Hematogen: Bloody delicious

It looks like a chocolate bar, but it isn’t candy. It’s sold in pharmacies, but kids love it. What is it?

Child eating hematogen

I’m talking about gematogen—a preventive medicinal product loved equally by children and their parents, sold almost exclusively in the CIS countries, and made of... wait for it... cow’s blood!

If you thought that peculiar delicacies are reserved for France and Asia, think again. The primary ingredient of hematogen—from Greek αἷμα (blood) and γενος (giving birth)—is bovine blood, dehydrated and defibrinated to prevent infections.

Additionally, these tasty bars can include condensed milk, honey, and other secondary ingredients meant but to adapt the product to the tastes of the customers.

Hematogen bar

The story of of hematogen begins around the end of the 19th century, when scientists have proven once and for all that iron is a primary constituent of blood. Soon after, iron and blood-based products became widely available in pharmacies across Europe.

The first product to adapt the present name was Hämatogen des Dr. Hommel, produced in 1890 Switzerland and sold as a liquid mixture based on ox blood (not to be confused with another name for amphetamine).

Hämatogen des Dr. Hommel

The mixture was also sold in Russia, but it is not until 1917 that the hematogen we know today appeared on store shelves.

Hematogen—primarily consumed by children, anemics or during pregnancy—is available without prescription and is used to prevent low blood levels and other deficiencies, treat problems with vision, improve skin, hair and nails.

It is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and vitamin A, as well as protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals, all present in quantities similar to the composition of human blood.

Does anything similar exist where you’re from? Would you ever dare to taste this bloody delicacy?

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