I read this book in the mid-to-late '90s. It was about a traveling snake oil salesman in one of those old horse-drawn carriages, and he had magic elixirs and potions which actually worked. I vaguely remember him giving a strength potion to a guy and he was able to lift a lot in front of everyone, I think? But this guy traveled from town to town, and each person he sold a different magic elixir to.

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    Snake oil generally refers to a product that does not work. Were these potions flawed in some way? Hidden drawbacks you can recall? If they are just magic potions that work snake oil isn't the right term.
    – Jontia
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 5:51

2 Answers 2


Was it by any chance The Divide? (Also mentioned in this question.)

From Goodreads:

Cover of "The Divide".

When Felix's parents take him to "The Divide"--a spot in Costa Rica where the waters that run down to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans separate--Felix finds himself in a bizarre parallel world where mythical creatures and magic are a reality. There, he meets Betony, a tangle child and herbalist who becomes his friend in this strange land. As Felix explores this new world he soon discovers that its mythical beasts and fairy folk think Felix is a legendary creature who uses practical science instead of magic! Will Felix ever find his way back home...and will he want to?

The plot involves a ruthless pixie businessman who is making a fortune selling potions on an industrial scale, in a kind of skit on the real-world pharmaceutical trade. The potions do work, but they've been insufficiently tested and some of them are highly dangerous... also, the pixie's name is Snakeweed.


The Coven Tree series by Bill Brittain:

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    Hi, welcome to the site. You could improve this answer by editing it to provide a bit more info on the book/s, and specifying the ways in which it/they match/es the one described in the question. Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 22:10

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