Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador

Dr. R. Schiffmann's Asthmador

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Usage conditions apply
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
Other Terms
Patent Medicines; Drugs; Non-Liquid
Date made
ca 1940
Associated Name
Tupper's Pharmacy
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
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Medicine and Science: Medicine
Health & Medicine
Balm of America
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"I'm 62 as of 2017, and vividly remember my dear Grandpa going thru his Asthmador ritual on his northeast Nebraska farm. He'd rise before sunup, and I would too just to be with him. They had an old corn-cob-burning iron stove in the front room where he kept his bib overalls and work boots, etc. He's fire up some cobs, then place an much-used old Folger's coffee tin can without it's lid onto the heated stove. Then he'd shovel a bit of Asthmador into the coffee tin, and quickly put the lid on. After a few seconds, he'd removed the lid and bend wayyy down and put his face into the coffee tin....inhaling as deep as he could all the thick, brackish blue-white smoke that roiled up from inside. He'd hold his breath as long as he could, exhale...then do this a few times. Now, Gramps was a guy raised very religiously, and rarely used even a light cuss-word or spoke in dirty fashion. But an amazing transformation soon overcame him once that Asthmador kicked in....now that I'm an adult I'm sure it was the BellaDonna (loco-weed as per Indians) that did it. Anyways, Gramps would soon get this s--t eating grin on his face...and sometimes begin to tell "racy " jokes to me (depending if Grandma was around or not)...and have the best time "corrupting " me with the jokes he surely heard as a young soldier in ww1. They were never very bad. In fact...I remember one thing in particular he told me when I was in high school, as we drove around his corn field. Pretty tame by today's standards, and I still get the grins when I hear and picture it all in my mind once again. OK...if you're not into these type of things.....quit reading NOW. So, Gramps is on his Asthmador "high "...and as we're driving along...just the two of us....he has his normal Asthmador-grin going on and looks at me as says "Kid.....have you got a girlfriend yet? " And I look back and say No, not really, Gramps....not yet anyway. " And he blurts out "well....when you finally DO....I'll bet she'll have a SORE P---Y for awhile ".....and he just ROARED with laughter. It was So out of character for him to say anything like that, and I turned beet red I suppose, but loved it.....and still cherish the memory. Just Gramps and me.....driving around the farm on an early, foggy, humid Nebraska August morning. THAT.....was what Asthmador did for Grandpa. Obviously, it allowed him to forget the misery of the emphysema that was close to killing him within a couple of years, and allowed him to breathe well enough to blurt out a few racy jokes to his adoring, loving Grandkid. Apologies to anybody that was offended. Love you, Gramps. joel in az. "
"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. "
"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"
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.
"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!! " "
This is a reply to Pat's 2016 comment: My father, now 84 and still recovering from COVID that had him in the ICU for weeks, has been recollecting his childhood memories of his grandfather. He's been talking about the smell of grandfather's medicine and how the smell of marijuana in the 1970s reminded him of that smell. I offered to research it, so I was delighted to read your recollection! Thank you, Mary C Rose
As a teenager living on my own in the 60's I tried a lot of different drugs. Some friends and I ended up in the psycho word at the county hospital after eating spoonfuls of Athsmador. All three of us were there for 4 days, hallucinating all the time. I got scared after a while, during moments of clarity I thought what if I stay like this. Needless to say I never did it again.
I had a similar experience in college, having been a frequent "user" of Asthmador as an asthmatic child in the 1950's. During my first week as a freshman, I was walking down the hall of my dormitory with a friend when a certain odor wafted from behind another resident's closed door. I commented, "Hmmm...Asthmador!" My friend looked puzzled and responded, "That's pot your smelling. They must be smoking in there!" If marijuana and Asthmador are not the same, they are certainly close cousins.
"Hi Pat, I'm Joel....orig. from Nebraska but for years now, southern Arizona. I enjoyed your post you wrote regarding your experiences with Asthmador. My beloved Grandfather had severe emphysema in his latter years. This disease finally took him in '75....after years of suffering while living on his farm in northeast Nebraska. I distinctly remember him using Asthmador daily throughout the 1960's....it really helped him. It also made a mild-mannered, proper gentleman turn into somewhat of a stand-up comedian who enjoyed shocking us with some pretty "racy " jokes....something he would never do while not "on " Asthmador. I have written a long post about this and submitted it for approval. Hopefully it will, and if you get a chance...look for it soon in here, I think you'll find reading it will be worth your while. Your comment about some teens getting busted for smoking marijuana in a movie theatre you were in too, caught my attention. You mentioned that you believed that the old Asthamador product smelled "just LIKE that marijuana. Well....you are SPOT ON! I confess to being a wild teen and young adult who thoroughly enjoyed smoking quite a bit of "weed " many years ago, and the first time I was around someone smoking marijuana I too was fascinated that "it smelled just like marijuana, too ". My guess is that what the common-denominator is between marijuana and asthmador is the "Bella Donna " weed in it. Native American Indians and early ranchers on the prairies and plains called Bella Donna...which was also known as "Jimson Weed "........LOCO WEED (loco means "crazy " in Spanish). Those early Indians and ranchers claimed that "Loco Weed " would make their horses often go "crazy " and would often kill the poor animals if they ingested too much by accident. I would like to find out why Asthmador was finally taken off the market, because if you read all these posts, it seems it was a product that worked wonders for everybody! Probably the fact that it had Jimson Weed in it...which was likely the most beneficial ingredient in it, makes it illegal to sell anymore. What a shame. Anyhow...you wrote a nice post which I truly enjoyed! God Bless joel in tucson"
Greetings Joel E. (from AZ)! I thankee kindly for your compliment, and apologize for this overdue acknowledgement. It appears my manners have gone a'begging and are in serious need of an update! Tis true I tend to work in only 2 speeds - slow and slower - but doesn't excuse my lapse in proper etiquette. FYI: Here's another toddler tale of mine you might find amusing that is peripherally related* to my Mom and her Asthmador cigarettes (*probably a stretch but . . .). We had no television back in the day and I saw my first ever at a family friend's house at around the same age as noted in the other post. Obviously fascinated, I sat glued to the screen. When a commercial came on with 3 little mustached cartoon characters singing a catchy tune, "Cheery Beery Bo Bo Bo, National Bohemian Beer", I was even more entranced. Didn't know what beer was but sure liked the song! So much so that the following Sunday when my Dad told the congregation to rise for the next hymn, I did. I mean I really did, standing up on a pew and burst out in the one song I could remember. Yep! "Cheery Beery Bo . . ." (well, the Bible does say, "Make a joyful noise" yes?)! In retrospect, can't help wondering if inhaling second-hand smoke from Mama's Asthmador cigarettes might have had an adverse effect on me wee brain. Whaddaya think? :) Or maybe I was just a 'wild' tot (instead of 'teen' as you candidly confessed to being). BTW, my Dad, not so overjoyed by my ehhh . . . noise, cheerily paddled my behind!! Again thanks for the compliment. Oh and for the extra information about the Loco Weed. P.S. Now that marijuana is being legalized in some areas, do you reckon they'll bring Asthmador products back to the market??? Best to you and yours, Pat (me from NC)
"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. "
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
"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."
"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."
"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. "
"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."
"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. "
"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."
"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."
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!
My grandma had asthma and end she bought her asthmador from a drugstore with no prescription. She would put in in a metal jar lid and tear off a corner of her paper grocery bag and lay it over the asthmador and light it and inhale it and it really helped her. Sometimes she would stumble a little and laugh about it but it really helped her breath.
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.
While growing up my aunt ( just four years younger) lived with us. She had many nights of wheezing. But I remember very clearly that Asthmador was the only thing that helped her. Years later at a police demo for teachers of what drugs look and smell like I smelled a Asthmador. I agree with the other writer above that if Asthmador wasn't pot it was certainly its first cousin.
My Dad would go to mo. And get asthmador for mother she would put a t spoon of it in an ashtray and burn it and inhale the smoke to release the asthma attack. It would work!!!!
"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!
I am 75 and have loving memories of Asthmador. It made life good after working in a grain bin. I got my first asthma attack while working as the blower operator on our threshing machine when I was 12 years,old. By the time I was 20 years old they had taken it off the market. That year I got a severe attack. The Doc used his "let's try this" method for 3 days before I got relief. It was so severe that in just trying to breath I lost 15 lbs in those three days. You can imagine how bad I wanted some Asthmador cause I knew it would work. Adrenaline in water, adrenaline in oil, amanophine straight lined 3 times, then little white pills.......just because some nonuser had Asthmador pulled off the market.
I’m 65 years old. I used Asthmador as a child, in Arizona. My memory of it, was that I hated it burning, and me having to breathe it in, when I was already suffering. I really can’t remember how well it did or didn’t work, and have no memories of being high from it. I was so happy when I got an inhaler, it worked so much faster, and I didn’t need to burn that stuff anymore. Doctor reports from way back reveal that my asthma was very bad, so possibly Asthmador wasn’t extremely successful in treating me. I was surprised, when I was in grade school, around 7th grade, to find out what one of the ingredients in it was. I found out, when police came to our school, burned a little pot, and said if you smell this at a party, leave. I recognized the aroma, then asked my dad if marijuana was in that medication. He said yes. What a hoot.
I have a full tin of "Asthmador" that was my Grandfather's! I was very surprised to find this site.
Dr Schiffman was my great grandfather, which means we're related! The last name was originally spelled Schiffmann but was changed to Schiffman to hide the fact that they were Jewish. My mother, Dr Schiffman's grandaughter, had a small inheritance that she received when she turned 18. She blew through it very very quickly!
"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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