have hard candy around. The only thing is, the pastilles are artificially sweetened…. It might as well be a laxative, as one of the first ingredients is sorbitol :-D

    Reply
    • 4. Candy Professor  |  November 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      Funny that people think sorbitol, a chemically derived sugar alcohol, is somehow more wholesome than sugar. I’ll add Bach Rescue to my ever-growing catalogue of candy medicines, thanks for the tip!

      Reply

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

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