Tar water

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Against allopathy
Alternative medicine
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Clinically unproven
An authentick narrative of the success of tar-water, in curing a great number and variety of distempers: with remarks and occasional papers relative to the subject: to which are subjoined, two letters from the author of Siris, shewing the medicinal properties of tar-water, and the best manner of making it.
—Thomas Prior, 1746[1]

Tar water was a quack remedy popular in the medieval period, consisting of pine tar and water.


By all accounts it was foul-tasting and of course entirely ineffective, so it died out, but enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 18th and 19th centuries; it was heavily promoted by Bishop Berkeley,[2] notably in his book Siris (1744).

It is mentioned in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations: young Pip and his brother-in-law Joe were often force fed it by Mrs. Joe.