The drug of our ancestors, whiskey
Whiskey is made from corn, and corn has always been readily available in America. And because corn has always been cheap, whiskey has always been cheap. And in spite of what you may have read about cocaine, laudanum, etc., it was mostly whiskey that people turned to for "medicinal purposes".
Nowadays, we can go over to Walgreens and get some Advil, or aspirin. These medications work better for simple muscle soreness than whiskey, but whiskey was all your ancestors had, so they used it. And yes, once they started feeling better, they drank more, until the drug that was intended to sooth pain had caused drunkenness. The expression that comes to mind is a "slippery slope".
There is certainly no lack of use of alcohol in modern society, but it has become a recreational drug today. Your ancestors would have had a bottle around the house all of the time. And yes, they would have rubbed a little on the baby's teeth. And grandpa would have had a little for his rheumatism. And maybe a little more, and a little more.
Posted by Brad Hall