Gripe Water


Gripe water is a traditional homeopathic remedy that originated from Europe and has been around for several centuries. Customarily used to symptomatically relieve the discomfort caused by colic, gas, teething pain, hiccups, stomach cramps, and other minor gastric ailments in babies, it can also be used by adults in larger doses to treat similar intestinal complaints.  

Although gripe water has been used on babies in different European countries and in various blends since several centuries back, the first so-called official gripe water did not come about until 1851 in England, in the form of Woodward’s Gripe Water. Containing 3.6% alcohol, dill oil, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sugar and water, Woodward’s Gripe Water immediately became all the rage among mothers and nannies, who learned to freely use this remedy on their babies for their minor stomach upsets. 

Gripe water banks on the homeopathic abilities of its ingredients to relieve symptoms and to promote health. Homeopathy, which is said to be the second leading form of medicine in the world, with Chinese medicine said to be at number 1 and Western medicine at number 4, works by exploiting the ability of even the smallest doses of natural ingredients to fire up the innate self-healing faculties of the body. And unlike conventional drugs which tend to be associated with side effects and toxicities if not properly used, homeopathic remedies such as gripe water will generally not lead to adverse reactions if the wrong medication is taken for the wrong indication. 

Presently, as has been the case for centuries, there are a myriad of concoctions of gripe water circulating in the market. In general, gripe water can consist of an amalgamation of any of the following: alcohol, sodium bicarbonate, chamomile, fennel, caraway, ginger, peppermint, aloe, blackthorn, lemon balm, glycerin, sugar, fructose, dill weed oil, cinnamon, clove bud oil, cardamom seed oil, vegetable charcoal, and so on and so forth.  

These herbs and substances have been shown to bring about relief from a number of symptoms, examples being the following: chamomile for irritability, tension, anxiety and insomnia; fennel for indigestion, pain relief and its antimicrobial properties; ginger for nausea; caraway for heartburn, gas and intestinal spasm; peppermint as an antispasmodic and for the stimulation of bile flow; aloe for the relief of bloating as well as pain over the hepatic area; cinnamon bark as a carminative, astringent, stimulant and antiseptic; clove bud oil as an antiseptic, antiviral, antihelminthic, and relaxant; blackthorn as an antispasmodic; dill weed seed oil for its antimicrobial properties and to increase appetite; cardamom seed oil as a smooth muscle relaxant; and the like. Some gripe water recipes also include vegetable carbon, which adsorbs rather than absorbs toxins and gases, and therefore works as a cleansing agent that facilitates the flushing of toxins and gases from the body. Sodium bicarbonate works to decrease the acidity of the stomach. Glycerin, sugar and fructose, on the other hand, act as sweeteners which give gripe water its characteristic sugary, saccharine taste.  

Typically, a dose of about 2.5 to 10 mL of gripe water should be enough to effect symptom relief, depending on the size of the baby, and its intake may be instituted several times in one day. A dropper is used to administer the remedy to babies, and relief usually occurs after about 5 to 20 minutes of intake. 

Despite being recommended by many alternative medicine practitioners and being widely used in the US, in Europe and in India, gripe water has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is based on the grounds that a lot of the gripe water brought in from other countries still have considerable amounts of alcohol and sodium bicarbonate in them, in levels that are generally considered unsafe and dangerous for children. And although the FDA mandated the automatic detention of consignments of the product being shipped into the US, gripe water from the UK, India and the like can still be bought in several ethnic groceries and convenience stores all over the US. Also, gripe water continues to be promoted and sold on the internet as a home remedy for the abovementioned ailments, and as a dietary and nutritional supplement, as well. 

Moreover, an article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2000 pointed out that the usual components of gripe water, such as those above, have disputable merit in terms of their efficacy in the remedy of gastrointestinal complaints, particularly those of babies. The review also mentioned that the associated relief provided by gripe water is more likely more of a result of its sweet flavor than of anything else. 

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