Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador

The indications or uses for this product as provided on its packaging: To relieve the distress of bronchial asthmatic paroxysms
Currently not on view
Object Name
otc preparation
Date made
ca 1940
R. Schiffman Company
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
Place Made
United States: California, Los Angeles
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Respiratory & Asthma Drugs
Health & Medicine
Balm of America
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Balm of America
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mary E. and Joseph F. Melfi, Jr., Tupper's Drug Store, Summerville, South Carolina
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

3/22/2013 5:59:43 PM
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
7/18/2013 3:35:42 PM
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..
7/18/2013 3:36:49 PM
Joyce Richards
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.
3/12/2016 9:46:14 AM
Tammy Dern
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.
7/18/2013 3:42:27 PM
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.
7/18/2013 3:42:53 PM
I used this stuff regularly as a child in Kansas City between the ages of 10 and 16, and it worked very well to open my bronchial passages during asthma attacks. I burned a small amount of the powder in an old cloissone dish. It didn't smell great, but I only used it in the bathroom, usually late at night. I would buy it again in an instant if it were for sale. Just seeing that tin brings back a strong sense of nostalgia for a medicine that worked. In my later teens, I also smoked an occasional Asthmador cigarette for the same reason.
7/19/2013 10:33:42 AM
Arlene Zimmer
As a youngster with asthma, the only natural product that relieved my symptoms was Asthmador. Mom would bring it in a pie tin, light it and when I inhaled same, it worked immediately. Years later, the "junk" that was prescribed (steroids/pills, etc.) resulted in the loss of almost five inches in my spine which, today, has brought their own problems. If this product were on the shelf today, it would be a blessing - for all except the major pharmaceutical companies.
7/19/2013 10:36:47 AM
Mary Ann
My father who just died at age 97, wrote the following about Schiffmann's Asthmador: Something like the “Schifmann's Asthmador” my dad used to take because of his asthma attacks. My dad suffered from asthma which in all probability came from the use of burning wood in the locations he resided and even in our home where we used a wood stove for heating the kitchen and Mayme used it for cooking meals. He used Schiffman's Asthmador to help with his asthma problem. He used to inhale the smoke of the Asthmador which he placed on a metal coffee cover in 2 rows of the asthmador lighting one end of the asthmador until it was all burned. Then he lit the other row of the stuff. It wasn't until he died and I learned from reading info re Asthmador, that it contained a drug which was not marketed legally, but used by sniffers who wished to get a high. It was taken off the market some years after he died because it had a bit of an opium ingredient. We always had to be sure that he had a full can of the powder. The can was colored pale green. It contained about the same amount as a small can of tomato soup, however it was an oblong can with a tin cover. He would ignite the powder with a match on a metal round flat tray and inhale the smoke it gave off. He'd wheeze a lot, but it made him feel good.
10/11/2013 9:18:32 AM
David Anderson
My great grandfather who died in 1952, was a dairy farmer in south central Minnesota from 1896 until I'm not sure when. Meeting with two of his granddaughters this week in south central Minnesota, one of them told me he smoked Asthmador cigarettes to relieve his severe respiratory problems. She didn't say whether or not they were effective. Asthma eventually killed him and he was really desperate for relief.
3/21/2014 12:28:40 PM
Bruce Larsen
As a child I was often suffering from Asthma attacks. We used Asthmador throughout my childhood. At home Dad would put a bit in his ashtray and burn it, but at Grandma's we just put a spoon of it on the woodstove. It always seemed to work. I do not recall getting high or having hallucinations. However, I know it worked and brought relief. It was a great product for its time. I think I still have a can in a box somewhere. It also came in cigarette form, however my mother and father were loath to let my smoke "cigarettes" for any reason.
5/30/2014 5:22:34 PM
Charlotte Coler-Lindstrom
MyGrandmother had asthma. When we visited her I always slept in bed with her. Often in the middle of the night she would have difficulty breathing and get up and burn some kind of powder in a small, shallow tin cup. I would be worried about her, but she'd tell me that she would be okay. And she was. This stuff worked well for her and I liked how it smelled. I've wondered for years what it was that she was inhaling. It sounds like it was this product since this was in the 1950's & 60's.
10/31/2014 4:37:25 PM
Madeline Johnston
My mother had severe asthma, with usually daily attacks. Asthmador was her salvation. She kept a can of it in her purse. If she got it soon enough, it worked wonders; it was less effective if the attack had gotten quite bad before she used it. If we were out on errands, she would pull over the car & get it out, open the door a bit to get more air, put a little powder in the lid of the tin can, ignite it with a wooden match, and inhale the smoke. At home, she'd often do this leaning over the bathroom sink, sometimes also asking me to fan her if it was really bad. It was apparently genetic--her mother had it, and her father, and his mother, then also my brother. That's 5 generations, and we don't know before that. When Asthmador went off the market, it was a real blow. Fortunately, about the same time, there came the Intermittent Positive Pressure Breathing machine. After trying it and finding it helped, my doctor/father bought one for his office, a block from home. If she spent 20 minutes a day on it, she was quite clear; if she forgot or got busy and went out on errands without having a treatment first, she would have trouble again.
6/30/2015 2:54:28 PM
Linda Austin
I am 68 and I have had asthma since I was 3 1/2. My mother used to burn the powder in a metal measuring cup then take a card board from my dad's laundered shirts and form it into a teepee. Then she would sit me under a blanket so I could inhale the smoke!!! I remember the cigarettes. I remember it really helped me breathe. I still have problems with my asthma but now use an inhaler. The treatments for asthma has come a long way.AtF
3/16/2016 12:32:44 AM
Pat Baker
My son is now 55 and has had asthma since he was 4 weeks old. Like others have reported, we use to burn this in the bathroom when he was a child. The other children hated the smell but it did help. He now uses inhaler but We have talked about this medicine through the years but didn't remember name. All I remembered was the green can & that it had Bella Donna as ingredient. My Grandmother used this powder & cigarettes.
3/24/2016 11:22:09 AM
First, I want to mention how glad I am to have found this reference to Asthmador/Asthmador cigarettes; I was beginning to think I had imagined their existence! As a small child in the early 1950s, I well remember my mother gasping for breath during one of her acute asthma attacks; it was frightening to watch, even from my limited child's comprehension of what was happening. The only thing relieving her symptoms were her Asthmador cigarettes! She would light one up, inhale the smoke, and her labored breathing would gradually return to normal. ~ As an aside anecdote, inexplicably there were times when Mother did not have any of her special medicinal cigarettes. Of course, I was to realize later that was because we were [financially] very poor. My father had just recently entered the ministry and could not afford them. When money was available, sometimes Mother would take me and we would walk miles n' miles* down to the corner drug store for a small, square box of Asthmador cigarettes. *OK, maybe it was more like a few blocks but to short toddler legs, it was a looong way! I did not mind though. Such an adventure! Plus I had her all to myself (no big brother or sister demanding her attention) and on one visit, the man at the store even gave me a piece of penny candy! Ahhh . . . God is good :) Anyway, to continue. In addition to witnessing first hand the "miraculous" benefit of these cigarettes, I also remember their pungent smell - not necessarily unpleasant but very distinct. I am unsure why that particular odor made such an impression on me, yet apparently lingering in the recesses of my brain for many years, My olfactory receptors twitched anew in recognition when I had occasion to smell marijuana for the first time while in college in the early 1970s (No, I was not the one smoking it!). Then oddly enough, once more a few years later when I was seated "downwind" of 2 teens caught smoking weed in the back of the movie theater. The unmistakable smell of marijuana and my best recollection of those Asthmador cigarettes were the same!! Honestly I would swear to it except the idea seems so far-fetched. Is it possible or merely a "fractured olfactory memory"? Could Asthmador's active ingredients, stramonium and belladonna, be the same as/similar to the hybrid cannabis marijuana weed strain also named belladonna, producing the same odor? Obviously I have no way of replicating a comparison study so can anyone confirm or debunk my suspicion? Truly, my mother would roll over in her grave at the very thought of being the "pot-smokin' minister's wife and mama of 3 young!!"
4/1/2016 10:21:02 PM
Warren Mortensen
My paternal grandfather suffered from asthma as did my Dad and one of his brothers. They all used Asthmador and there's a can of it around here somewhere. Dad & Uncle Art eventually switched to the glass nebulizers with a rubber bulb on the end. Being dairy farmers the occasionally broke these (carried them in their overall bibs). Dad always mentioned the smell of the stuff. A neighbor I worked for mentioned to me that the family that had originally owned our farm used Asthmador also. He told me that one could always tell the household that used the product because the house always smelled like Asthmador.
8/25/2016 2:46:01 PM
Kathleen Bradley
I am 65 and used asthmador powder as a child in Findlay, Ohio. It worked very well and did not speed up my heart rate like the asthma inhalers of the day. Very sorry it went off the market, but fortunately there are other asthma drugs now. Of I never got high and always wondered about the reports of that when it went off the market. I even took it to Girl Scout camp.hBPRW
9/7/2016 5:21:48 PM
Jackie Estes
In the late 1960's I spent a lot of time at a local riding stable. A horse came down with "strangles" and was near death, unable to breathe from massive head congestion. Antibiotics seemed to have no effect (it may be a viral illness-I'm not sure). Anyhow, horses cannot breathe through their mouths, so this was a desperate condition. The stable owners, who used a vet but also a wide range of old-time remedies, put some Asthmador in the bottom of a five gallon bucket, lit it, and held it under the horse's nose. In seconds, the horse was plunging his head into the bucket, taking deep gulping breaths. Seconds later, thick green mucous came pouring out of his nose and we had to move the bucket to keep from putting the smoldering powder out. Whatever the good or bad of the ingredients, the immediate effect was miraculous.
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