The Big Easy has more than one way to cure what ails you. Gobsmacked? Pick up Jinx Removing Bubble Bath from a botanica. Supremely hungover? There's a pill for that. But to see where New Orleans' particular mix of medicine and hoodoo originated, you simply must visit the pharmacy museum located in what was once the apothecary of one of the United States' first licensed pharmacists, Louis Dufilho, Jr.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, 514 Chartres Street, offers an exhaustive base of medical knowledge. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, and free for children under 6 if you don’t think exhibits on bloodletting and leeches will give them nightmares. Browse through hand-blown medicine bottles, gris-gris compiled by Voodoo practitioners, and old fashioned snake oil cures all found in the replica of an 1800s apothecary. Pills of gold and silver, shock treatment, mercury, heroin and cocaine are all on display, with perennial favorites like Love Potions and Voodoo Dolls.
Arrive before 1 p.m. to take a guided tour of the museum on its business days of Tuesday through Saturday. If you miss it, don’t come back until after 2 because doors are locked until it's finished. The second floor hosts an exhibit of surgical implements and early dental tools, that's not intended for the squeamish. If weird and wacky is your thing, the museum actually hosts weddings on occasion, but vows are presumably exchanged in the courtyard out back and not next to rudimentary utensils for pulling teeth or massive hypodermic needles.
Alternative healing has deep roots in New Orleans. In the '20s, Cracker Jack was a spiritual botanica in New Orleans. Bridging the gap between botanicas and pharmacists were hoodoo drug stores including Dixie Drug Store which began operating in the '30s. As both were closing, F&F Botanica Spiritual Shop took it's place, and still serves a loyal customer base looking for everything from Go Away Law candles to St. Joseph statues you can bury in your yard presumably for faster home sales. (Doubt if you will, but the real estate market in New Orleans is on fire). Semi-retired proprietor Felix Figuroa (“Mr. Felix”), his daughter Tanya and son-in-law Jonathan run F&F and are willing to share information on herbal remedies from hyssop (blood sugar), to Valerian (insomnia), to bone set tea.
The candles' purposes are very clearly indicated. Come To Me shows a woman affixing a man with a with a ray shooting from her eyes, while others boast powers of Magnetic Attraction, Lucky Money Drawing, and Hex Breaking, proving there's an illuminated cure for almost anything. Repeat customers line up to get their spiritual recommendations from Joseph and Tanya. African Gods Oshun, Elegba and the Loa are represented both on candles and statuary, because Voodoo still has a strong presence in New Orleans from the early days of Marie Laveau and Dr. John's ceremonies along the banks of Bayou St. John. Voodoo, Santeria, Catholicism – it's hard to find a religion that is not represented at F&F Botanica or a potion for what ails you.