The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Can You Find Terpin Hydrate Cough Medicine?

Terpin hydrate cough medicine is not found in regular drugstores, but a compounding pharmacy can make some of this old-fashioned medicine for you.

Some old-fashioned medicines have maintained their popularity for decades. Just think of Vicks VapoRub, Listerine or Preparation H as examples. Those venerable brands have all survived to hold their spots on today’s drugstore shelves. The manufacturers have reformulated them in some cases. But what about another old-time favorite, terpin hydrate cough medicine?

What Is Terpin Hydrate Cough Medicine?

Q. I am an asthmatic. When I was a child and young adult, terpin hydrate was the only cough medicine that could calm my coughing spells. Terpin hydrate saved my life more than once!

Over-the-counter cough meds simply do not work for me. I now have a severe cough and several brands of cough relief meds have been completely ineffective.

I’ve been looking for terpin hydrate, but my pharmacy does not carry it. Could you please advise?

A. Terpin hydrate cough medicine was popular for more than a century, from the 1880s till the 1990s. This expectorant was created from ingredients in thyme, oregano or eucalyptus. It was also manufactured from the resin of pine trees (oil of turpentine).

In the 1990s the FDA determined that there was not enough evidence of effectiveness and the compound was effectively banned. Many other readers have asked how to locate this old-fashioned remedy.

Terpin Hydrate Cough Medicine from a Compounding Pharmacy:

You can still obtain terpin hydrate from a compounding pharmacy. To locate one in your area, search IACPRX.org. You will need a prescription from your physician, however, as terpin hydrate cough medicine is not available over the counter.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Surveyed three compounding pharmacies in the Asheville,NC area. Only one older pharmacist knew what terpin hydrate was. All called their suppliers, and no one could provide.

As a young mother, I was subject to frequent bouts of pneunomia, with lots of coughing. While picking up prescriptions one day, our local pharmacist gave me a small bottle of terpin hydrate (NO codeine) and said to me, “Sip this as needed for your cough.” Well, I did as he said, and it worked wonders. One small sip heats up your entire chest area, and shortly thereafter you can cough it up. I used it for years, until they added codeine and would not sell it plain any more. Am glad to know it’s available again but need to find out if it can be taken with the rest of my medications. I go through a lot of 1200 Mucinex. I now have COPD.

There are SOOOOOOO many people that have the same recollection of terpin hydrate w/codeine working for them. So where is the government getting THEIR information to decide to cancel having on shelves what has worked for generations????? Where in the heck were they looking to substantiate? ASK THE PEOPLE WHO TAKE IT! We’re sold but now it’s almost impossible to get a doctor to write a prescription for it (and yes, my compounding pharmacy says it’s no problem to fill. But because of that ruling it’s not readily on the shelves). Every other OTC cough medicine I’ve taken is ineffective. With recurring bouts of pneumonia terpin hydrate is the ONLY thing that works. I’ve cracked ribs EVERY TIME I get this cough, and they won’t give me terpin. Would love to be able to get it again.

My Dad was a pharmacist, and I used to work with him. He always recommended the OTC version of Terpin Hydrate to people with dry coughs. It was cheap and effective.

Is this the same clear cough syrup the Army used to give us for coughs? We called it G.I. gin.

I used to get a cough syrup called “Chericol” (sp)? It didn’t taste bad and quieted my dry tickly cough instantly. It also lasted for quite a few hours.

Wow! This brought me back to my youth. When I was little back in the 1950’s/1960’s, the only cough medicine my Mom had in the house was Terpin Hydrate with codeine. I remember it being a clear liquid that burned as it was going down. I don’t know if it was just the codeine or the combination of what was in it, but it did the trick. I also remember getting it from the pharmacist “behind the counter” and having to “sign the book” saying that you purchased it on whatever day it was. Times have changed, haven’t they?

For Michael and the others, no need to register for a list of compounding pharmacies. They are all over the place and, I believe, in every state. I have used one solely for my prescriptions for the past 12 years and wouldn’t go anywhere else. Just go on the Internet, and look for one in your geographical location. An added benefit is that most of them will do mail order.

To the best of my knowledge, compounding pharmacies are few and far between, but maybe you live in an urban area where that might be the case. I’m in a semi-rural area and have had to search long and hard to find one.

I am old enough but don’t remember Terpin Hydrate. However, when a French friend was ill with a bad cold, I made an exceptionally strong thyme syrup, a grandmother’s remedy in France, It was also delicious. It took a full bottle of thyme (only about three dollars), steeped in boiling water for a day and then reduced with sugar. OK for the cough, definitely delicious. As Terpin Hydrate used to be made from thyme, why not try it?

I worked in drug stores thru high school and college, graduated from College of Pharmacy, worked as a registered pharmacist and well recall selling Terpin Hydrate & Codeine cough syrup. In those days it was considered an exempt narcotic that could be sold OTC but required the signature, name & address of the customer. No memory of just terpin hydrate. I would think it was the cough suppressant activity of codeine that was responsible for “… the only cough medicine that could calm my coughing spells.” If I recall correctly, terpin hydrate was considered to be an expectorant so it alone would not suppress coughing.

Your doctor may be able to supply the name and address of a compounding pharmacy in your area. My doctor gave me a name and location when she suggested I try a particular cream for a problem.

I have had a miracle cure for my persistent cough. Over the counter was totally worthless. I had a wheel and mucous in my lungs all the time. My daughter told me she read this can be caused by acid reflux. So I tried Ranitidine. My lungs have cleared and no cough. I also took a zpak

We took Terpin Hydrate as kids. I recall how awful it tasted. We held our noses while swallowing. However, it worked great. As others have mentioned, codeine was likely an ingredient.

Last time I had an upper respiratory infection, my doctor prescribed a cough medicine similar to OTC Robitussin, with codeine in the mixture, which worked well. BTW, no cough medicine will help a cough without drinking plenty of water too.

Hopefully the opium police still allows doctors to prescribe it to relieve their patients’ coughs.

I’ve heard of compounding pharmacies, but know nothing about them. Having to pay to learn even where to find one sounds pretty steep. (See Michael’s comment).

I used it as a child but remember it being called Terpin Hydrate & Codeine. I think the codeine was the effective part for the cough. Since codeine is no longer available over the counter, I have switched to prescription cough medicines with codeine when I get a cough that can’t be calmed.

My Father was gassed in WW1 and had chronic bronchitis. The VA prescribed Turpin Hydrate, but they added Codine to it. It really helped him and us kids when we had a cough. One probably can’t get it with Codeine in today’s environment.

My husband is not asthmatic, but he does get nasty dry coughs when he catches cold. The usual over-the-counter cough remedies are ineffective at quieting it, which is very annoying to both of us, disturbing sleep and comfort. Yes, he gets checked out by his physician who is sympathetic but has nothing to offer other than to point out that hubby seems to have a sinus opening into the back of his throat and down into the esophagus. It’s a physical thing, not medical. Back in the day, hubby found some relief by taking terpin hydrate which helped quiet the cough impulse. Then, the elixir disappeared from store shelves. I’m pleased to know it can be made at a compounding pharmacy. I’ll make sure he gets a prescription so we can have a bottle on hand for future episodes.

I tried to access the compounding pharmacy website, but it requires that you pay them a minimum of $123.00 just to register and gain entry to their location list of compounding pharmacies throughout the USA. Rather expensive just to find out if there might be a compounding pharmacy in your area, don’t you think ?

Just google it. No need to pay.

Hi, Michael. I see you’re in Newberry. I just moved from Columbia to Lexington. Hawthorne and Long’s Drugs have compounding pharmacists. I Googled and there’s a Long’s on Main St. in Newberry. Hawthorne has a Winnsboro location.

Michael, I just Googled (I searched via DuckDuckGo-no tracking search engine) for compounding pharmacies in
Newberry with several results. cfspharmacy.pharmacy,
newberryexpresspharmacy.com/compounding/,
compounding-pharmacy.localkk.com/sc/newberry.
aikenpharmacy.com whose owner, Joe, has founded several
c.p.’s, including Family Pharmacy on Newberry Street since
1986! The web is full of info, why pay? Just ask!

Just try Googling compounding pharmacy. I just did. I gave me 3, there are probably more. No charge, let your fingers do the walking.
I am not even looking for this stuff.

It does not look like you have to pay anything to see what compounding pharmacies are near your home: https://www.bullseyelocations.com/pages/CompounderConnect

I will bring a bottle of Terpin Hydrate to my next visit to doctor. Do you have suggestion/information for bronchial cough? How may I dry up the source? I cough and expel phlegm 6 or more times daily. This has been going on for close to 8 months. My pulmonary doctors advises OTC syrup.

I believe Terpin hydrate had codeine in it. I remember taking it as a child, but later it was not available over the counter because of the codeine, I thought.

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