I feel a bit bottled up


Maybe I should run down to the store and pick up a laxative. Maybe I’ll get a bottle of this homeopathic stuff…can’t hurt. Hey, maybe I’ll pick up a case. Yvette d’Entremont recommends CVS’s homeopathic constipation relief.

The bottle, which listed 20 percent alcohol as an inactive ingredient, is sold over the counter with no age requirements. One of the NBC4 I-Team producers recorded her teen daughter buying the product without any questions asked.

“It’s really just alcohol and water,” d’Entremont said.

Yay homeopathy!

Science blogger Yvette d’Entremont, an analytical chemist, conducted an unusual experiment to demonstrate the potential impact. Known as the “Sci-Babe” on YouTube, d’Entremont recorded herself opening and drinking six bottles of the laxative — each has 1 fluid ounce of liquid.

One ounce? That’s about as much as a shot. But it’s a laxative…guzzling down 6 doses must have had her excreting explosively.

Or not?

She rinsed her mouth with a Diet Coke, waited a half-hour and gave herself a breath test that showed she was well above the legal limit. But she said there was “no laxative effect whatsoever.”

So…I bet CVS is going to have a sudden run of constipated teenagers rushing their door now.


  1. sugarfrosted says

    I mean a side effect of heavy intoxication can be incontinence, maybe she just didn’t drink enough.

  2. Duckbilled Platypus says

    I remember my parents giving me homeopathic drinks with exotic names like Nux Vomica or Bella Donna. I found out that a drop on the tongue left a burning sensation. Because of the strong taste, I initially never understood how people could argue that homeopathics were just watery diluted stuff. In fact the drops I got were always supposed to be diluted with water – usually ten drops to a small glass, so it was nothing effective enough to get a buzz from.

    As a child I attributed the taste of the drops to the ‘medical’ ingredients, but I didn’t even know that homeopathy meant stuff got diluted. Much, much later I found out that the taste was just the alcohol. So effectively, my parents were diluting a medicine diluted with water, with water.

    These were almost always used to ‘cure’ common colds or other transient ailings, so obviously my parents usually proclaimed victory for themselves for doing a job just as good as the doctor.

  3. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Ahh, but everyone knows that a smaller homeopathic dose is stronger, so by guzzling around 177 doses (six bottles), she minimized the effect of the remedy to nothing.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    I find that a bout of multiple drinks does indeed have a laxative effect for me the next day. Maybe that’s just my particular metabolism, but in any case waiting almost 24 hours for relief is probably not what potential buyers are hoping for.

  5. robro says

    I thought most teens were smart enough to know how to get decent booze at a better price per unit of alcohol, so they wouldn’t bother with this crap. My wife swears by her homeopathic allergy “medicines,” one of which says it’s 40%-60% Organic Grain Alcohol and the other is 30%-50% Organic Ethyl Alcohol. Being organic makes all the difference. A dropper full on the tongue a few times a day makes her feel better. My lips are sealed.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I had a colonoscopy a couple of years ago. The laxatives to clear the bowels worked in about an hour, and they required a prescription…..This is why ALL OTC remedies should be under FDA control.

  7. unclefrogy says

    He was, as everyone agrees, exactly what he appeared to be—nothing

    truer words were never spoken!

    the things he said sounded different if I did not see him say them (on TV) but only heard him on the radio
    uncle frogy

  8. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    The bottle, which listed 20 percent alcohol as an inactive ingredient,
    umm, confused. Isn’t that self-contradictory? How is it possible to have (non toxic) alcohol inactive? I guess it is a loophole in the FDA definition of active, v inactive, ingredient. If that last guess is correct, seems the term should be defined a little more rigorously.

    20% alcohol, is conventionally referred to as 40 proof.
    – Beer is 10-12%, typically 6%.
    – Wine is 9-16%
    does AA know about this?

  9. futurechemist says

    I got into a discussion with someone about homeopathic medicines. I tried to explain that since the active ingredient was diluted into nothingness it couldn’t be having an effect so there was no point to buying them. They responded that every time they or a family member took a homeopathic medicine, they felt better, so there must be something to it. I tried to counter that any positive effect was either a placebo effect, an active “inactive” ingredient, or just coincidental timing. I don’t think my argument got through to them.

    I’ve also noticed that quite a few other homeopathics have suspicious inactive ingredients. There’s a homeopathic ear wax remover that’s various 12X active ingredients and 100% mineral oil. Perhaps the inactive mineral oil helps to soften or dissolve the earwax…

  10. says

    @microraptor @1:
    Listerine and various other mouthwashes are more than 20% alcohol by volume to kept the antimicrobials in solution, and aren’t regulated as alcohol products – presumably because not many people are going to get drunk off of something as foul-tasting as Listerine. As opposed to what CVS is selling.
    @Nerd @8:
    If I understand correctly, the standard prep laxatives for colonoscopy are generally also available over-the-counter (e.g. polyethylene glycol 3350 as Miralax and generics). The prep kits are, however, a very high dose. And you’re quite right – it is not acceptable that quacks can get away with selling sugar pills and booze and claim they’re medicine.

  11. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    michaelbusch #14, I have no idea why Listerene and such products aren’t regulated, but in disadvantaged neighbourhoods they are often kept behind the counter. They are consumed by desperate addicted homeless folks when they can get nothing else.

    I once worked in a used book store in an inner city. I used to get asked for water, “For my car’s radiator.” by the same folks that I’d see sleeping in the park next door. They would use some of it to cut down Lysol household cleaner for drinking. Lysol has a small percentage of ethanol as well as isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and a bunch of other toxic nasties. The utter desperation needed to go to that extreme was painful to behold.

  12. blf says

    Quite a number (I have no idea what percentage) of homeopathetic placebos and poisons — they are not “medicines”, people, stop calling them “medicine” — contain active ingredients. Whether or not the ingredient is active with respect to the whatever the placebo/poison claims it “treats” is a different matter. Some, as in this case, are not. And I seem to recall a case where the active ingredient just-so-happened to be the medical treatment for the whatever(allergy?), albeit I haven’t been able to find a reference (sorry!).

    Something that hasn’t been pointed out here yet is that, at least in the USA, the ingredients list on homeopathetic placebos/poisons are unverified claims. There is no requirement that the listed ingredients have anything to do with the actual ingredients, or even be real substances. As far as I know, you could claim your Sooper™ Dooper© Cure® consists of 127% dinasour fur, -4% slod, modified water (He3O), and Teh Trum-prat’s brain, and that would be perfectly legal, and would remain perfectly legal even if each and every jar contained something unique not in an other jar of Sooper™ Dooper© Cure® (e.g., common mud in jar serial #12, dog turds in jar serial #82, and arsenic in jar serial #83).

    Reason? The stuff is neither a food nor a drug. It’s a regulatory loophole so large that, paraphrasing from Orac, “you could drive the Death Star through it”. (Orac was actually referring to absence of any requirement for FDA approval, i.e., safety and efficacy testing.) I do wonder about “truth in advertising”, however… and, since we are dealing with liars, crooks, and quacks, tax fraud…

    Some time again there was a scandal when a homeopathetic poison called “Zicam”, sold as a cold cure(?), caused numerous people to loose their sense of smell. Reason? It contain zinc, very much an active ingredient.

    Orac’s article, and also Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, on the Zicam incident and the quack’s evasions and denials make infuriating reading.

  13. Matrim says


    That Zicam stuff was nasty, like physically painful to hold in your mouth. I was camping last year and got quite sick. Someone gave me a Zicam, which I took to be a throat lozenge (having never heard of it before). A friend (who was also sick) and I sucked on them for a while and we both noticed no real relief but a growing painful nettling sensation in our mouths. I spit mine out after about 10 minutes. Glad I didn’t lose my sense of smell.

  14. Who Cares says

    Simple it is in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia. And the same law that created the FDA stipulates that anything in that turd pile is a legal medical remedy. The only thing the FDA can do is to determine, based on the non existent original ingredients, if this snake oil can be over the counter. For bonus points this Pharmacopoeia is not controlled by the FDA.

    @Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls(#8):
    They are. The FDA determined, as is required by law, that the original ingredients were not dangerous so the stuff can be sold over the counter. That is the vile thing about this, the people at the FDA (probably) know that homeopathic remedies are quack medicine but by law they cannot make a determination other then it has to be on recipe or over the counter. And that determination can only be based on the ‘active’ ingredient(s) and not on for example things like the stuff contains enough alcohol to keep alcoholic tremors at bay.

    You are wrong on the thinking that anything can be in a homeopathic ‘remedy’. It has to be created as set forth in the pharmacopoeia. Putting crap in like you suggested would get the FDA after you (if discovered) seeing that one of the few things they can do with homeopathic crap is insure it is made to specification.
    The reason for the absence of standard FDA protocols is that that homeopathic pharmacopoeia is not under FDA control but by the homeopathic pharmacopoeia convention, which is made up of volunteers with a tenuous grasp on effective research protocols.

    The sad thing is that the FDA did try to modernize how it would handle homeopathy earlier this year. The proposal would have grandfathered the existing ‘cures’ in homeopathic pharmacopoeia but any new ones would have had to go through the usual clinical trial setup of the pharmacopoeia that is controlled by the FDA. Haven’t heard much about that after the pushback that the idea got in the public forum that the FDA organized on it.

  15. alwayscurious says

    The family doctor used to recommend (off the official record) that hot buttered rum worked as well or better as most OTC cough medicines. We could start bottling it as a 2C dilution of cinnamon & nutmeg with 20% rum as inactive ingredient, in 1.5oz bottles. We could start a whole product line from painkillers to sleeping aids without having to change process at all! I wonder if this preparation would also be exempt from federal taxes on ethanol?

  16. Skatje Myers says

    Regarding Zicam: My husband gave me some many years ago, which he had from his mother who kept it around as a medicine. Before taking it, I read the ingredients and realised it was homeopathic, but neither of them had any idea because of this BS with homeopathic “remedies” being right on the shelf next to actual medications at drug stores.

    So I laughed about it and shoved it up my nose anyway because why not. It was only later that I learned about the zinc causing loss of smell. I try to shove fewer things up my nose now.

  17. randay says

    By experience I know that if I drink a couple cups of coffee–real coffee, not American dirty water–in an hour or two I will have to shit.

  18. photoreceptor says

    Yey homeopathy. I’m writing from France, where homeopathy is widely accepted, very big business (even reimbursed by some medical insurance companies). Remember this is the country that brought you Benveniste and the “memory of water’ paper in Nature. I recently dropped into a drugstore to buy a non-prescription anti-congestant, and was offered some homeopathic crap. Saying I didn’t believe in such products, the pharmacist said “just the same, they work!” And this guy (presumably) is qualified in pharmacology, chemistry…