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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. Adults may also take gripe water for soothing intestinal pains, gas or other stomach ailments. There is no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of gripe water.
The first gripe water was formulated in England in 1851. Gripe water was invented by William Woodward, an English pharmacist who did his apprenticeship in Boston, Lincolnshire, and later bought a business in Nottingham. Gripe water was adopted as a prescription by physicians. 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. 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. 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. In response to the FDA's import alert, Woodward's and other manufacturers have continued marketing the products, but as a dietary supplement.
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. However, sodium bicarbonate continues to be the primary active ingredient, 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 that have strayed substantially from the original formulation.
Gripe water is recommended by some pediatricians and alternative practitioners as a naturopathic option. 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. 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 little value in relieving infantile discomfort and that any benefit may be no more complicated than the baby receiving some liquid.