Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador

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The indications or uses for this product as provided on its packaging: To relieve the distress of bronchial asthmatic paroxysms
Currently not on view
Date made
ca 1940
R. Schiffman Company
Place Made
United States: California, Los Angeles
Physical Description
stramonium (drug active ingredients)
belladonna (drug active ingredients)
overall: 8.8 cm x 5.6 cm x 3.2 cm; 3 7/16 in x 2 3/16 in x 1 1/4 in
overall: 3 1/2 in x 2 1/4 in x 1 3/8 in; 8.89 cm x 5.715 cm x 3.4925 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mary E. and Joseph F. Melfi, Jr., Tupper's Drug Store, Summerville, South Carolina
Respiratory & Asthma Drugs
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Health & Medicine
Balm of America
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I am 69 years old and had asthma as a very young child and can remember very distinctly inhaling the Asthmador vapor. I called it "my volcano".
I too watched my grandfather suffer from asthma in the 50`s and 60:s. He'd sit on the side of the bed and smoke the asthmador cigarettes and me right beside him. Our family has a long history of this insidious disease. When they introduced steroids in 1950 it was the end of the road for a safer alternative. ie@ asthamador. He died a horrible death with a tracheotomy, and daily suction. Then my mother was put on such high levels of steroids and shots of ACTH almost killed her. Her normal weight was 130lbs. She blew up to way over 200lbs! In 1965 she found a new Dr. Who hospitalized her and the withdrawal caused hallucinations months of physical and emotional hell. Not to mention I was raised by my grandmother because steroids prevented her from being stable. I was an only child till 17 then oops twins! At 40! The Dr had warned her that the steroids had made her sterile. Did anyone know that little fact? It keep eggs from being healthy and release. I go to grandma's over Easter break. 9 mos later I have two baby brothers! They were normal size but one weighed 4lbs the other 5.1 .one as normal asthma the little one has suffered his entire life with horrible asthma. He`ll be 50 and as never know a day without it. Then in 1995 I had surgery and the drugs they used to put me out almost killed me and I was immediately put on IV steroids. The next 6 yrs were hell trying to get off them. My lungs would go down just like my mother's and I was repeatedly in the er when the dose would be to low. Why? Because your body stops producing your own cortisol! I had cataracts by 45 and a detached retina by 47. And a heart attack at 50. The pharmacutiacal Co. Will never bring back what works. With least side effects. I've told my family and I tell Dr.s I will not take steroids unless im dying and then a very small dose. Never the 160mgs they use intervenious. That is standard protocol in every er docs Playbook. Its poison it cures nothing and masks the real problem. They called it the wonder drug! It's ruined and killed more people over a longer period than any Asthmador smoke. Oh well, The drug companies now interchange drugs made for one thing find a few people that it works on another issue so prescribe it for numerous other problems it wasn't created for. TV commericials for drugs scare The hell Outta me! Yeah I'd love leukemia from my lyrica! Its nuts! Don't be fooled..your care is in your hands don't take chances. The doctors went to a lot of school. But were they A students or marginal? Did they stay out last nite before their shift? Did they drink do drugs fight with a spouse. Sleep deprived? They are human. But damn, my family has lost so much to drugs that were to help... not ruin our bodies and shorten our lives. Something old can be best!
There is a long history of Asthma in our family, and asthmador was utilized by brothers, cousins, uncle, and aunts. We were very young (10-11) and it was prescribed by doctors. Prior to this the family depended on prayer and most of us being hospitalized on numerous occasions. When breathing machines and steroids took the place of Asthmador, things became progressively better. Now my mom age 85, cannot remember these treatments - I'm age 66 and thought I was dreaming or making things up until I stumbled up on the website-WOW.
I am 82 and remember as a child the only thing that would help me when I had an asthma attack was having to go into a small bathroom and light some powder in an ashtray and breathe it in. It smelled awful and to this day I always thought it had some kind of cannabis in it. I am glad to see a lot of other people used it too, and still remember that awful smell.
"I remember my grandmother using this product in the late 1950's and early 1960's. She put about 1/2 a tablespoon of the gray powder in a small bowl. She lit it with a kitchen (large wood) match, it would burn in a sputtering, smoldering manner giving off a gray smoke, which she inhaled for the relief of Asthma. She used the match stick to move unburned powder to the fire. Her son, my uncle was a pharmacist, so I'm confident she was using it at his suggestion. It seemed to be effective for her."
Dr Schiffman was my mother's cousin. But being rather secretive I didnt know about any of this family history or her annual trust fund check, until she was very old. I would kind of hear about some of the details from time to time, bits and pieces, but thought is was really just a long running joke! Or that it was maybe just for pennies! Now that both parents are gone I have no real way of finding out this information. They would not have ever told me what i might have wanted to know. But now, I call mom "The Heiress"! Which always makes me giggle a bit. We were far from rich, but it makes a good story! And one day I hope to try to research this to find the background story. And to see if Dr Schiffmann's house is still in Pasadena. I read he had donated it to the city, but that was long ago, I have no idea what might have become of it. So, as i said, it makes for an interesting cocktail story. Reading what others have written makes it that much more real. I didn't know the powder was lit in a dish, I thought folks rolled their own cigarette. So it makes it a bit more intriguing. Thanks to all for your additional information! Much appreciated!
"My mother suffered with frequent asthma attacks, and there always was a can of this Asthmador in the medicine chest. I can recall that the powder substance would be placed in a bowl and lit. It sparked and smoked, as my mother would inhale the smoke. Often she would put a blanket or towel over her head to contain the smoke. She would get relief from this at the time of a severe attack. Only now have I found out that it had belladonna in it! It seemed to work to relax her bronchial tubes somehow to allow oxygenation. I will never forget her wheezing cough and sharp pain of asthma. This little green can of a greenish (same color as the can) was a life saver in an era before the inhalers used today."
Im 56 and have always had severe asthma. My grandpa used to sit me down with this powder. Amazing stuff. Wish I could get my hands on it. Todays inhalers are killing me in every way.
As a child growing up I remember every night my father inhaleing the smoke from Asthmador . We kids liked the smell and usually sat beside him as he "smoked " .Not sure who hated it more when they stopped selling it..Dad or us..
"I am a male 71 years of age. As a young boy in my teens and early 20's I used this powder to get relief from my asthma. I can tell you from personal experience that it worked wonders. My grandmother also had asthma really bad and used this powder formula for relief. Too bad it is no longer available today. We never got a "high " from using it but only received the benefits from the formula as we inhaled the smoke from the smoldering powder. I would be interested in one of these tins as it brings back memories from my youth and my grandmother.Thanks for reading, Rich from PA"

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