Vicks is an American brand of over-the-counter medications owned by the American companies Procter & Gamble and Helen of Troy Limited. Vicks manufactures NyQuil and its sister medication, DayQuil. The Vicks brand also produces Formula 44 cough medicines, cough drops, Vicks VapoRub, and a number of inhaled breathing treatments. For much of its history, Vicks products were manufactured by the family-owned company Richardson-Vicks, Inc., based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Richardson-Vicks, Inc., was eventually sold to Procter & Gamble in 1985. Procter & Gamble divested the Vicks VapoSteam U.S. liquid inhalant business and sold it to Helen of Troy in 2015.[1]

Product typeOver-the-counter medicines
CountryUnited States
Introduced1890 (1890)
Previous ownersRichardson-Vicks, Inc.
Tagline"Breathe Life In"


In 1890, pharmacist Lunsford Richardson of Selma, North Carolina, took over the retail drug business of his brother-in-law Dr. John Vick, of Greensboro, North Carolina.[2] After Dr. John Vick saw an ad for Vick's Seeds, Lunsford Richardson began marketing Vick’s Family Remedies.[2] The basic ingredients of the range included castor oil, liniment, and 'dead shot' vermifuge.[2] The most popular remedy was Croup and Pneumonia Salve, which was first compounded in 1891, in Greensboro. It was introduced in 1905 with the name Vick's Magic Croup Salve and rebranded as VapoRub in 1912 at the instigation of H. Smith Richardson, Lunsford's oldest son;[2] Smith had gained valuable sales and marketing experience while working for a period in New York and Massachusetts after attending college. Smith Richardson assumed the presidency of the company in 1919 upon his father's death.

The flu epidemic of 1918 increased sales of VapoRub from $900,000 to $2.9 million in just one year.[3] In 1931, the company began selling cough drops.[4] In 1948, Edward Mabry became president of Vicks, then known as the Vick Chemical Company.[5] In 1952, Vicks began selling cough syrup, and in 1959 they introduced Sinex Nasal Spray.[4] The company began selling NyQuill in 1966.[4] The parent company became Richardson-Merrell and then in 1982 divided into prescription drug company Merrell Dow (sold to Dow Chemical Company) and over-the-counter drug company Richardson-Vicks which retained the Vicks brand.

In 1985, it was sold to Procter & Gamble and Procter & Gamble has since marketed the product as "The only thing more powerful than a mother's touch."

The company archives (including related personal records of the Richardson family) from at least about 1920 or so, up to the 1985 sale to Procter & Gamble, are housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[6]

In March 2015, Procter & Gamble sold the Vicks VapoSteam U.S. liquid inhalant business to Helen of Troy Ltd.[1]

International presence

In Japan, the product is distributed by Taisho Pharmaceutical, but is manufactured by P&G in India. In Belgium, the product is imported by Procter & Gamble and is called "Vicks". In Indonesia, this Vicks manufactured by Prafa, a Subsidiary of Darya-Varia and licensed for Procter & Gamble.

In German-speaking countries, the brand name Vicks is changed to Wick in order to avoid possible sexual connotations linked to either Vicks or Vick. In Latin America, the brand name is simply Vick.

Product list


  1. Beckerman, Josh. "Procter & Gamble Sells Vicks VapoStream U.S. Business to Helen of Troy". WSJ. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  2. "Vicks History". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  3. "Popular Cold and Cough Treatment May Create Respiratory Distress in Young Children". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  4. Brusman, Barrett (15 August 2018). "P&G product – invented in Greensboro – proves key to outfoxing thieves". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  5. "Edward L. Mabry, Executive, 91". The New York Times. 1989-02-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  6. "Richardson-Vicks, Inc., Records, 1885-1995". Retrieved 2018-01-23.
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