“We’ll drink a drink a drink, to Lily the pink the pink the pink, the saviour of our human race, for she invented, medicinal compound, most efficacious in every case.”
“Lily the Pink” is a 1968 song released by the UK comedy group The Scaffold who formed in Liverpool and included the poet Roger McGough, comedian John Gorman and Paul McCartney’s younger brother Peter, whose stage name was Mike McGear.
The song was based on the folk song, “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham” and the lyrics celebrated the “medicinal compound” invented by Lydia as a woman’s tonic made to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains.
Born in 1819 in Massachusetts, Lydia, like many women of her time, brewed home remedies and the ingredients in her woman’s tonic became extremely popular with her neighbours at the time and then further afield.
Lydia’s skill was in marketing her product directly to woman and her company used her own face on the label together with testimonials from grateful woman. She used the slogan “A Baby in Every Bottle”.
The original recipe contained herbs which are still used by medical herbalists today.
Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family which is native to North America and its root contains a group of chemicals known as saponins, which have proved to be effective in treating hot flushes.
While it forms the basis of the herbal tablet Remifemin, black cohosh, when used as a liquid tincture, is invaluable in making a woman’s cream to help treat menopausal symptoms.
Fenugreek was used in the ‘medicinal compound’ as an antispasmodic agent to relieve cramping and for its anti-inflammatory action.
The whimsically named true unicorn root has also had many names through the ages such as colic-root, stargrass, starwort and devil’s bit.
Found at the edges of swampy or wet, sandy woods, true unicorn root is a low-growing, spreading perennial herb which has been used traditionally as a tonic to the female reproductive system and to help prevent miscarriage.
Pleurisy root was included as a diaphoretic – to induce sweating – and as a calming herb to help clear the lungs of mucous.
It is commonly known as butterfly weed because of the butterflies that are attracted to the plant by its colour and copious production of nectar. It is also the larval food plant of the queen and monarch butterflies, and bees and other insects are also attracted to the plant.
Life root was another native American herb used as a uterine tonic and to help ease painful menstrual cycles.
Used by the Eclectics – a branch of American medical practicioners which made use of botanical remedies popular in the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries – life root was used to relieve irritation and strengthen the functioning of the ovaries and uterus but also to relieve the symptoms of urinary tract infections.
“Lily the Pink” spent five weeks at the top of the UK charts including being Christmas number one in 1968.
It’s best known for its bawdy and ribald verses which were helped along in the recording at Abbey Road Studios by a young Tim Rice, who would later find fame as a lyricist for musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita and another young backing vocalist, Reg Dwight before he adopted the name of Elton John.
“Jennifer Eccles had terrible freckles, and the boys all called her names, but she changed with medicinal compound, and now ‘he’ joins in all their games”.