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Musterole (before there was Vicks VapoRub)

In the 1940s, Musterole (a version of Vicks VapoRub), was commonly used.

Applying musterole to a babydoll.Musterole was used regularly in our house when I was a child in the 1940s.

This chest rub, similar to today’s Vicks VapoRub, was invented by a cousin of my mother’s who lived in the Cleveland area. In fact, my mother was named in the cousin’s will and received $50 a month for many years as a result.

Musterole was clearly profitable at the time, but to my knowledge it no longer exists.

I used the mild children’s version of Musterole on my doll in August 1942. The smell was awful, which explains the look on my face. I don’t know what happened to the doll after that, but I suspect my mother did a cleanup job for me.

Patricia Filipiak • Carolina Beach, North Carolina

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacqueline Grubbs October 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

What are the odds of two people looking for Musterole online in the same general time period? I was a littlle blondie like you in the ’40′s. There were seven kids and I was the youngest by 8 years. Mother used Musterole (we called it the “stinky stuff”) She used it on me once. I screamed until she washed it off and later the doctor told her never to use it on a blond (all my siblings had my dad’s Indian blood and were dark) because a blond’s skin was more sensitive.) The stuff raised little blisters over the entire area it was rubbed on. There must be some difference between Musterole and Vicks because I’ve always been able to use Vicks. I love the picture of you and your doll.

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Patricia Filipiak November 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

The photographer must have come to our house and spent the day because I have many pictures of my brother and me doing everyday activities. I’m so sorry you had such a horrible reaction to the musterole. There was a children’s version, I know, but perhaps your mother used the regular strength. Thank you for the kind words.

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Jack Holmes October 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I remember Musterole Had a bad odor but was a good salve.

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Carolyn Brunner October 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I remember my mom using a “muster plaster” on us for colds and flu back in the 50′s. Oh, how we hated that stuff, but I guess it worked, we always got better. Mom would put the muster plaster (some sort of medical wonder on a piece of tan paper) in the oven to get warm and then she peeled off a strip and placed this on our chest. It burned and we howled! :o ) But she just told us “not to worry, it was going to make us feel better in the morning.” Oh, how we hated this stuff, my brothers and I, but you know, it really worked. In the morning, things got better and our colds never reached a serious condition, but oh, how we hated those things. Doesn’t seem like that would go over today, but it was something that was available in those years and it worked, so that was good enough for Mom. My brothers and I are all in our 60′s today and we are all enjoying life non the worse for the wear!

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Sharon L October 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm

There’s something about those old time remedies….my mother used this on me back when I was a child in the 60′s. I wish we were able to get Musterole from the pharmacy these days. As much as I hated that stuff, it was a miraculous cure with chest colds. I’d rather use Musterole than my mother put on that pesky steam vaporizer with the Vicks additive in it. I really hated that!

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Patricia Filipiak November 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I didn’t realize that Musterole was still around in the 60′s. I’d love to find a jar today. I do know that it worked and I don’t remember hating the smell all that much.

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Linda August 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

You can find it on ebay. I just checked and found it.

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Kim Azevedo November 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I work for a grocery store and I had a very old customer ask my for Musterole. I had never heard of it. i was born in 1966. But I told him I’d look on-line for him and order it if I found it. Oh my it hasn’t been around for a bit. But I did find the active ingredient. Glycol monosalicylate GM-7. To my knowledge our over the counter products do have this ingredient. Mostly menthol or capisen. I did find it in a product called Ralgex it comes in a cream and spray. The cream is less than $4.00 US dollars. So I ordered two from an on-line drug store in the UK. I can’t wait to tell my customer. I hope this helps in finding some relief for those aches and pains.

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Steven J. Jacobs December 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Musterol is great!!! I have a partial tube in my medicin cabinet The other day
my wife found a tube that was never opened in the linen cupboard. I treasure that stuff like gold!!!! they meed to make it again it works wonders if you have a cold it works a million times better than vicks ever will and it does not leave you cold and gooey like vicks does when you wake in the morning …. If any one knows the recipe they need to come out with it again

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Scott Chaney January 22, 2012 at 10:01 am

I used it as a kid and when our kid were young we still used it. They need to bring it back it was the best rub for any thing only wish I still had some.

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Louise May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I still have some.
Ingredients?Allyl Isothiocyanate…2.84%
Camphor…5.69%
Menthol 1.89%
Methyl Salicylate… .63%
Glycol Monosalicylate … 1.89%

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Paul Robinson January 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

My mother used this stuff on us as well,only not on me as often as I would have liked.It definately worked,she should have stcked up on it.It was first made in 1905,it shouldn’t be too hard to duplicate.Petroleum jelly base& add to that.

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Leo January 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I was born in 1965 and my Mother always used Musterole on us when we had chest colds, etc., so it must have been around at least until the late 60′s/early 70′s. I was looking to purchase recently which is why I happened upon this site. Too bad it is no longer available.

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Rita Oakes January 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Nottinghamshire.In 1956,I was eight years old,my 95 year old, great grandmother rubbed Musterole on my chest,as I had a bad cough,my grandmother and mother were very cross ,as my skin blistered.I remember the smell very well.She said it was the only thing that gave her poor old arthritic hands any relief at all.

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Susan Layman January 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I have such a terrible chest cold – I would love to have some musterole right now. It was nasty but it worked every time. My Mom would put it on my back and my chest and put a piece of wax paper over it. She would make me lay there for about 10 minutes or so and then come and wipe it off. Sure wish they still made this stuff. Anyone found anything close that works. Vicks just isn’t strong enough.

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Louise May 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Since Vicks was proven to be useless, your Musterole probably only worked in your mind also. Your cold will get better in the same amount of time with or without treatment.

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Jan February 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

As a side note, my mom used to make us EAT Vicks when we had a cold (I was born in 1955). The jars nowadays specifically say for external use only, so I don’t know if the formula changed or if the FDA got hold of the instructions on the package! Anyway, it sure tasted awful, but we did seem to get over our colds faster! I also remember her rubbing Vicks on our chest and then warming a towel in the oven and putting it on over the Vicks. It burned like crazy, but again, we got over our colds really fast. I hardly remember ever going to the doctor when we were kids, it was mostly home remedies.

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shirl February 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I too remember Musterole.. also a small white headed child of the ’40′s. When mom’s room was closed and we walked in to see her… we backed out of the room.. quickly.. for fear that some day she would use that horrible smelling stuff on us for whatever ailment we my have… She actually used it for her headaches because someone told her they had tried it.. and it worked for them.. Now when Vicks came out and we girls had a cold.. she rubbed it on our chests and then took a big gob on her finger and shoved it down our throats, followed by squeezing juice from an orange into our mouths… When we saw the orange we knew something was going in our mouths… praying it would not be caster oil (which at the time was actually OIL!) and hoping it would be a baked onion.. so very good.. We are still alive.. all in our late 60′s.. surprisingly.. lol… I love the memories of her.. and her practicing medicine on us.. But I must say the Musterole worked well for her.. for whatever reason she had…

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joyce March 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I remember Musterole being around in the mid ’60s and haven’t seen it in ages. A couple of years ago, while cutting brush, I got a whiff of some mustard weed that was being crushed under foot and the memories of that Musterole came flooding back. Sure wish I could find some Musterole today to help keep my sinuses clear.

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Paul Manno June 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I remember my grandmother sending me to the drugstore for Musterole many times. I don’t recall it being in a tube. It was always in a white jar back in the ’40s. Many times when I was about 8 or 10 yrs. old, I rubbed it on Grandma’s back and shoulders. Grandma also ate the Vicks mixed with sugar. I’m 75 now and Grandma’s been gone since 1970.

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charmaine June 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

I remember so well how Aunt Dorothy and our mother used to put Musterole on us as children when we were sick. The vapors would always burn our eyes to the point that we would put the pillow over our faces. Sometimes we would cry because of the vapors, but it always worked. Those are the best memories. I wish I could find a jar now.

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John July 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I remember Musterole, but for a different reason. As the oldest of four boys, once in a while I would rub some on the back of the necks of my sleeping younger brothers. 30 seconds later they would wake up frantically rubbing their necks and running to the bathroom to get a cold, wet cloth on it. I tried it once on the back of my neck, and it truly burned. I don’t know how it worked on one’s chest, but on the neck, it was Satan’s balm.

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Carol Marra July 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Is Musterole actually made now and where would you be able yo purchase some.

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Garreth August 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

I actually have a pot of Musterole for sale on Craigslist Austin.

http://austin.craigslist.org/clt/3178542710.html

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Joe September 8, 2012 at 12:45 am

I have never heard of Musterole. However I am very familiar with rubbing Vick’s Vapo Rub on the chest as a cold remedy-I picked it up from my grandmother. The reason I found this site is Stephen King mentions Musterole in a collection of short stories that I am currently reading entitled Four Past Midnight. It is mentioned in the 3rd story The Library Policeman. I looked up Musterole to see what it was and found this site.

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Michael L Chapman September 13, 2012 at 5:01 am

I remember my grandmother using Musterole almost every night. I wish they still made it. It was great for chest colds. I think it was better than Vick’s Vapor Rub.

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Heidi Loftis October 4, 2012 at 12:57 am

I am so disappointed that this is no longer made, My grandmother used it on me in the 70′s & the bronchitis would be gone in a day or so. A minor cold in a day. & Yes I too have swallowed vicks when sick, had an old version of it when my kids were sick & younger & they too as well. Now a days it is more expensive & does not work as it did when I was a child. Please if anyone finds someone making Musterole again let me know. Suffer from bronchitis every winter :(

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gary loftin March 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

I would like to find musterole my mother used it on me in
1950″s it worked very well thats why the drug companys
dont make it anny more

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Gina Lewis October 10, 2013 at 12:27 pm

My Gran used to put this on my chest and it was the finest rub you could use why is it not around to-day I never had a bad chest after using it and now that I am in my seventies I find that I could do with again it used to help me breath and that is what I need in this day and age

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Sheila Seabaugh October 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I remember Musterole from my childhood, as my father thought that is cured everything. OH!!!!The smell was horrific and I would cry when he put it on me. And to tell you the truth, I don’t remember it curing anything, but it sure cured me from telling my parents that anything was wrong. Maybe that’s why they used it, to keep us from playing sick so that we could stay home from school.

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Stu Welch October 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I was raised out in the middle of nowhere. 40 miles from the nearest town and of course the nearest doctor. In grade school we had a volunteer retired nurse to give us first aid etc etc. If any of us ever got a cold she always had a supply of that stuff (musterole) that she made us take home. And she would give parents a note telling them how to use it. This was in the 40′s. Many of us would play hooky just to avoid having that nurse give us that stuff. Yucky Poo. But it sure worked.

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Stuart MacKenzie November 21, 2013 at 8:58 am

I remember finding a small container of it when I was a kid back in the 60′s. It smelt like onions and garlic and was gooey. I had great fun putting it on doorknobs as a prank.

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Robert Godwin January 27, 2014 at 10:38 am

What a surprise to find these postings regarding Musterole. I was born in 1939 & my wife was born in 1952 (she had not heard of Musterole). Told her about my Mother putting Musterole on a cotton cloth and using adhesive tape to tape it to my chest; and, how despite the smell, I would sleep very wel without stuffiness. Musterole really worked. Then I went out in cyberworld and looked up Musterole and found these interesting postings.

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A. Weick February 11, 2014 at 8:19 am

Funny to read all these posting hailing Musterol. I too needed to look up what it was because my Great Grandfather had it on his cause of death on his death certificate. He must of gotten those blisters someone else talked about. Sounds like it was dangerous stuff. Thanks for the website!

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V. GARCIA February 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Musterole……..what a product!!! They really need to bring that back on the market. I remember when I got a cold my mom would rub me down with that on my chest area and then put a towel over my chest area and closed up my pj top and under the covers I went. Well the next day I woke up like a brand new person I would sweat it out!! LOL I’m sure some body has to have some laying around in a ware house somewhere. To me musterole is 100 time better than Vicks will ever be!

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amy ashton February 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I collect beachglass and washed up treasures along the waters as a hobby. I live in Ohio. I found one of these jars that is in perfect condition that washed up here in Oak Harbor Ohio that washed ashore along the Portage River here. so yes the bottles do still exist. ifyou would like it as a( heirloom for your family you are more than welcome to have it. contact me via email. blessings.

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