Gripe water

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Gripe water is a product sold to relieve colic and other gastrointestinal ailments and discomforts of infants. No evidence supports the efficacy of gripe water and its use poses risks to the infant, especially in formulations that include alcohol or sugar.[1][2][3][4]


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.[4] Gripe water was adopted as a prescription by physicians.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] In response to the FDA's import alert, Woodward's and other manufacturers have continued marketing the products, but as a dietary supplement.[4]


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,[9] 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.[10]

Gripe water is recommended by some pediatricians and alternative practitioners as a naturopathic option.[11] 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.[4]


  1. ^ Roberts, Donna M.; Ostapchuk, Michael; O'Brien, James G. (August 15, 2004). "Infantile Colic". American Family Physician 70 (4): 735–40. PMID 15338787. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  2. ^ Adhisivam, B. (2012). "Is Gripe Water Baby-Friendly?". Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics 3 (2): 207–08. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95544. PMC 3356971. PMID 22629105. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  3. ^ Illingworth, C.; Timmins, J. (1990). "Gripe Water: What Is It? Why Is It Given?". Health Visitor 63 (11): 378. PMID 2266018. 
  4. ^ a b c d Blumenthal, Ivan (April 2000). "The Gripe Water Story". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 93 (4): 172–74. PMC 1297971. PMID 10844880. Retrieved August 18, 2015. 
  5. ^ Onwhyn, J (January–April 1898). "Notes, Short Comments, and Answers to Correspondents". The Lancet 1 (Part 1): 414. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(01)98389-8. 
  6. ^ Jain, K (2007). Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art. Duke University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-8223-8973-8. 
  7. ^ Chemist and Druggist 84: 152–154. 1914.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ FDA Import Alert # 66-41
  9. ^ List of ingredients - Life Brand Gripe Water
  10. ^ Zimmerman, DR (1992). Zimmerman's Complete Guide to Nonprescription Drugs. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 0-8103-8874-X. 
  11. ^ Lauren Feder, MD (2005). Natural Baby and Childcare. Hatherleigh. p. 432.