New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana (514 Chartres St.)
When to visit: Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm (Closed Sun & Mon)
Cost: $5 adults, $4 students
Time needed: 30-60 minutes
The history of pharmacy is fascinating. Substances like chloroform and heroin were once used as medicines, and leeches were regularly part of disease treatment. You can experience this odd history at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, which keeps limited hours but has a great location in the French Quarter.
Here’s the display of old bottles of heroin. Bayer actually mass-produced heroin as a painkiller, beginning in 1898. It was used as a substitute for morphine, because people thought heroin was less addictive. Oops!
Fun fact: Did you know that pharmacists invented soda fountains in the 1830s? The purpose was to get people to drink horrible-tasting medicines. Syrups were added to the drinks for sweetness, and carbonation was added because it was believed that the bubbles somehow helped invigorate the body and cure disease. Oops!
The Pharmacy Museum contains various nuggets of information like this scattered around the facility, mixed in with the displays of old drug bottles and machinery. One of the exhibits on display is a chloroform inhaler, which was used as an anesthetic into the 20th century. It was used during surgery and childbirth. Oops!
Leeches have played a role in medical care for quite some time. The museum has a detailed diagram describing the anatomy of a leech. For good measure, there are a couple of live leeches swimming around in a tank.
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is a cool quirky place to visit. When you’re partying on Bourbon Street, be sure to make time to check out some pharmaceutical history.