Q. As a child I had bouts of asthma and sniffed smoke from a burning powder called Kellogg’s Asthma Relief (Stramonium and Lobelia). I am now in my late 70s and I seem to have again developed mild asthma attacks. I would like to get some of this powder but have been unable to locate a source. Are you familiar with this product?

A. Kellogg’s Asthma Relief was an old-fashioned remedy for asthma. The ingredients you list were burned and inhaled to open constricted airways. They were sometimes combined with cannabis leaves (marijuana). There were even stramonium cigarettes for asthmatics to smoke.

Side effects of stramonium include dry skin and mouth, dilated pupils, problems with urination, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations. For these reasons, the FDA has not permitted medications with stramonium in years. Your doctor can prescribe far safer medicines for mild asthma.

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  1. MKG

    I was born in 1933 and I had asthma when I was in my teens. I inhaled the smoke from the Rexall Asthma Powder. I would put about a teaspoon full of the powder on the tin cover of the asthma powder can and light it with a match. I then inhaled the smoke and it did work. If I smell marijuana now it reminds me of the smell of the smoke from the asthma powder that I used. In later years I was prescribed adrenaline pills. I also smoked the cigarettes as mentioned above. Knowing now that there probably was marijuana in the asthma powder must mean that marijuana is good for something. :o)

  2. D C

    When I was a child in the 50s my mother used to burn some powder from a green tin in my bedroom when I had an asthma attack, it was a strange smell, sort of sweet, sickly and fragrant. but it worked.

  3. Southern Lady

    I used Green Mountain Asthma Powder when I was a child in the 40s. It was recommended by the doctor & purchased at the pharmacy.
    It was declared illegal around early 50s because of something in it. After that I had to take shots twice a week. In 72 I moved to Washington, DC & went to a party. Was told not to go on 3rd floor because they were smoking grass. When the door to the 3rd floor was opened I thought I was a child again. It was my asthma powder.
    I know how much it helped me when I was a child. Medical marijuana should be legalized.

  4. IM

    The stuff in the tin was likely Kellogg’s Asthma relief. More granulated than powder, though.

  5. LS

    My mother had a green tin with powder that she bought in the local pharmacy and when she would get her asthma attacks would go into the bathroom and put some of this powder on the cover of this green can, light it, an inhale it, most of the time it would help her and sometime it would not, and we would have to call for an ambulance that at that time had a doctor would give her an injection and she would get relief. Question? dose anyone know the name of this powder? To me it always sounded like himroid powder.

    • Deborah
      Southeast United States

      I remember my grandmother burning asthma powders when I was a child. I was born in the mid fifties. But the can had a red and white label and had Watkins on it.

    • Margie
      Chambersburg, PA

      The name of this powder that I used for asthma for many years was called Asthmador, came in a green can. It always helped me and I am now 77 years old and really wish I could get some of it as it never caused me any side effects like the inhalers and modern meds!! I used it all my teenage years until it was taken off the market about the time Alupent inhaler came on the market. It never did any harm to my frail, asthmatic, underweight body as a child or I never would have made it all these years! I believe it saved my life and yes, the chief ingredient on the can was belladonna.

  6. cj

    Asthma Relief
    Net weight 5 ounces
    Northrop McGillivray Limited
    Toronto – Canada
    each teaspoon full contains
    Stramonium 10 Grains,
    Lobelia 2.5 Grains
    For the relief of Asthma, Hay Fever, Catarrh and Bronchitis.
    Burn one teaspoonful of powder on a plate-inhale fumes deeply
    through a funnel. Use when spasms occur and not more than
    three times daily for relief. May be smoked in a pipe. Exhale
    through nostrils.
    Also available in cigarette form
    (the container is Orange)
    It was taken off the market in 1983 because people were abusing it.
    I used it as a kid back in the 50’s and it worked great. Still have a little. It was
    the only thing that would stop my coughing and allow me to sleep.

    • sue

      My sister used to smoke Asthmador cigarettes for her asthma years ago when she was young. She was probably high a lot…

  7. nn

    My grandmother also used something from a small green can that she burned and inhaled. I can’t remember the name but I do remember the can was green with red and white lettering. The smell was awful. Does anyone remember the name?

  8. Lola

    This answers something I have wondered about for years. My grandmother used to take the can others write about out to the screened porch to “smoke”. She would sit where the breeze would blow the smoke toward her. She would say she was going to “go smoke” as a joke, and seldom did it when her husband and grown children were around. They teased her unmercifully about it. I had a vague idea of marijuana being involved and this confirms that part. It helped her breathing, but not her eczema I suppose.

  9. BJM

    My aunt (we are in UK) used to burn something on a saucer for the terrible asthma she suffered from… It came in little packets and was widely available from any pharmacy. In my lifetime this was in the 1940’s and 50’s. Sometime in the 50’s the powder changed and it didn’t smell so nice (to me!) and she said it wasn’t so good anymore… I reckon me and my cousins must have been little “users” The house reeked of it most of the time!!
    I quite agree with the comment that there is a difference between use and abuse… And someone I know who had a terrible accident whilst at college here in the UK said “use” helped him no end and ought to be legalised for pain relief. He did not become addicted! My husband, an ex cop, reckons it is pretty harmless if used sensibly. Certainly no worse, if as bad, as alcohol. Abuse of any substance is always wrong.

  10. FrankieUT

    I have developed asthma over the last few years and it is now getting to the point where I will need prescription treatments. Today I was talking to my mom, and she told me the story (I’ve heard many times before), about my great Grandma Brown sitting on the back porch in her rocking chair, smoking marijuana in order to stave off asthma attacks. She had moved to Tucson, from New York City because of the asthma attacks.
    I’ve always been skeptical that it was actually Marijuana. Smoking something for asthma seemed counter intuitive. This was in the 1940’s and early 50’s, and these cigarettes mentioned above might be what she was smoking. But my mother knows the smell of Marijuana, and has since she was a kid. Mom swears it smelled like Marijuana, and Marijuana was easily obtainable in Southern Arizona at the time.
    My mother says it worked almost instantly most of the time. When the cigarettes weren’t enough, she could self administer adrenaline shots.
    I got a little Marijuana from my Nephew this summer out of curiosity, both for asthma and trouble falling asleep at night. I took tiny tokes and found that it did calm my urge to cough, reduce excretions of mucous and reduce inflammation enough that I could tolerate moderate exercise within a 1/2 hour or so. And by tiny tokes, I mean tiny. 1 gram lasted almost 3 weeks. My nephew thought that I must have experienced some sort of miracle, like in the Loaves and the fishes story from the Bible. His grams only last one or two days.

  11. Rx

    I had severe asthma as a child. Our old Chinese doctor took me off drugs and gave me Asthmador (I believe it was belladonna and datura -?). We put a small pile of powder on a plate and burned it; I inhaled the smoke. It gave me more relief than anything and I don’t remember any bad side effects. Unfortunately, this was taken off the market decades ago and is now, I believe, illegal. I get rapid heartbeat when I use inhalers that are currently available and don’t want to use steroids.
    Re marijuana. I was very badly affected by cigarette smoke and constantly sick when around it. In college, I cautiously tried marijuana. It never bothered my lungs at all. I’ve always had trouble sleeping, and one or two puffs gave me restful sleep. I used it for a decade, during which time I worked, finished college with a graduate degree, with honors, aced the GRE (even better than my SAT) and functioned perfectly well. Remember, there’s drug use and there’s drug abuse. They are different animals. Marijuana has valid medical uses, minimal side effects, and for centuries people used it without fear of criminal prosecution. It is certainly no worse than the prescription drugs doled out now for insomnia, pain and nausea.

  12. DW

    I don’t see how smoking anything can help asthma. I have worse than mild asthma and even smelling smoke on someone’s clothing can cause me problems. Also, doesn’t marijuana affect one’s ability to think straight for about two days? I don’t want to let go of my abilities until the Lord takes it all.

  13. JL

    My Mother use to inhale Kellogg’s Asthma Relief, it came in a 5 1/2 oz can it helped her a great deal. She is gone now and I still have a 1/2 can of Kellogg’s I am keeping it as an antique and it reminds me of my Mom. I’m just surprised to find that it was made by Northrop & Lyman Co out of Toronto Canada which is where I am from. My Aunt is still alive, 85 yesterday and it sounds like she would like to legalize marijuana for the use of asthma because she said Kellogg’s really helped my Mom all the time.

  14. EK

    In the 1930’s my grandmother smoked marijuana for relief as prescribed by some doctor. This was in Rochester Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, but I don’t know if it was a doctor there or a private doctor.

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