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La Pastille Vichy

Located in the Auvergne, the city of Vichy has been famous for its hot springs since the Roman times. Scientist have established that the Vichy waters originate with rain, infiltrate under the " chaîne des Puys" volcanoes, travel at depths of 4 to 5 kilometers and eventually emerge in the Vichy basin. In addition to a few sources that spontaneously emerge, several more were drilled through the centuries to accommodate a growing local population and an increasing number of "curists" seeking the health benefits of the Vichy waters.

The Vichy waters are rich in calcium, magnesium and other trace elements (about 40 different ones) in concentrations of 3 to 7 grams per liter! They are renowned for their digestive properties. They are used for bathing and for drinking. Vichy waters were regulated by King Henri IV and the town welcomed many illustrious guests: Louis XIII, Madame de Sévigné, Louis XV (who also drank bottled Vichy water at Versailles), Duchess of Angoulême (Louis XVI's daughter), Letizia Bonaparte (Napoléon's mother), Napoléon III who actually came to Vichy for five "cures".

Around 1820, a Parisian chemist named Jean-Pierre d'Arcet would prepare medicated tablets with soda ash. He was then allowed to extract soda from the Vichy springs and take advantage of their digestive properties. He shared his formula with many colleagues and Pierre Batilliat, the local pharmacist, started production of what became the Pastille Vichy. Its famous octagonal shape was established in 1856. It was sold exclusively in pharmacies until 1914.

Nowadays, there are three versions available: "traditionelle", sold in grocery stores (it also comes in anis and lemon flavors instead of mint), "sugar-free" also sold in grocery stores, and "pharmacie" with a higher concentration of mineral extracts (3% instead of 0.3%). But the original formula is unchanged: sugar, trace minerals from Vichy waters, glucose syrup and natural mint extract. It's a pristine white, hard candy. This old-fashioned confection still attracts a lot of devotees, not just because of its therapeutic virtues, but also because of its fresh lingering taste. Who thought that "taking your medication" could be so pleasant?

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