Gripe water

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Gripe water is a liquid given to infants with colic, gastrointestinal discomfort, teething pain, reflux and other stomach ailments. Its ingredients vary, and may include alcohol, a bicarbonate, ginger, dill, fennel and chamomile. It is typically given to an infant with a dropper in liquid form, and adults may also take gripe water for soothing intestinal pains, gas or other stomach ailments.[1] As of 2000, there was no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of gripe water.[1]


The first "gripe water" was formulated in England in 1851 and used by English nannies. Gripe water was invented by William Woodward, an English pharmacist who did his apprenticeship in Boston, Lincolnshire, and later bought a business in Nottingham.[1] Gripe water was adopted as a prescription by physicians.[2] In the 1840s babies in Eastern England were afflicted by a condition known as "fen fever", and during that time there was also an outbreak of malaria in England.[3] Woodward took his inspiration from the treatments for malaria and "fen fever". He noted that the formula used to treat fen fever was an effective "soother of fretful babies and provided relief from gastrointestinal troubles in infants." The original Woodward's Gripe Water contained 3.6% alcohol, dill oil, sodium bicarbonate, sugar, and water. Woodward registered "Gripe Water" as a trademark in 1876.[4] It was initially marketed with the slogan "Granny told Mother and Mother told me."

In 1993, the United States Food and Drug Administration ordered an automatic detention of all shipments of Woodward's into the U.S. on the basis of its being an unapproved drug.[5] In response of the FDA's import alert, Woodward's and other manufacturers have continued marketing the products, but as a dietary supplement.[1]


The formulation now varies according to the country of manufacture. In many countries, including the US, alcohol and sucrose have been replaced with other ingredients.[citation needed] However, sodium bicarbonate continues to be the primary active ingredient,[6] along with the mainstays of dill and fennel oils. While evidence of gripe water's effectiveness has been limited to anecdotal accounts, there has been speculation[who?] about the reasons for the perceived effectiveness of gripe water. Its commercial success has led to imitations, including some of which that have strayed substantially from the original formulation.[7]

Gripe water is recommended by some pediatricians and alternative practitioners as a naturopathic treatment option.[8] It is available in the United States as an over-the-counter supplement rather than as a medicine regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is also available in various dietary supplement forms. Gripe water continues to be a very popular remedy for colic and other minor gastrointestinal upsets including flatulence.[citation needed] Many people[who?] now consider it to be a viable and preferable alternative to common medications.[9] A 2000 review in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that most of the ingredients in Woodward's gripe water are of questionable value in relieving infantile discomfort and that getting a fussy baby to stop crying may be no more complicated than giving it some liquid.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Blumenthal, I (April 2000). "The Gripe Water Story". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 93 (4): 172–174. PMC 1297971. PMID 10844880. 
  2. ^ Onwhyn, J (January–April 1898). "Notes, Short Comments, and Answers to Correspondents". The Lancet 1 (Part 1): 414. 
  3. ^ Jain, K (2007). Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art. Duke University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-8223-8973-8. 
  4. ^ Chemist and Druggist 84: 152–154. 1914. 
  5. ^ FDA Import Alert # 66-41
  6. ^ List of ingredients - Life Brand Gripe Water
  7. ^ Zimmerman, DR (1992). Zimmerman's Complete Guide to Nonprescription Drugs. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 0-8103-8874-X. 
  8. ^ Lauren Feder, MD (2005). Natural Baby and Childcare. Hatherleigh. p. 432. 
  9. ^ Lester, BM; O'Neill, G (2005). Why Is My Baby Crying? The Parent's Survival Guide for Coping with Crying Problems and Colic. HarperCollins. pp. 111–112. ISBN 0-06-052714-5.