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The History of Gripe Water

By J. Andrews

Gripe water has long been a home remedy for the treatment of gastrointestinal discomfort, colic, and teething pain in infants. Gripe water was first developed in 1851 in England and the discovery was actually made by accident.

William Woodward, an American who had spent several years being trained as an apprentice to a pharmacist, was working in a pharmacy in England when he adapted the formula that was commonly used to treat malaria patients. He did this simply because he had noticed the calming effect that the treatment had on babies with colic.

Woodward’s original formula contained sodium bicarbonate, alcohol, dill oil, water, and sugar. Most of these ingredients have since come under great scrutiny by those in the medical profession, but at the time gripe water was considered to be something of a miracle drug. It became popular quickly with mothers of young children suffering from colic and other gastrointestinal disorders, and its use spread worldwide.

Typical Ingredients of a European Gripe WaterMuch of gripe water’s popularity was largely based on the recommendations of other people rather than on advertising. Despite the popularity of the original gripe water, however, it was banned in the United States in 1982 because it was regarded as a drug and was considered to be unsafe.

It is important to note that the chemical composition of the original gripe water has changed over the years. Alcohol was eventually removed because the public began putting pressure on the manufacturer to do so, and sucrose was replaced with Lycasin, a sweetener that is not as likely to contribute to tooth decay.

The original brand of gripe water is still in existence today, along with many other brands of gripe water that have been produced over the years that contain variations of the original formula. At first glance you might be tempted to believe that the different brands of gripe water are all the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are some things you need to understand about the different types of gripe water before you choose a brand to give to your child.

Colic and Gripe Water

Though colic is a condition mentioned often by mothers of infants, there is no exact known cause of colic, nor is there a clear definition to explain exactly what colic is. Over the years, however, it has been generally accepted that colic is related to gastrointestinal distress as experienced by babies. It is usually diagnosed after an infant has cried for at least three hours per day for at least three weeks.

Even though it isn’t clearly understood why gripe water works so well in the treatment of colic, the overwhelming evidence over the years suggests that it is, indeed, an ideal treatment. It is also believed to be an excellent treatment for teething pain and hiccups. In fact, many pediatricians recommend the use of gripe water for babies who are suffering from traditional colic symptoms. It is important to get your pediatrician’s recommendation regarding any type of medication before giving it to your child.

Today, gripe water can be found worldwide in a variety of different formulations. It can be found in some countries on store shelves and it can also be purchased online. You must be careful when purchasing gripe water, however, because some of the formulations being sold could be dangerous for your child.

What to Look For

When searching for the right gripe water for your baby, you need to focus on the brands that are strictly homeopathic. Look for brands that are endorsed by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, or HPUS. You should also ensure that the gripe water you choose meets FDA standards for purity and quality. If a product does not disclose all ingredients on a label, then you would be wise to steer clear of it.

There are some basic ingredients that you should avoid when purchasing gripe water.

  • Alcohol
  • Dairy
  • Essential oils such as dill seed and clove
  • Extracts such as fennel and ginger
  • Gluten
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Soy
  • Sugar

The gripe water that you choose should be allergen-free and completely natural. It should also cause no side effects in your already unhappy infant. The best gripe water brands should contain ingredients that have been proven in clinical studies to provide relief for certain symptoms that are related to colic, and they should also be known to be safe and effective.

In addition to being familiar with the ingredients that you should avoid when choosing a brand of gripe water, you also need to be familiar with some of the safe, healthy ingredients you should look for.

  • Aloe – Helps to relieve gas, bloating, and cramping.
  • Blackthorn – Helps to relieve abdominal cramps, pressure, and pain.
  • Caraway – Relieves indigestion, gas, and heartburn.
  • Chamomile – Relieves irritability, anxiety, and nerves. It can also help with insomnia and general restlessness due to the discomfort that goes along with traditional colic symptoms.
  • Fennel – This is a centuries old treatment for relieving cramps, indigestion, and gas. It can also provide pain relief.
  • Ginger – Long known for its medicinal qualities, ginger naturally soothes gastrointestinal distress and is also a good treatment for nausea.
  • Lemon balm – A calming herb used to reduce stress and anxiety, promote good sleep, and relieve gas.
  • Peppermint – A digestive aid that has been used for centuries to help relieve nausea and intestinal problems. It is also recommended for the treatment of acid reflux.
  • Vegetable Carbon – Helps to rid the body of toxins and also provides relief from gas pain, cramping, and indigestion.

Learning about the history and benefits of any type of medicinal supplement is an important part of choosing the safest, healthiest options for your child. If you take the time to properly research products before giving them to your child, you should be able to feel confident that you have chosen a product that will be safe and effective, and will not produce any harmful side effects that could be detrimental to your child’s health.

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