So the medicine worked... now comes the problem.
July 30, 2013 4:33 AM   Subscribe

We used a medicine to deal with colic. It worked almost immediately. There's just one problem...

Unfortunately I've noticed the "medicine" is homeopathic. i.e. it's water. We tried water, water on its own did not help.

So I'd like to try and find out which of the ingredients in this product helped. Anyone know?

(I'm open to the idea that this may not be homeopathic at all - the liquid is black, after all.)
posted by devnull to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Might have been coincidental that it cleared up when you administered it.

From the description it sounds like it might be mostly charcoal suspended in glycerine, though -- was it thick?
posted by empath at 4:40 AM on July 30, 2013

Best answer: Fennel and peppermint are both really good for relieving gas, and peppermint is also really good for other stomach upset, so my money's on those.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

My money is also on the peppermint. Post c section I was told that peppermint tea would help the gas bubbles as my body healed. Also, I used to put gripe water in my baby's bottles and you could actually see how it immediately settled the bubbles from mixing the bottle. So that is my guess
posted by polkadot at 4:42 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's not thick at all. I was expecting activated charcoal to work, but would it work in water?

The website claims a "homeopathic blend of fennel and peppermint". How can the fennel or the peppermint be working if it's diluted by so much that there is no fennel or peppermint left?
posted by devnull at 4:44 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Their marketing copy really winds me up, but peppermint is above the "worth it" line (for IBS at least).

"Homeopathy" as used in the US is more like a catch all term for herbal remedies.
posted by mkb at 4:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Sometimes things are labelled "homeopathic" just to mean "natural, non-big pharma, hippie woo" versus the actual diluted form of homeopathy. Either way, congrats on a less colicky kid!
posted by chiababe at 4:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]

What does the side of the box under Ingredients say, in what order? Because everything listed here would actually be effective to treat trapped wind, assuming they were not diluted 1 part to 100 parts water.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:52 AM on July 30, 2013

Either the resolution of the colic was coincidental or there is some active amount of some ingredient in there. I'm betting on the former because supplement/"remedy" manufacturing quality control is often terrible, and even if there was a lot of dissolved/suspended stuff in the water there's no guarantee it was anything other than dye.

Going forward I would consult your pediatrician or pharmacist on medicines and would actively avoid doing business at a place that sells anything that says homeopathic - in doing so they are demonstrating that they do not care about the safety or efficacy of the products that they sell. I've even seen a few pharmacies try to cash in like that, so it is worth keeping a healthy skepticism at the front of your mind.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:53 AM on July 30, 2013

Some "homeopathic" products have lots of active ingredients, sometimes enough to make them dangerous. For example, Hyland's teething tablets were recalled for containing "inconsistent" amounts of belladonna. Some children were poisoned. With a newborn I'd be especially careful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, seconding just imperfect use of the term "homeopathic". It's often used to mean "natural remedy" or something similar. In which case, yeah, the peppermint and fennel.
posted by gaspode at 5:04 AM on July 30, 2013

Gripe water was about the only thing that partially worked for us.

Yeah, it's mostly water. But it also has peppermint, fennel, and I think ginger in it. And that's the stuff that helps. It's watered down for new baby tummies. You don't want them to have too many things that aren't breastmilk and/or formula.

Don't argue with what works.

I have been there, done that with Colic XTREME! Beginning at four in the afternoon. Going until midnight. No breaks or rests. If it works, let it work. If you don't think it's working and thinking it's just coincidence, cut it out and see what happens. But let me tell you, when dealing with colic, I wouldn't argue with coincidence either.

Go with it. And Memail me any time for any other tips on handling colic. It's the worst. I tried everything and very few things worked --- and when they did, they worked for about two days before they didn't work any more. So I have lots of things to share.
posted by zizzle at 5:11 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This page from the manufacturer shows the dilutions of the ingredients, and if it's accurate, they really are diluted to the point where you wouldn't expect them to have any effect.

My guess is that you witnessed the power of the placebo effect. Of course, the baby didn't know it was a medicine that was supposed to help, but you did, and I think that can make a difference. When I used to be on a dog training list, there were often people talking about how well Rescue Remedy (homeopathic drops) worked to calm their nervous dogs at shows. I didn't get the impression they were just imagining the changes in their dogs' behavior. They generally seemed like good observers of their dogs, so I think it's likely that the dogs really did become calmer when given the remedy. Apparently, the owners' belief that they had given their dogs an effective remedy was enough to change something about the owners' stress level or behavior in a way that their dogs were picking up on. I assume the same thing can happen with a baby.
posted by Redstart at 5:22 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have IBS. I have peppermint oil capsules I take when my stomach is bad. They help a lot.

Peppermint is your magic in this one.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:44 AM on July 30, 2013

Sugar calms crying babies -- I'd assume it's the sweetness of the glycerin in it.

(Look at the link -- it is clearly not a misuse of 'homeopathy' -- it is homeopathic -- it does not have the ingredients claimed)
posted by kmennie at 6:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Peppermint and fennel are great for gimpy tums. I'm puzzled by a homeopathic version of Gripe Water - it's a traditional colic remedy in a non-homeopathic formulation - with a fair amount of alcohol too. That said, colic is so hard on everyone so if this stuff works it sounds harmless.
posted by leslies at 6:48 AM on July 30, 2013

If it's the same gripewater I used with my babies, my hunch was that the vaguely sweet flavor worked as a 'restart'.

So, yeah, like kmennie said above me -- it's the sugar.
posted by MeiraV at 6:49 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My bet is on the charcoal and maybe the peppermint. Let's apply some math to the problem.

This page from the manufacturer shows the dilutions of the ingredients, and if it's accurate, they really are diluted to the point where you wouldn't expect them to have any effect.

1X charcoal, a "low-potency" 1:10 ratio, means it' volume of charcoal to nine volumes water, or one weight of charcoal to nine weights of water (I'm not sure if homeopathy uses weight or volume), which is enough to account for the black color and certainly enough to have an effect.

As for the peppermint, does it smell or taste like mint? The standard for peppermint flavoring extract is 3% peppermint oil in a flavorless filler, which means that the little bottle on the pantry shelf is already between 1X (1:10, or 10%) and 2X (1:100, or 1%), homeopathically speaking. Peppermint extract is quite concentrated, and needs to be diluted again by at least 1:100 (erm, 2X) when used in a recipe, and sometimes quite a bit more. 1:100 is one teaspoon in two cups of batter, for the bakers out there. Therefore, peppermint oil used as flavoring is equivalent to between a 3X (1:1000) and 4X (1:10,000) homeopathic dilution.

If I did the math correctly, the advertised 5X (1:100,000) dilution of what I assume is pure peppermint oil is the equivalent of one drop (if we define a drop as 1/15 of a mL) in 6 and 2/3 liters of water, about 1 3/4 gallons, or as many as thirty drops/2 mL of ~3% peppermint flavor in the same amount of water, because 3% peppermint flavoring is 1/33 as concentrated as the pure oil.

Could you taste it? Definitely. Would it have an effect on a colicky baby? Maybe, maybe not. But it's a far cry from the popular "a 40C dilution of duck liver would require every atom in the observable universe as a diluent" example.

And I'm pretty sure the sugar doesn't hurt.
posted by pullayup at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and just for giggles - homeopathic purists will assert that mint/menthol will negate the effectiveness of any remedy. So homeopathic mint? Contradiction by their own terms.
posted by leslies at 8:33 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

This short scientific article talks about the history of gripe water, and (referencing studies) claims that it's the sugar that does the trick. Specifically, it seems to be the sweet taste, since feeding it to infants through a tube doesn't work...
posted by wyzewoman at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

So based on wyzewoman's link, I'm thinking that Kool-aid would do the trick too?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:54 AM on July 30, 2013

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