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Need sweet spirits of nitre (the traditional folk medicine)

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I took sweet spirits of nitre as a child in the 1940's too
It cured a bladder infection that was very painful. Apparently no ill effects....but now I'm 63 and have peripheral neuropathy. Could this be a long standing side effect? Or just a coincidence?

Carolynne M
- Penticton, BC Canada
August 31, 2008

Thanks everyone for the information on Sweet spirit of nitre my mother had some left in a bottle we been trying to locate someone who know the where about of getting this product, I search the internet 2-1/2 years ago it was listed somewhere in Tenn. or Virginia I took the name of the bottle we lost the bottle it came. Please respond with information. Thank You

Tyrone Johnson
- Denton, Texas

My parents used to give me sweet nitre & tincture of rhubarb mixed in water with sugar in the 1940's as a cold remedy. It was excellent. Can't find it in England nowadays.

Anthony Tuxworth
- Grimsby, England
September 3, 2008

Q. Need a Case. The supplier of sweet spirit of nitre please?

Tyrone J [last name deleted by Editor]
wellness coach - Denton, Texas
September 12, 2008

Ed. note: Sorry Tyrone, it's illegal, so we couldn't print it if we knew, which we don't.

I am originally from NJ and am 56 years old.We had spirit of nitre in the house constantly, so it may be a Jersey thing!

Pat Champion-Binkiewicz
- Plains, Montana
October 23, 2008

I used Sweet Spirits of Nitre growing up in Illinois. Always had a small bottle of it in the cabinet. The fever blisters, cold sores were gone in days...If anyone can find it please let us, the old timers, know where to go for it....

Gary Guy
- Weirsdale, Florida

Boy oh boy, what memories this brings back and the unmistakable smell of the nitre bottle. I also a child of the 50s used this to make cold sores pretty much vanish in a matter of days. There has been nothing else since that can even come close to this remedy. I also use to get those sores inside my mouth. I don't know what they were but we called them canker sores. Really nasty looking things. Well if you could put up with the pain of putting a Q-tip [affil links] dipped in the nitre on the sore and hold it there for a minute or so, it did the job on them also. If you have done this ,you will remember the huge amount of saliva that was produced when doing it. I grew up in eastern Pa. just 6 miles from the Jersey border, so maybe it was a regional thing.

Ron Kunkle
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
January 4, 2009

My dad talks about a remedy his dad used in the Thirties using sweetniter, kerosene, and honey. It would knock you out, make you sweat for 24 hours, and leave you healthy 24 hours later. Is there a medical or technical definition or term for this? Is "sweetniter" even the right phrase or spelling?

Allen Morris
electrician - Marseilles, Illinois
January 8, 2009

It is Ethyl Nitrite, Witdulsies you can get it in South Africa

- Madrid, Spain
February 17, 2009

I was watching an old English movie today on turner classics "The Citadel" (1938),
a newly practicing doctor prescribed this medication for his first patient; the chemist commented "if you are not sure what ales her, let nature cure, do no harm".
my grandmothers recipe for her children, (circa 1900 - 1925)
1/3 tablespoon whiskey, 1/3 tsps kerosene, 1/3 tsps honey, stir and enjoy!
Another formula contained castor oil; needless to say, mother rarely stayed home from school.

Frederick Pauli
- New Milford, Connecticut
February 25, 2009


Hi, Allen; hi, Frederick. Are you sure about the kerosene?! Maybe you meant Karo syrup?

Knowing how poisonous kerosene is, I did a quick google to see if I could find any old reference that ever suggested ingesting it and I came up empty.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Yes, It's definitely kerosene. This is a Lithuanian recipe. My grandmother came over from the Old Country in the late 1880's. If you read all the postings, you will run into someone else that also makes reference to the "kerosene medicine."

Frederick Pauli
- New Milford, Connecticut

I was born in 1927 and had bedwetting problems and urinary problems whenever I got a cold or wet feet etc. Still do.
I still remember the sweet spirits of nitre mixed with sugar and hot water. What a comforting drink. And it worked every time. I would really like to find some. My grand-daughter is having bladder and kidney problems too often. I'm sure the s.s.n. drink would work.

E. Marshall

elizabeth marshall
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
April 3, 2009

I googled Sweet Spirits of Nitre (SSON) this evening and found this posting. I have a 2 oz. bottle of SSON that I inherited from my parents which they had received when my grand parents passed away. I have a canker sore on my lip so I went for the medicine cabinet and grabbed the SSON. Great Stuff; dries-up the sore. The bottle must be close to 40 years old, a third full and still has that slight sweet taste. I remember my Grampa giving it to me to use on my canker/cold sores when I was a kid. The product I have was made by Medi-Kay Pharmacal Co., Denver, CO & Kansas City, MO. It states: To Stimulate Perspiration Alcohol 92% Ethyl Nitrate 3.5%-4.5%

It might be possible to find a Compounding Pharmacist that can mix a solution of "Sweet Spirits of Nitre". Good Luck!

Randy Graham
- Cortez. Colorado
May 30, 2009


Hi, Randy; thanks for the info. The reason you don't see it anymore is that the government forbade it.

The FDA ruled that this (and nearly every other traditional remedy that has been around for decades or centuries) is a "new drug"... which means it can't be sold until tests costing many millions of dollars are conducted to prove that it is actually safe. But, because it's actually a very old drug and can't be patented, there is no money to be made, and consequently there is not and never will be a sponsor for those multi-million dollar tests. So the tests will never be run, and you'll never again be able to buy these traditional remedies. Big pharma has succeeded in getting all of these traditional cures out of the market via the same ploy, so you can only buy outrageously expensive drugs from huge multinational companies.

I don't know whether sweet spirits of nitre, or any other specific traditional medicine, is unduly dangerous or it isn't. I am not implying that it isn't dangerous, but I do believe that it's neither coincidence nor concern for safety that has caused this and so many other inexpensive non-patentable remedies to be removed from the market.

If the government was actually concerned about health care costs instead of political posturing, the FDA could very easily fix this Catch-22 by simply conducting or sponsoring the necessary tests on traditional medicines themselves instead of very conveniently classifying centuries old traditional remedies as "new" drugs. But the FDA and pharma are a revolving door, and both the Democrats & Republicans benefit from the corruption, so we'll probably never know the truth of whether spirits of nitre and other traditional remedies are dangerous or not.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

I grew up in new Brunswick, Canada. Niter and Paragoric were both staples in our house. Hot water, 1/2 t. niter, and 1 t. sugar was a lifesaver to me. I had kidney problems. I will be 76 in August. Healthy as a horse. It sure worked for me. Would certainly give it to children, and babies in dosages of only a couple of drops. I loved the taste of it, sorta licorice like. :)

Eve Harvey
- Wrentham, Massachusetts
June 1, 2009


Regarding the ingesting of kerosene; I grew up in Newfoundland Canada and kerosene was mixed with boiled molasses as a remedy for cough and chest congestion; it was also mixed with melted butter and rubbed on the chest and back for congestion, just as you would use a vapor rub; back then kerosene did not contain dyes as it does today

i barrett
- kelowna b.c. Canada
August 2, 2009

My Mother is 77 & used spirit of Nitre for many years & so did my grandmother on all of us & it did very well. I would greatly appreciate anyone that could send me some info on where to get it directly. Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. It did wonders for my asthma & numerous ear & throat infections. Ji

Ji Singl
- Flatwoods, Tennessee
September 9, 2009

I had a hard time getting to sleep the other night, so I decided to have a glass of wine, maybe it would help. When I tasted it, it reminded me of Nitre that my parents gave me when I was 7 and 8 years old (back in the '40's Every time I had a fever, that's what I was given, don't remember if it worked or not. I had to dump out the wine because it reminded me of the "Nitre."

Diane Senski
- Lumberton, New Jersey
November 4, 2009

Hi, Diane. Although I've never had nitre, I've also dumped out wine a couple of times, and it's never easy to explain what I didn't like about it. Now Ill confidently say it tastes "niterish" :-)



Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 4, 2009

I am 52 years old. When I was a young girl my mother gave me Sweet Sprite of nitre for a yeast infection. Three drops in a glass of water for three days and it was gone. I once asked a pharmacist and he advised the reason it was taken of the market was that it evaporated in the bottle on the shelf.

The real reason was probably because it kept a lot of people out of the doctors office. Once again if it works and cost a little. Take it off the market and give people something that cost $300.00 a bottle, will not work, and has all kind of side effects.

Vivian Ingram
- Memphis Tennessee
February 18, 2010

I too was given SSON when I was young for "cold of the kidney." I do remember that it does not keep and that a fresh bottle was always obtained before use. It always relieved the back pains.

BTW, a very good oldtime cough remedy was "elixer of terpin hydrate and codeine." This stuff really worked and was very soothing. Modern cherry flavored cough syrups do not work. Can't get it anymore because it worked and was cheap. The military used it for years in their hospitals and it was called "GI gin ." Tasted something like gin.
My father was given it after surgery when it was imperative that he not cough.

Gerald Koch
- Cocoa, Florida
June 27, 2010

My grandmother used to mix sweet spirits of niter, sweet spirits of camphor, and medicinal turpentine [this product on eBay or Amazon affil links] in equal parts - cured everything - even her arthritis - she had great knots in her hands before rubbing on this mixture and within a few years no traces were found - her doctor was in the middle of patenting the formula when the government banned niter (caused cancer in rats he was told)

Lura Gilliam
- Johnsonville, South Carolina, USA
June 27, 2010

Cloverleaf Salve

(affil links)

My folks used Nitre for rubbing on Poison Ivy. It worked for that as well. As to the question raised about kerosene being used in folk remedies, seems like I remember that that Pharmacy grade kerosene was white (clear) and hhad been treated or filtered. Heard of it used in a number of Horse liniments and dosages too. Bringing back some memories.
By the way, I ordered 5 tins of Cloverine Brand Salve today! And I am presently receiving 'Grit' in magazine form...

M. Lewis Studer
Laceys Spring Alabama
September 17, 2010

Sweet spirit of niter can still be bought today; here is the link:

karen coleman
las vegas Nevada
September 20, 2010

Ed. note: Thanks, Karen, but I don't think so. If you say you are in Canada, the link works; but if you say USA, it says none of their three suppliers offer it.

My parents had me use Sweet Nitre on mouth ulcers(1960s & 70s). A few drops on a fingertip then placed on the sore. It was the best relief and I wish it was still available.

Kathy Robson
Melbourne, Florida USA
January 1, 2011

My mother gave me and my brother sweet spirits of nitre when we were children for sleeping problems.It worked. I have not heard of this for years. I am almost 87

ed kennedy
retired - delray beach Florida usa
January 5, 2011

south africa still sells it at any pharmacy, and its still extremely cheap, its called witdulsies over here (ethyl nitrite & ethanol), amazing on cold sores!

Roxanne Wile
Johannesburg, South Africa
January 19, 2011

My mother would make a homemade ear ache fixer. heating 1 teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of sweet sprit of nitre to a luke warm temp. place inside ears and put cotton in.. It was soothing anyway.

sherry miller
Riverside,California, USA
February 19, 2011

I would like to know where one could purchase the product Sweet Spirits of Nitre. My Aunt told me that when she was growing up and after she got married that she took it for kidney and bladder infections and she and I are seriously needing to get a hold of Sweet Spirits of Nitre.
thank you very much

Laquita Neu
Gainesville, Texas, USA
August 16, 2011

I believe sweet spirit of nitre can be obtained here:
It is called "sweet spirit of nitre oil" there, I think they sell it as essential oil.

You can buy it from this shop in South Africa (shipping might be slow). It is called Lennon Witdulsies.
You get 20mL (two thirds of an ounce).

Chris Hillenbrand
Mountainside, New Jersey, USA
September 24, 2011

I collect old bottles and was curious as to what sweet spirits of nitre was. The label is in exc. cond. and reads

"The Best" sweet spirits of NITRE, contains 85-92% Alchohol, Ethyl nitrite 3.5 to 4.5%. Dose 1/2 tsp. in a little cold water every 2-3 hrs. children in proportion to age. Hance bros.& Wihte inc. (spelled like that) pharmaceutical Chemists. Establihed 1855 PHILADELPHIA CAUTION We guarantee this article to be strictly U.S.P. when it leaves our establishment. Being volatile due care must be taken to preserve its strength. Permit pa. H-16940"

Tiny dot holes on label "14915. 1 Fl. oz." Isn't Ethyl the additive in gasoline? (That would explain cancer in rats). When I was too young to know any better, I drank pure kerosene from a barrel with a faucet kept outside, used for old cook & heat stove. My Uncle caught me, they freaked out, I passed out. (It was clear, came from a faucet, and I was thirsty). "Who Knew"....How many times I did that before?

Paula Ranahan
Bristol, Connecticut, USA
October 16, 2011

November 20, 2011

Hey all,

I was reading about kidney stones at It mentioned your thread topic. I had never heard of it either, but here is the ailments that they were suggested for:
I googled it and came across your site. Here is a list of ailments with cool healing ideas:

Good luck with finding it outside the country.

Mark Leaver
Mobile, Alabama, USA

Sweet Spirits of Nitre was banned in the 1980's by the FDA.

I used to have a book titled 'The Essential Guide To Non-Prescription Drugs' by David R. Zimmerman. It is a 1983 release, about 2 inches thick and gave TONS of info about over the counter drugs, more extensive and detailed than anything else I had ever seen (there was an updated version published in 1995 but I could never find a copy, I would have bought one-it was that good of a guide). It had 2 pages on SSON;the book titled the small 2-page chapter on Sweet Spirits of Nitre as 'Special Warning; Sweet Spirits Of Nitre'. Someone had given a teaspoon of it to a baby (1970's?) to control 'fussiness' and the baby died soon after. SSON Can cause some kind of fatal blood disorder.

Kevin P.
Denver, Colorado, USA
December 7, 2011

A. I am from Staten Island I remember taking it in a glass of sugar water for upset stomach; it worked.

Pat Silletto
Jackson, New Jersey
April 26, 2012

A. When I was a child and had a fever my mother would give me sweet spirits of nitrate. Yes, it worked but the nightmares it produced weren't worth the benefit. LSD couldn't be as bad. It brought out the worst fears and turned them into nightmares.

Ray Stone
- Frankfort, Illinois
December 15, 2012

A. When I was a child, I'm now 78, Mothers would rub a teething baby's gums with Spirits Of nitre. You would rub 1 drop or two on the babies gums for relief. Someone wrote that a baby was given a teaspoonful and it died. A teaspoon full would be a fatal dose. It was administered in drops only as far as I know.B.E.

Betty Echevarria
- New York, New York
September 19, 2013

A. You can probably find Spirits Of Nitre in the Old Fashioned Pharmacies that still mix medications. Impossible to find in todays overpriced drug stores. The Botanicas or religious stores carry it also. The Amish people are also another source. Use with caution. Drops are usually recommended. I was born in Philadelphia which is where I first heard of it. Many people from the southern states used Sweet Spirits of Nitre. Not just a New Jersey thing.

Betty Echevarria
- New York, New York, USA
October 13, 2013

Q. I will like to purchase sweet spirit of Nitre. Can someone please tell me where I can buy this stuff from?

Serena Willis
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December 2, 2013

A. Hi Serena. I think it is available from Canada. But it's illegal to sell it in the U.S.. It may or may not be dangerous (we'll never know). But our FDA is designed to serve the pharmaceutical industry in payback for its large political donations, and big pharma is anxious to pull all traditional medicines off the shelves -- so the FDA made it illegal :-)


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 2, 2013

Q. Hi Y'all
Yes, back in the late 40's thru the 50's and into the 60's
Whenever I came down with something I got the nitre treatment as previously described in a lot of the posts. A few drops of nitre in a glass with a lot of sugar and a little water, followed by a large glass of water. I don't know if it did any good or not. I just remember sweating a lot afterwards. And for years now I have been wondering if it was still available.

Ed Wilson
- Cary, North Carolina, USA
January 27, 2014


Faye Eaton
housewife - Reidsville, North Carolina
March 14, 2014

A. Hi Faye. It's not used for anything today, I suggest that you dump it. It had some old uses which you can read about in this thread though.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 2014

January 23, 2015

I have some Spirits of Sweet Nitre left. But very little. I have had it for many years. I bought it from a pharmacy that used to do compounds. They used to have it in Health food stores. I have yet to find it in Canada for sale, or the US for that matter, since about 1985-ish. A note to the Spirits of Sweet Nitre "OIL" it is not the one you take orally. It is not the same as the tincture, which is what everyone appears to be looking for on here. I just used some on a horse that had impact colic and the vet wanted to put her down. Within 15-20 mins it appeared to kick start her system and she was expelling fluid out the stomach tube in large amounts and was pooping. She even peed. In 3 hours she went from going to be put down to drinking on her own and looking for food.

Gripe water

I learned about Spirits of Sweet Nitre from a 90-year old friend when I was 14 years old. That was about 30 years ago. The stuff I bought then still works and is still potent. He told me they used it when he was a child. It was used for all types of tummy aches, indigestion, colds, baby colic, etc. He said it was like Gripe Water and they used it for everything. I believe it. Fantastic stuff.

I am trying to get it made. If anyone finds out where to actually get the right stuff I would love to know. Thanks for sharing your stories, I am even more determined to try and get more of it.

Jean VanDenHa
- Enderby, BC, Canada

A. When I was a kid I had lots of poison ivy. I remember on summer I was blisters all over my face and hands. A lady who was a customer of my parents small town grocery store saw me and told me to get sweet spirits of nitre. I called my dad who was at work and had him pick some up at a pharmacy. He brought it home and we applied it and by the next morning the blisters were nearly gone and the itch and discomfort was gone. I used it several times after that for poison ivy and it always worked. It seems to me that it was not an oil but a thinner liquid. It must have been a tincture instead of the oil. It surely did work. These days one would go to a physician and get something that cost much more and probably do half the good.

Gilbert Bliton
- Melbourne, Florida, USA
March 21, 2015

thumbs up signMy mom used sweet spirits of nitre for fevers. It always worked! If only I could still purchase it. Wishing for it right now ... my great grandson has a fever! Tylenol not working!

Juanita Harmon
- Denton, Maryland
April 8, 2015

! You can purchase spirit of nitre from

Keren sacks
- Lancaster, California USA
May 18, 2015

Q. The has sweet spirit of nitre OIL -- is this the real stuff?

December 29, 2015

A. The item advertised by Original Botanicals bears no similarity to the spirits of nitre that was in common use back in the 30's and 40's. That was a liquid almost like water that tasted a bit like an effervescent that had completely dissolved and was left for a while for the fizz to disappear. The Sweet Spirit of Nitre Oil is a foul tasting "oil" that may be good for external use, but I wouldn't drink this no matter how much water it was in.

Ronald Tilley
- Trinity, Florida, USA
October 1, 2016

Q. Was curious what was in Nitre as I very much remember my Grandmother giving it to my sister and me to break a high fever. Time frame - mid 50's through early 70's. I read the many posts. I just want to let everybody know we are both alive and well. I sure wish this product was back on the market because I would personally buy it if offered for purchase at a drug store.

Pamela Grassano
- Exton, Pennsylvania USA
October 4, 2016


! Information: I was born in 1946, my sister in 1945. When we were little about 6 or so our father would take us hunting with him every Saturday. We would follow quietly behind. Every morning we would stand in line as our mother would take a teaspoon of sugar and put 3 drops of kerosene in it, we would swallow it followed by a glass of orange juice. This remedy was to treat worms. As you can figure I am now 70 years old and it didn't affect me or my sister who passed away from cancer 6 years ago. We never had any worms.

Margie Reid
retired - Springhill, Nova Scotia Canada
November 8, 2016

A. I grew up in VA and my grandmother was a chemist. She used the sweet spirits of Notre to break a fever of 106. It worked fast although I recall it being nauseatingly sweet.

Harvey Eaton
- Norfolk Virginia USA
September 12, 2018

Q. I'm from Guyana and I use this drug (sweet spirits of nitre) to help my horses pee; I am looking for some right now to use on my racehorse in Canada.

Michael Sims
- Toronto, Canada
October 16, 2018

February 13, 2019

Comment: Hi there. I'm from Mercer County N.J. and family goes back to the 1600s. Two of our family farms are held in trust by GreenAcres and both Princeton and Robbinsville historical society's currently use the main houses (I'm a Robbins on my mom's side, her grandmother was a Robbins the town is named for)...
Nitre was given to me as a young child in the 1960s as I got very bad tonsillitis and bronchitis spring and late fall each year growing up. It was mixed with hot water and a bit of sugar and still was difficult to drink. Once you have had some, it's imprinted as a tanic, vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] , almost turpentine-like off-putting flavor. I'd love to have had it throughout the years and recall my Poppy giving it to my Dad for me.
My mom's mother was a head nurse and administered this to me propped up in bed out of school -- tray table, coloring book, tea and toast fingers, lol...

Sadly, like many have commented, the Natural things and old school remedies are treated like the enemy of BigPharma. They do not want us cured, only using money making chemicals, some causing other conditions.
I will continue hunting this down as I have many things that truly work better.
Enjoyed reading this :-)
P.s. if you want good info look up Edgar Cayce. He had numerous natural cures, many with castor oil.

Debra Jarvie-Sexton
1962 date of birth - Hagerstown, Maryland U.S.A.

Ted, you are well-versed(and well-known) in the finishing industry. I have posted here once or twice as I was in that industry for a long time. I got onto this thread after acquiring a book, titled "Professional Care & Finishing of Gun Metal". Full of very interesting (but seems quite dated) information, and a "relatively old" formula given for a browning solution for damascus shotgun barrels.

After wading through pages of posts regarding 'sweet spirits of nitre', and discovering that this ingredient is 'banned by the FDA', I have questions ... Does the FDA 'ban' potassium cyanide? I thought they only had 'jurisdiction' (If that's the right word) over food and medicinal products. (I have read many references/statements online stating that same had been 'banned' by the EPA, along w/ hex chrome.) I doubt that statement, as there are many industrial uses; to my knowledge, the EPA does not have the authority to 'ban'' all use of a chemical. I lived through the original implementation of EP law, including working in one of only two states that set up their own regulatory agencies (Kansas; Wisconsin also qualified not to be under EPA's thumb). When I see the word 'banned' regarding a (DEA) non-listed chemical substance, my eyes cross. Can you give me any details on this? Not trying to stir up a hornet's nest. Asking from an educational/professional point of view. Please feel free to reply or not, as public dissemination of some types of information is viewed very dimly by some with more money and better lawyers than me.
Are ALL chemicals, regardless of usage, classified or classifiable as 'drugs'?

Patrick Marks
- Chandler Arizona
July 29, 2020

A. Hi Patrick. Thanks for the kind thoughts.
I have no special knowledge or insight to offer, but I suspect that the implication of your inquiry is accurate: that the FDA can 'ban drugs' from sale, whether prescription or over the counter, but does not get involved in other uses for chemicals such as their use in gun bluing. I know that there are some drugs/compounds which you can still buy to treat your animals but which are no longer allowed to be sold for human consumption, and I personally expect that some people buy them and use them on themselves. I don't know whether the Spirits of Nitre used for gun bluing are the same product or a completely different product than the Spirits of Nitre people speak of ingesting in times past.

opinion On page 1 of this thread I cited and quoted the FDA rule that forbids marketing of "Sweet Spirits of Nitre drug product" until rigorous "new drug" clinical trials are conducted. I have no idea whether this particular product is actually reasonably safe or unduly dangerous. My issue is that the FDA knows perfectly well that no seller will ever be able to afford to commission rigorous clinical trials of non-patentable traditional/folk medicines, so the FDA is effectively banning all traditional medicines and folk remedies. If your elected leaders really cared about public health rather than simply granting big pharma exclusivity in return for huge campaign donations, they would demand that the FDA run or commission the running of clinical trials of traditional medicines rather than banning them all from sale in this very disingenuous Catch-22 style. The assumption that all traditional medicines are and were ineffective & dangerous -- in other words that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all ridiculous, laughable clowns -- displays more hubris than I like to see :-)

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 2020

Thanks, Ted, for your unexpectedly fast response to my blurb. When I refer to "some with more money and better lawyers than me", Big Pharma is at the top of that list. However, it is a long list. Vested interests ($$$$) will always play a big part in our lives, like it or not; they will always have influence.

Incidentally, I think the system that Kansas came up with was far superior to that of the EPA. Too bad it was just expedient for the gov't to simply go back on their word.

In my research I have run across a lot of archaic names for what are (sometimes) common chemicals. I think that a big clue in the book I mentioned is that the ingredient is listed specifically as "SWEET spirits of nitre". None of the other candidates in this thread like "oil" and "tincture" are as specifically worded. Exact wording sometimes counts. On the other hand, consistency is seldom found to be universal.

Thanks for letting me rant, rave, and often digress.

Patrick Marks
- Chandler, Arizona, USA
July 29, 2020

July 29, 2020

Sweet spirit of nitre is listed as an ingredient in several old gun bluing formulae.
Its modern name is ethyl nitrite C2H5NO2
It has been banned in some jurisdictions as it is known to cause possibly fatal methemaglobimenia.
Looking at the old formulae, when I had need to blue some gun barrels, I could see no obvious contribution to the reaction.
Nevertheless I made some (not difficult for a chemist but certainly not for home brew), and found that the blueing solution worked equally well without it.
I believe that before we had good metal cleaning procedures, it might have helped to counteract any residual surface grease.
The copper salts found in some formulae work by depositing copper preferentially on some areas of steel when the electrolytic cell set up enhances the oxidation in those areas. Hence it shows up the grain structure in damascus barrels.
Note: this is not the same as the copper selinide in modern cold bluing solutions.
My conclusion is that, provided the steel is clean to water-break standards, ethyl nitrite can be omitted, although it does give the brew a nice smell.

Considering that the objective is to produce rapid controlled rusting, I tried CASS testing solution. It worked fine.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

thumbs up sign I work at an antique shop and came across a bottle of Sweet Spirits Nitre. After Googling it I came across this thread. IT was fun to read your stories so I want to contribute a photo of the bottle. Enjoy!

Sweet Spirits of Nitre 32413-1b Sweet Spirits of Nitre 32413-1a

Jenna Motichka
- Honesdale Pennsylvania
April 15, 2021

! My wife and I were both born near the beginning of WWII. A dark blue bottle, with a glass rod attached to the screw on top, of Sweet Nitre, was a staple in the medicine chests of both of our homes. I remember my father using the glass rod to put a few drops of it on top of a half glass of water when I would wake up after having a nightmare to calm me down. My first was waking up and seeing Hitler outside my bedroom window, in Virginia, which turned out to be a tree swaying in the moonlight.

On a different matter, in 1974, my infant daughter got "the colic" here in Georgia. I rushed to the drug store to buy a bottle of Paregoric as you used to be able to get it OTC. By then it was by Rx only. Ridiculous! Her pediatrician was out of town. I am an Optician, so I called an Ophthalmologist who had raised four boys alone. He talked to the pharmacist and prescribed it. All of the mild narcotic things we used to be able to buy OTC by "signing the book" are now Rx only, yet all over the rest of the world, you can still get them, and we have a much worse drug problem than they do.

Bob Rihl
- Augusta, Georgia
May 5, 2021

A. Thanks Bob. Not only that, but according to Pharmacy Times (, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices wants re-training and special notices everywhere -- from pharmacies, to ambulatory care centers, to physician practices, and other locations -- because there have been a number of deaths due to confusion between Paragoric, which is "camphorated tincture of opium" and "opium tincture" -- which is 25X stronger.

These accidental overdose deaths would not have happened of course, nor would there be any need for expensive retraining & special notices, were it not for the fact that Paragoric now requires a prescription like the opium tincture it now gets confused with :-(

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up sign Yes, I think it is a plot to force you to pay an MD for an office visit, for which you have to make an appointment, once you get past the phone tree. Doctors used to have office hours and you just walked in and waited, or rang the bell at night, and he'd come down in his p.j.s. Also, up until 1970, an 8 year old kid could buy cough medicine with codeine, 4 oz every 5 days, just by "signing the book." I don't recall any drug overdoses being a problem. As a teen, I lived in Knoxville, TN. It was dry, but up at the end of our street was a moonshiner. Two retired old maid school teachers would make a daily trip up to the moonshiner and buy a little bottle of white lightening, then they'd go back down the street and visit a different drug store each day and each get their 4 oz of Paregoric, then go home and chill out. They probably each lived to be 100. Why did the Feds crack down on these mild substances?

Bob Rihl
- Augusta, Georgia

Bob, I was born in 1969 so I have no memory of heavy pharmaceuticals being an easy buy. However, I have read about that many times and enjoyed your post. I KNOW for darn certain that I once heard in a documentary that there had once been a provision in the U.S. Constitution which basically protected the right of individuals to ingest anything they wanted. There is a vague recollection of this going bye-bye once DuPont and the Big Chemical Pigs pushed hemp aside for their more expensive nylon, but I can't be sure. I have been digging for MONTHS trying to find that proviso in the Constitution, but no luck! I feel like a UFO witness, "I know what I saw!"

Dan B. [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Teacher - Athol, Massachusetts
April 14, 2022

A. Hi Dan. A number of citizens' rights groups assert that looking for direct action from Washington is utterly hopeless, and they point to many studies proving that what the public wants has essentially zero influence on federal actions and laws.

But they do offer hope that change can happen through local action ... and your example of hemp is proving them right :-)

What is presently happening with hemp/marijuana is that some local prosecutors in some cities stopped enforcing the law due to local pressure, so their states started voting on legalizing it. It's legal in something like 19 states now, with more legalizing it tomorrow. If the trend continues, at some point the federal politicians with their prohibition against growing hemp will find themselves starting to become a laughingstock ... and even though their campaigns are funded by the megacorps, they know that they can't be re-elected if they are a laughingstock and they'll work to fix things.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 31, 2022

Sweet Spirits of Nitre

on Amazon

Ed. note: Perhaps the same stuff, or maybe not at all. But I certainly wouldn't drink it :-(

(affil links)

! It's available on Amazon for $10 as an anointing oil. My mom used to give it to me when I had a fever. Next day it was gone.
Original Products Sweet Spirit of Nitre Oil for Spiritual Healing, Anointing Oils for Candles and Prayer ⇨

Krisi Stevens
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 22, 2023

thumbs up sign I remember being given Sweet Spirit of Nitre when I was a child (around 1940). I don't remember why though. It had a sweet taste.

Vivian C Davis
July 13, 2022

thumbs up sign My name is Mary Ann, as a child in the 40s and early 50s my mother kept sweet nitre in the refrigerator whenever I had a fever. She would use a teaspoon and a glass of water for me to drink. It took the fever down and eventually it stopped.

Maryann Loveland
- DeLand Florida
December 21, 2022

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