Gripe Water Side Effects

About the Side Effects of Gripe Water

Before we get to the side effects of gripe water, we first need to understand what exactly we are talking about when we are talking about gripe water.  Gripe water is a home remedy for colicky babies.  A physician named William Woodard stumbled upon the solution that is today called gripe water way back at the midway point of the Nineteenth Century while treating completely different ailments.  He made the unscientific observation that sodium bicarbonate when mixed with alcohol, dill and sweetened water seemed to calm babies distressed by intestinal difficulties.

It wasn’t long before Woodward, an American, moved to marketing his discovery and caretakers of young charges all over the British Isles administered Mr. Woodward’s concoction to help fretting babies.  The home remedy is still around now, more than a century and half after it first appeared, though it has gone through several reformulations.  Despite its long history, the evidence for its effectiveness still remains anecdotal at best.  Despite this lack of scientific verification, many mothers and child caretakers still swear by gripe water when it comes to their inconsolable little wards.

You might wonder however, if there are side effects of gripe water that may actually be harming those innocents exposed to it.  In answering this question, you must first consider that the ingredients of gripe water vary greatly from region to region and product to product, the only essential ingredients being a soothing element and some kind of a sweetening element.  That said, we could perhaps consider what some of the side effects of gripe water might be considering the ingredients that are often present.

Warning:  Before you make any medical decisions regarding your baby, you should always be sure to consult your pediatrician since your baby’s medical problems may be specific to his or her personal health history.  Only use the information here as a general guide or starting point.


Consider William Woodard’s initial formula.  It contained 3.6% alcohol.  As we all now know, alcohol is not generally something that you want to introduce to small children.

Sodium Bicarbonate

For a long time, sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as “baking soda,” was the main ingredient of gripe water.  However, as it turns out, giving your baby doses of the baking soda can complicate his or her ability to break down iron and folic acids.  This is because the way that baking soda helps a baby is by changing the balance of acids in the stomach.  This may help a baby whose main problems stems from this imbalance, but it may also make matters worse.  Baking soda has also been shown to increase the acidity in a baby’s stomach in certain situations, which may in fact increase and extend discomfort.  In fact, long term use may lead to long term problems.

Dill Oil

Even the dill oil that is a part of the original concoction has dubious claims in regard to it, as physicians now recommend against swallowing oils of this kind.


Newer versions of the gripe water have been put together by herbalists with all-natural ingredients.  This newer concoction actually bares little resemblance to old Dr. Woodward’s original remedy, having only the name in common.  However, you should be aware that even in the case of this newer concoction, there is neither any scientific evidence of its effectiveness, nor any guarantee that the newer ingredients will not have unexpected negative side effects as well.

That said, the fact that gripe water is so widely used and that we do not hear widespread reports of its negative effects suggests that whatever negative side effects this home remedy does have are either mild or not immediately evident.   

The best bet is first to consult your physician and find an alternative that has more scientific backing before resorting to gripe water or some other less investigated remedy.