THE MODERN DRUGSTORE is a land of rainbows. The perky pink of Pepto-Bismol. The soothing green of NyQuil. From aisle to aisle, peppy purples and rootin’-tootin’ reds promise fresh this and happier that.
But lest anyone be lulled into thinking it’s all fun and games, a familiar whiskey-colored face is still there to remind us that it’s still about killing germs.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the product America trusts with its dirtiest jobs: Listerine.
Specifically, the brown stuff. Official name: Listerine Original Antiseptic Mouthwash. It’s the stuff you find in Pop-Pop’s medicine cabinet that tastes like an old shoe. The stuff that’s become an unlikely super star to teenagers, stand-up comedians, and beyond. And the stuff that was named the most trusted mouthwash in the Reader’s Digest annual survey of health and wellness products. In fact, the 4,000 Americans surveyedby the global market research firm Ipsos selected Listerine as the single most trusted brand in their medicine cabinets.
“I like to think that the burning inside my mouth makes that bacteria suffer,” said one person in the survey.
“There ain’t anything more real,” comic Tony Baker recently put it. “The brown Listerine plays zero games. The brown Listerine is all business.”
Listerine’s savage reputation is no accident. The original brown liquid was created in St. Louis in 1879 as an antibacterial cleanser for doctors and dentists. Inventor Joseph Lawrence, MD, named his creation after Joseph Lister, a famous English surgeon who’d pioneered the use of antiseptics.
The product sold modestly at first. But starting in 1920, Listerine’s fortunes skyrocketed, fueled by a single word: halitosis.
That grim-sounding bit of Latin means simply “bad breath.” Listerine made it infamous with an ad campaign as ruthless as the product itself. In magazines and newspapers, full-page spreads showed unfortunate, sad-eyed men and women being ostracized from polite society:
“They talk about you behind your back.” “Don’t offend others needlessly.” “Are you unpopular with your own children?”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
THE BIKER WITH A BIG HEART
Her son’s organ donation saved his life. So he rode 1,426 miles to meet her.
Starting a New Chapter
Some people don’t find their true direction in life until they are halfway through it
Off the Beaten Path
When a hiker falls 75 feet from a mountain cliff, a young stranger goes to extremes to save her
I Am Mangoes … A Sweet Treat at Its Peak
One summer day in the early 2000s, Pennsylvania dentist Bhaskar Savani sat outside the arrivals gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport waiting for his father to emerge.
Putting a Ring Back on It
It was July 2014. We were building a smaller house and getting ready to move when my husband became very ill. He had to spend nine weeks in assisted living, leaving me to do everything in our new home. By nighttime, I felt as if I was moving in slow motion.
The Art of The “Good” Meltdown
Under stress from every front, we’re having more meltdowns. Here’s how to lose it the right way.
National Teacher Of The Year
Tabatha Rosproy, age 33, Winfield, Kansas
¡Fantástico! Top Folk Remedies from Around the World
We asked Reader’s Digest editors at our international editions to share their popular home health treatments. Here are the ones that check out with scientific research.
A Grizzly Encounter
On a trail near a mountain named for his grandfather, a lone hiker crosses paths with a bear three times his size—and with one enormous appetite
Don't waste your money on these 23 things
Avoiding unforced spending errors will let you save for the stuff you really want