Why Was the Taft Decision Necessary?

(Hint: It’s Not Necessarily Why You’d Think…)

Rectifiers VS. Straight Whiskey Interests

To understand why the Taft Decision was so important to the whiskey industry, one must first understand why it was necessary to begin with. And NO- it was not to decide the definition of “straight whiskey.” The reason the Taft Decision was necessary at all was because the definition of “whiskey” was being hijacked. This will not be a popular statement, but…the people hijacking the definition were the lobbyists FOR straight bourbon.

Since the earliest days of whiskey-making in America, there were rectifiers. Early on, so much of the whiskey being made in pot stills was inconsistent and flawed so many retail establishments began blending and refining the spirits they purchased in bulk. They built their reputations and businesses by making tastier and more polished products than the distiller might on his own. The public came to like these products and, over time, the art of rectification improved. Rectifying houses and retail liquor houses became highly specialized and family owned businesses were highly respected. Even though they did not distill the original distillate themselves, their expertise in blending and flavoring helped rectifiers to build very valuable, well-known brands. The reputations of rectifiers have been purposefully smeared by history, but they were not the American whiskey boogeyman they are so often made out to be. The word “rectifier” has somehow come to mean “an adulterer of whiskey,” though that is far from the truth. (And NO, the Pennsylvania and Maryland rye whiskey traditions were not based in rectifying, though I’ve heard that doozy too.) In fact, throughout history, most of America‘s whiskeys have been bottled by rectifiers.

A rectifying license allowed a business to create and bottle their own spirits under their own labels. They were an incredibly important segment of the distilling industry. They represented most of the importers and exporters of American whiskey, the the bulk of the American whiskey sales force, and had the most direct line of contact with the American consumer. In many cases, a distillery owner would maintain their distillery out in the country and keep a rectifying house in the city from which they would bottle and distribute their products. That rectifying house was often a large warehouse on a major street in a major city (Whiskey Row in Louisville, Water Street in Baltimore, Front Street in Philadelphia, etc.). A rectifying house often served as a warehouse for aging spirits whose taxes had been paid and were awaiting use. They also served as blending and bottling houses. There was often distilling equipment on site to refine/redistill spirits stored in the warehouse and often included a salesroom at the front of the house (or adjacent to it) where they would sell their goods. Each licensed rectifying facility had an assigned gauger from the Department of Internal Revenue that monitored each barrel dumped into their blending tanks and each drop of spirits going in and out of their establishments. A gauger would have also monitored a rectifier’s stills if and when they were present. A rectifying warehouses was never far from transportation- railroad or waterway- so the manufactured goods could easily be shipped out to their customers. At the turn of the 20th century, approximately 85% of the whiskey produced in the United States was produced by rectifiers. And THIS is why there was a problem. Not because the rectifiers were tainting whiskey, which is so often the story that is spun, but because they were hugely competitive and presented a bothersome hurdle to powerful whiskey interests looking to control the industry. Smear the competition and the public will want to buy your products instead, right?

It shouldn’t be rprising that rectifiers were able to control 85% of the market. They didn’t have to buy grain or go through the trouble of manufacturing spirits. They bought in bulk at low cost and sold at retail for a handsome profit. Owning a respectable brand was ideal but building a brand reputation took a great deal of work as trust was built with customers. There were thousands of rectifying houses across the country- each trying to win a small percentage of market share. There was NO advantage to poisoning or adding questionable ingredients to your spirits.* The market was highly competitive, and no one could afford to lose their hard-won customer base. There were, of course, some bad actors- as there are in all lines of legitimate business- but even they were not poisoning people. What they WERE doing was lying about the medicinal qualities and healing powers of their products- otherwise known as “the snake oil salesman.”

The most well known of “the snake oil salesmen” was Wiliam Duffy and his infamous “Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey.” The problem with calling Duffy a snake oil salesman is that he was not some jobber or hustler. William Duffy owned a empire and his product had the official approval of the commissioner of the Dept.. of Internal Revenue. Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey had the improbable but legitimate claim that it was legally qualified as medicine. His product was not poison. It was. however, falsely advertised as having qualities it did not possess. Who then, is the fraud? The salesman or the government standing behind the product? And why was William Duffy allowed so much protection? Money, of course.

During the time the Food and Drug Act was being crafted, Duffy was the owner of E.H.Taylor Distillery. At the turn of the century, he was able to snatch up three Kentucky distilleries to put under its own corporate umbrella. Duffy’s New York and Kentucky Company served as the parent company to several subsidiaries. He contolled the following companies: The George T.Stagg Co., Frankfort, Ky.; The E.H.Taylor, Jr. Co., Frankfort, Ky.; The Kentucky River Distillery, Frankfort, Ky.; The Erie Distilling Co., Buffalo, N.Y.; The Duffy Malt Whiskey Co., Rochester, N.Y.; The Rochester Distilling Co., Rochester, N.Y.; The Wolcott Co., Rochester, N.Y.; The Columbia Distilling Co., Albany and Waterloo, N.Y. It is well known that Edmund Taylor helped influence Harvey Wiley in his decisions to sipport the straight whiskey agenda. Coincidence?

The bigger the businesses and the more money they made, the more they wanted more. Now this is where the smear campaign comes in. There was a boogeyman in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the whiskey industry that everyone could agree on. This additive was poison and terrible and ruined every whiskey it touched. It was NOT tobacco spit or acid or any other odd thing that rectifiers were supposedly putting in their whiskeys. This horrible poison was called “fusel oils.” We’ll get to that later.

In 1895, the Whiskey Trust was forced to dissolve after being found guilty of monopolistic behavior. Immediately after breaking up, it cleaned house and repurchased all the parts of its portfolio that were deemed valuable and reformed itself as the American Spirits Manufacturing Company. This left the newly “reformed trust” free to continue its monopolistic efforts, only now as a multifaceted corporation with the approval of the government. They spent the last few years of the 19th century trying to buy up as much of the whiskey industry as possible and create combines composed of valuable distilleries that they could control. Controlling output had always been the Whiskey Trust’s game. By regulating the production of every plant they owned and controlling the flow of those products into the marketplace, they could control retail prices and, therefore, increase their profits.

By 1899 (only four years after restructuring), the Whiskey Trust owned over 80% of Kentucky’s distilleries. This segment of the trust’s “new” empire was organized under the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company. The trust, now on a quest to bring all the categories of the liquor industry under its control, began manipulating the owners of powerful rye whiskey interests in the north. The rye whiskey manufacturers ultimately turned down their offers, leaving the trust unable to secure the most valuable category in the American liquor industry- the pure rye whiskey trade (except for the Hannis Distilling Co., which they were able to purchase). Failing to add the rye whiskey interests to their portfolio turned out to be a very expensive gamble, but with most of the Kentucky distilling trade now under their umbrella, the trust could turn their attention to the aged whiskey stocks they did own- as represented by the barrels held in their bourbon distilleries’ warehouses in Kentucky (and their Hannis Distilling Co. properties in Baltimore and West Virginia). The value of these newly acquired properties, brands, and products in Kentucky needed to be enhanced and nurtured by the trust, especially now that the bottling industry was expanding to include the distilleries themselves. While the Whiskey Trust in Peoria was generally associated rectified spirits and their efforts to undermine free trade within the liquor industry, they were redesigning their image by shifting their focus to a new, more valuable market. Where they once saw huge profits by mass producing rectified/unaged spirits, they realized that even MORE money could be had through the mass producing of more valuable, aged products- straight whiskey. If managed properly under this new facade, the public’s growing frustration with greedy corporations and the general lack of concern for the health of Americans could, now, actually be used to their advantage.

Big changes were on the horizon for the whiskey industry. In 1897, the Bottled-in-Bond Act changed the dynamic for bottle sales. Distilleries, which had largely been selling their products wholesale to rectifiers and others through bulk sales, could now look to selling their products directly to the consumer by bottling their own whiskey. Bottling plants were added to upgraded distillery complexes across the country and the logistics of whiskey distribution began to change. Distilleries with bottling plants and extensive distribution networks were leaders in the trade. This was a huge boon to the reformed Whiskey Trust because distilleries had more control over their own bottling where before the bottling was mostly handled by rectifiers. Bottled-in-bond whiskeys were desirable and trustworthy, and distillers made productive use of this new classification for their products through their advertising.

Whiskey was certainly not the only industry where concerns had been raised about over-industrialization leading to tainted and adulterated foods. The meat packing, milk, butter, flour, and other food producers were under fire as well. By the turn of the century, over 100 new consumer protection laws had been enacted to try to build the public’s faith in food products again. In 1901, a new branch of the Department of Agriculture was founded called the Department of Chemistry. Headed by Harvey Washington Wiley, the Department of Chemistry was designed to test and determine which products would be considered safe. Wiley was a stern conservative and held strong opinions about what was and was not acceptable for consumption. His opinions, unfortunately, were often based more on how he felt about a product than how dangerous to the public’s health it may be. Wiley pushed Roosevelt for a national Food & Drug Act that could serve as an enemy to impure, adulterated and poisonous consumables. What he didn’t bargain for was that his act would serve as “another example of regulatory legislation passed to further the goals of private interests rather than to protect the public interest.” A good example of this was Wiley’s favoritism of butter over oleomargarine. Oleomargarine seemed impure to Wiley, though it was not a dangerous product. His favoritism helped the large milk and butter industry’s cause, so they supported the bill. Many private interests used Wiley’s morally focused decision making to their advantage. Industries knew that they had to embrace regulation, but they could dictate how they wanted to be regulated by involving themselves in the formation of the law. Historians like Gabriel Kolko argued that regulators like Wiley were “captured” by large business interests. Kolko explained that from 1898 onward, “the food reform movement was essentially supported by the food industry itself directed by Wiley, and represented a desire of major food interests to set their own house in order and protect themselves from more unscrupulous associates.” The whiskey industry managed this “capture” of Wiley’s decision making particularly well.

The Food and Drug Act is often associated with Upton Sinclaire’s “The Jungle” and the horrors of the meat packing industry. It’s odd to think that the bulk of the meat packing industry had been directed in a large way by the whiskey industry. During the mid-1800s, almost all existing distilleries kept pigs or cattle in pens/barns near the still house to fatten the animals on the facility’s spent grain waste. This practice grew into very large-scale business that not only supplemented the income of the distillery owners, but normalized the concept of a feed lot. Drovers that would have moved large herds from ranches to markets were phased out in favor of cattle/steer/hog lots where meat could just be regularly trough-fed. This practice led to an uptick in health-related incidents due to the swift transfer of disease within the feed lots. Later in the century, distillery owners generally lived further away from their distilleries, leaving the management and care of their properties to others with less skin in the game. The management teams on the ground were faced with flooding (high water would put cattle knee deep in standing water), disease, and the labor intensive maintenance of the sheds. Large cattle and pig populations near towns and cities raised all sorts of health and safety concerns.

The Whiskey Trust was largely formed upon this distilling and cattle business combination. Its original name was very literally the Distiller and Cattle Feeders’ Trust. The size of Peoria’s feed lots were massive. Even as the two businesses began to part ways in the early 1900s, the investments in those big businesses remained. Distillery owners moved the cattle off site and began to install huge drying machines instead. These units removed the moisture from the soupy feed, making it managable for shipping and export to a demanding international feed market. The stillage waste, without the animals around to eat it, would remain valuable in this recycled form and would continue to make supplemental income for the distillery. The meat packing industry and the distilling industry were never too far removed. Their mutual interest in maintaining the status quo through the careful manipulation of friendly lawmakers had always been a normal part of doing business.

As Wiley began writing up his food protection bill in 1901-02, he was receiving pushback from the newly formed National Association of State Dairy and Food Departments which wanted a separate bureau to Wiley’s Department of Agriculture’s Chemistry Division. Wiley fought the idea of a separate bureau and found an ally in Robert Allen, the opposing group’s secretary. Allen convinced his National Association to abandon the idea of a separate division and work with Wiley. Allen then introduced Wiley to his superior, Melville A. Scovell, and Scovell’s friend, Edmund Taylor. Both agreed to be supporters of Wiley and his Food and Drug Act. Allen constantly sent letters to Wiley warning him about the rectifying interests and the National Wholesale Liquor Dealers Association which he claimed had been raising funds to defeat the bill. Wiley was quickly won over by the straight whiskey interests and agreed with the assessment that adding “unnatural” things to neutral spirits to make whiskey was unacceptable. When Wiley couldn’t get his act passed in Congress in 1903, he knew he needed to appeal to the public. Robert Allen and National Association of State Dairy and Food Departments set up a large booth at the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition, held in St. Louis in September 1904 to promote Wiley’s Food and Drug Act. The Exposition was funded by the straight whiskey interests. This event put “Wiley’s law” into the public eye and secured Wiley’s position against the rectifiers.

Harvey Washington Wiley, Chief Chemist in the United States Department of Agriculture

This campaign of Harvey Wiley against the rectifiers never ceased to be ridiculous. At first, he argued that only barrel aged spirits were free of poisonous “fusel oils” because the barrel aging removed these fusel oils over the course of 3-4 years. Once it was found in a labatory that this belief was false, and that all of the fusel oils remained with only their scent becoming less perceptible, Wiley changed his tact. He invented the word “congeners” to describe the fusel oils that were still found to exist in the straight whiskeys he touted as being so poison-free and natural. After a 180 degree turn, congeners were no longer poison, but essential ingredients in pure, natural, barrel-aged whiskeys. The term evolved over time into the more nuanced definition that we recognize today (the minor compounds other than ethanol that occur naturally in alcohol beverages as a result of distilling and fermenting processes), but Wiley’s original definition was much more self serving in that it was used to spin his own biased narrative. Rectifiers had always understood that re-distilling high wines (140-160 proof) to create neutral spirits (160-180 proof) would nearly eliminate fusel oils. Producing these fusel oil-free products was in their interest because the high wines they purchased in bulk from distilleries notoriously smelled of fusel oils and consumers were clear about not liking the smell in the products they bought. Traditionally, rectifiers even ran their spirits through charcoal to remove unwanted impurities and undesirable scents. They added flavors to the mostly fusel oil-free spirits to create products comparable to the real thing at much lower price point. Here are some recipe examples of the benign ingredients used in their mimicry:

Scotch Whiskey: Neutral Spirits, four gallons; alcoholic solution of starch, one gallon; creosote**, five drops; cochineal tincture***, four wine glasses full; burnt sugar coloring, quarter of a pint.

Rye Whiskey: Neutral Spirits, four gallons; refined sugar, three and a half pounds; water, to dissolve, there pints; decocting of tea, one pint; burnt sugar, four ounces; oil of pear, half an ounce; dissolved in ounce of alcohol.

Old Bourbon Whiskey: Neutral spirits, four gallons; refined sugar, three pounds, dissolved in water, three quarts; decoction of tea, one pint; three drops of oil of wintergreen, dissolved in one ounce of alcohol; color with tincture of cochineal**, two ounces; burnt sugar, three ounces.

Old Rye Whiskey: Neutral spirits, four gallons; alcoholic solution of starch, one gallon; decoction of tea, one pint; infusion of almonds, one pint; color with one ounce of the tincture of cochineal, and of burnt sugar, four ounces; flavor of oil of wintergreen, three drops dissolved in one ounce of alcohol. By some, rye whiskey is colored only of a slight brownish tinge, with burnt sugar alone.

These recipes are from “Knowledge of a Rectifier” by Hilsebusch, published in 1904.

There were certainly questionable ingredients that went into alcoholic beverages, but nothing that would warrant Wiley’s extreme prejudice to rectified whiskeys. Some may say that the addition of sulfuric acid drops to a blend was dangerous, but when you understand that it was used as a pH adjustment- to drop the pH (increase acidity) of what was literally a neutral spirit (6-7 pH) to that of whiskey (3.68–4.78 pH)- it doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

Rectified whiskeys were essentially neutral spirits with additives that were made to mimic the more valuable aged whiskeys on the market. The Whiskey Trust made its fortunes through its manipulations of the rectified spirits’ market during the 1880s and 90s from its home offices in Peoria, Illinois. Now, with its home offices in New York City, the trust had redesigned itself and invested a great deal of money into its Kentucky bourbon distilleries, bottling plants, and expanding those distilleries’ distribution networks. Just as the bottled-in-bond act had been a huge money-maker for the straight whiskey interests, a Food and Drug Act with clauses implying that straight whiskey the only “true” whiskey would make bourbon products much more desirable.

The Whiskey Trust is often painted as the maligned antagonist in Wiley’s fight to protect consumers. The reality was that the Whiskey Trust made an excellent corporate “bad guy” for Wiley to place blame upon. The straight bourbon men would be painted as the scrappy “good guys” that just wanted to make pure products. What the public (and most likely Wiley) did not know is that the bourbon interests were essentially the Whiskey Trust, too. No matter which way the wind blew with the Food and Drug Act, the Whiskey Trust would be just fine, but if it blew toward the straight whiskey advocates, a windfall lay at the other end. Wiley, in all his efforts to stress the purity of straight bourbon whiskey only ended up undermining himself by proving that rectified spirits actually contained less of the poisonous fusel oils than bourbon did. But, no matter. Wiley would go on swearing by the purity of straight whiskeys, their health benefits, and the natural processes by which straight whiskey was manufactured. He even urged, against protests to remove it, that whiskey be included in the Pure Food and Drug law because he understood that its inclusion would mean the addition of the prohibitionist vote. By promoting moral purity and insinuating that 85% of the trade could be eliminated, they would surely back Wiley and vote for its passage. Once Teddy Roosevelt finally came on board with the legislation in 1905, it was green lit to be passed.

So what happened after the Food and Drug Act finally passed? Wiley was appointed chairman of the interdepartmental committee charged with administering the Pure Food and Drugs Act. While the word “whiskey” is not used at all within the document, the implication was that only straight whiskey, or a mix of two straight whiskeys, could use the name whiskey or blended whiskey. Rectified whiskey had to be labeled “Imitation whiskey” which, understandably, was not received well by the rectifiers.

Section 8 of the Pure Food and Drug Act reads:
“In the case of articles labeled, branded, or tagged so as to plainly indicate that they are compounds, imitations, or blends, and the word “compound,” ”imitation,” or “blend,” as the case may be is plainly stated on the package in which it is offered for sale: Provided, That the term blend as used herein shall be construed to mean a mixture of like substances, not excluding harmless coloring or flavoring ingredients used for the purpose of coloring and flavoring only: And provided further, That nothing in this Act shall be construed as requiring or compelling proprietors or manufacturers of proprietary foods which contain no unwholesome added ingredients to disclose their trade formulas, except in so far as the provisions of this Act may require to secure freedom from adulteration or misbranding.”

The act did not force a rectifier to disclose what was in the product, but did force them to call their spirits compound, imitation or blends. When asked why adding burnt sugar was more unnatural than adding burnt barrel staves, Wiley was unsure how to answer. For all Wiley’s hypocricy, he knew that his weak positions would still look better in the press than the liquor associations retaliations against him. He could always count on the liquor associations to shoot themselves in the foot while they cried foul to an audience of temperance voters and average citizens. They would, through their bluster, help Wiley ensure his role as “man of the people” and hep get the bill passed. Nonetheless, their anger at having to call their products “imitations” and their frustration with the bill’s unclear language prompted Wiley’s boss, the Secretary of Agriculture, to tack additional legislation onto the Food and Drug Act 6 months later (December 1906). It came to be known as Decision 45:

“If neutral spirit, also known as cologne spirit, silent spirit, or alcohol, be diluted with water to a proper proof for consumption and artificially colored or artificially flavored, it does not become a whisky, but a “spiritous imitation” thereof, not entirely unlike that defined in section 3244, Revised Statutes. The mixture of such an imitation with a genuine article can not be regarded as a mixture of like substances within the letter of the law.”   

This decision only managed to make things worse, so President Roosevelt asked his Attorney General to sort it out and come up with a compromise, so Charles Joseph Bonaparte conducted a studywrote Decision 811:

“I conclude that a combination of whisky with ethyl alcohol, supposing, of course, that there is enough whisky in it to make a real compound and not a mere semblance of one, may be fairly called “whisky,” provided the name is accompanied by the word “compound” or “compounded,” and provide a statement of the presence of another spirit is included in the substance in the title.”  

Roosevelt added to this in 1907 to complete what became known as the Roosevelt-Bonaparte-Wiley Decision:

“Straight whiskey will be labeled as such. A mixture of two or more straight whiskeys will be labeled ‘blended whisky’ or ‘whiskies.’
“A mixture of straight whisky and ethyl alcohol, provided that there is a sufficient amount of straight whisky to make it genuinely a ‘mixture,’ will be labeled as compound of, or compounded with, pure grain distillate.
Imitation whisky will be labeled as such.”

All the blustering of Wiley and the confusion that the additional decisions added did not seem to alleviate anyone’s concerns. The rectifiers had been making whiskey a lot longer than the folks making “straight whiskey” and they felt that they were being undermined by men in government that knew very little about the trade. If the question was of purity, why then did the whiskey with the most fusel oils have the right to be called whiskey? Why should every licensed bottler in the country and importers of foreign whiskeys be forced to label their products imitations? Is Scotch and Canadian whiskey an imitation because there are small percentages of additives or other spirits? What right did the bourbon lobby have to push out all their competition when the courts had been claiming to be against the existence of monopolies? The liquor wholesalers needed someone to listen to their side of the story. Enter William Howard Taft.

Taft had been a gauger in Cincinnati in 1882. He spent a year learning the business before leaving to pursue his career in law. This bit of insight into the world of rectification was important in helping him to appreciate the complaints brought to him as he moved in behind Roosevelt to assume the Presidency. Taft immediately saw the machinations of the straight whiskey lobby behind Wiley’s claims. He understood that the term whiskey should not be redefined but made more clear. Taft did not define “straight whiskey.” In fact, he clearly stated in his decision that “the term ‘straight whiskey’ is well understood in the trade and well understood by consumers. There is no reason, therefore, why those who make straight whisky may not have the brand upon their barrels of straight whisky, with further descriptive terms as ‘Bourbon’ or ‘Rye’ whisky, as the composition of the grain may justify, and they may properly add, if they choose, that it is aged in wood.” Taft was simply explaining that everyone may know what you mean when you say “straight whiskey” but it doesn’t give the makers of straight whiskey the right to claim the term “whisky” as belonging to them. He was concerned more with false advertising and with those making inaccurate statements of age and false claims about what was actually being bottled. If you make rectified, redistilled or neutral whiskies, you shouldn’t be dishonest about it. If you are satisfied with the quality of your product, you shouldn’t be ashamed to be honest about those products. He sought fairness from an industry that was eager to unfairly stamp out competition.

“ After an investigation of all evidence, it seems to me overwhelmingly established that for a hundred years the term ‘whiskey’ in the trade and among the customers has included all potable liquor distilled from grain ; that the straight whiskey is, as compared with the whiskey made by rectification or redistillation and flavoring and coloring matter, a subsequent improvement, and that, therefore, is a perversion of the pure food act to attempt now to limit the meaning of the term ‘ whiskey’ to that which modern manufacture and taste have made the most desirable variety.”

The Taft Decision in 1909 was not come to lightly. Taft had wanted more than anything (even more than becoming President) to become a Supreme Court judge. He was a meticulous researcher and spent months deliberating over the issue presented to him. “What is whiskey?” The question had largely been answered by consumers a long time before Taft was forced to define it legally. The straight whiskey lobby needed to be reminded that they weren’t the only folks allowed to play the game.

So why were the pure rye whiskey folks not a vocal participant in this fiasco? Simply put, they didn’t need to be. The rye whiskey market held its own place in the whiskey industry and wherever the decision landed, they would be just fine. They never called their spirits “straight.” They called their spirits “pure” which was already something Harvey Wiley advocated. In fact, when Wiley studied the Scotch and Irish whiskey distilling industry at the turn of the century, it was the Pennsylvania and Maryland whiskey distillers that most closely resembled that traditional style of whiskey making in America. Rye whiskey producers sold to rectifiers the same way the bourbon interests did, but they were not threatened by the success or failure of either side of the argument. While the Whiskey Trust fought over market share, the rye whiskey distillers were comfortably seated in their own niche market that the bourbon distillers were not a part of. They happily embraced the bottled in bond act without argument because it suited their needs and even helped to elevate their status. When the Whiskey Trust was unable to secure the rye whiskey interests in 1899, they were able to just sit back and watch the sparks fly.     

*The concept of tainted whiskey is more closley associated with moonshiners and the often poisonous rectified products that were consumed during Prohibition. Anyone trying to make a quick buck should not have been trusted, but desperate times created a plethora of dangerous “whiskeys” that people bought anyway. (blindness, “jake leg,” etc.)

**Creosote Oil is herbal oil made from Creosote Bush better known as Chaparral (Larrea Tridentata) native to the deserts of the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. It is very useful herbal oil and has health benefits. Creosote bush oil contains a variety of nutrients and compounds which have medicinal value. The bush contains a small fraction of its weight as volatile oils, which are tapped using steam distillation.

***Cochineal is used principally as a coloring agent. A tincture of cochineal is prepared and sometimes used as an ingredient of cough mixtures, but it has no medicinal virtues. (Think “red dye #6”)

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