Fun Fact Friday – WEEK 164
Modern teething powders are full of… NOTHING!
Unlike the tainted teething powders of old that contained mercury and a multitude of other nasties, modern teething powders contain very few ingredients – sometimes too few! It’s most often their other ingredients that are causing the abrupt changes that most parents witness because some of them don’t even contain a single molecule of their advertised “active ingredient”.
Yes! We are still banging the drum about teething! And this week is our 9th week of doing so. check out the playlist and work your way through our weird history surrounding teething – some of which we appear to be re-living. If teeth are going to enter your lives soon – or already have – wouldn’t it be great to know when each one will arrive? Go and download our super easy teeth arrival chart from HERE
Last week we mentioned that there are 3 main types of teething medicines available for your little one – homeopathic, herbal and topical anaesthetics. We covered the anaesthetics last week and we’re diving into the remaining ones today. You may also remember that we added a fourth type of medicine – sweet ones.
Let’s dive straight in and explain the difference between homeopathic and herbal in a sentence…
“Herbal remedies have a measurable amount of the ingredient that they are advertised to contain, homeopathic ones DO NOT! ”
This is, in our opinion, where parents are being taken advantage of and the misleading marketing on the packets make it hard for parents to tell the difference.
We’ll focus on modern teething powders this week, some that have been colloquially named “baby cocaine” – which you could argue is actually what we covered last week. There, quite literally, may have been real baby cocaine too, something we covered a few weeks back.
If you type “Teething Powder” into google, there will be two brands that will dominate the results –
Nelsons Teetha Teething Granules
Ashton and Parsons Infant Powder
They both claim to contain chamomile – one of the most ancient medicinal herbs known to mankind – yet, only one of them does. Can you tell the difference? Many can’t.
The “active” ingredients stated are:
Nelsons: 6C of Chamomilla (aka Chamomile)
Ashton and Parsons: 0.002ml of Tincture of Matricaria (aka Chamomile)
There are two well-used species of chamomile used today, Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile. Both of these remedies refer to the German Chamomile.
So, what is the difference between the two?
Herbal remedies are made with the plants, or tinctures of the plants, that are advertised on their labels. They contain a measurable amount of that ingredient often expressed in ml.
Homeopathic remedies contain the essence of the ingredient in a dilution. Homeopathic dilutions are most commonly measured using a number followed by the letter C. This denotes how many times it has been diluted – the higher the number, the more dilutions to has undergone.
BONUS FACT #1
Homeopathic treatments are not classed as medicines and are therefore unregulated in both the US and the UK. This lack of regulation led to potentially lethal doses of belladonna being found in teething tablets in the US in 2016 and a suspected 10 related deaths.
Why is one active ingredient measured in ml and the other in C?
Comprehending millilitres is pretty easy. Any cook will tell you that 5ml is a teaspoon, 10ml is a dessert spoon and 15ml is a tablespoon.
But, what the f**k is C?
C stands for centesimal – meaning or relating to divisions into hundredths
1C is defined as a substance diluted to one part in a hundredth. So 1ml of chamomile into 99ml of water would be 1C. This would be considered a very weak homeopathic remedy. Homeopaths claim that the more you dilute an active ingredient in water, the stronger the medicine becomes.
2C would be 1ml of the 1C we just made, diluted into a further 99ml of water.
3C would be 1ml of the 2C liquid into 99ml of water.
You can probably C where this is going…
Once you get 6C, the amount in Nelsons, it has been monumentally diluted. We should probably note that 6C isn’t considered particularly strong in homeopathy terms. 30C is the most commonly used and is typical in most homeopathic medicines.
6C is the same as 10−12 . To express that in ml it would be 0.000000000001ml.
30C is 10−60 and would have 59 zeroes between the decimal point and the 1! 30C is so heavily diluted that not a single atom of the original ingredient remains.
The explanation of why these mixtures still work is that shaking the mixture after every dilution leaves behind a spirit-like essence of the ingredient. The suggestion is that water has a memory of what was put into it. To me, this explanation has religious connotations.
And if this were true, then every substance that ever met a drop of water would leave an essence behind. Wouldn’t it contain the memory of other things – salt, sugar, urine, faeces?
It’s also worth comparing these homeopathic dilutions to the standards used in laboratories. Take the super pure water they use, known as ISO 3696, that has to have a purity of 10 parts per billion. It is so pure that it cannot be kept in plastic or even glass containers because they leach impurities into the water. Glassware used with it must be washed in highly toxic, hydrofluoric acid before use.
The equivalent of this highly pure water in homeopathic terms would be 4C. If 4C was expressed in time, it would be the equivalent of 30 seconds in a century.
So, why do some people swear by homeopathic remedies?
The most obvious answer, but generally misunderstood, is the power of placebo. The second is the power of sweetness.
Many people understand what a placebo is, but fail to comprehend just how powerful it is. Placebos have been shown to affect a range of health conditions. From depression and anxiety to IBS, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
BONUS FACT #2
If a placebo is administered in a tablet form you can alter its effectiveness by changing a few factors. The number of placebo tablets you give can alter their potency – more being perceived as more potent. You can change their size too, the bigger they are the better they appear to work. You can also change their colour: Reds, yellows and oranges have a stimulating effect, whilst blue and green have a tranquillising effect.
When it comes to parents, they are just as susceptible to the power of placebo as anyone else. And this is one of the reasons that there are so many sham medicines on the market aimed at babies and their parents. Yet, many parents fail to recognise the real reason these medicines appear to have an instant effect.
As powerful as placebo is, it’s more than likely the second reason, sweetness, that is creating the belief in these remedies. Last week we looked at modern teething gels and discovered that they use sweetness to their advantage too. To recap:
“Sweetness from sugar or sweeteners acts upon the opioid receptors to produce something called sweet-induced analgesia. Sweet-induced analgesia is very fast acting.”
The “instant relief” that parents witness is associated with the remedy and its “active” ingredients. Yet, the fillers that are most often labelled as “also contains” or “ other ingredients” are most often causing the effect of instant soothing. The sweeteners, sugars or in the case of a third brand – Weleda Chamomilla Granules – just straight up table sugar (labelled as sucrose) is causing sweet induced analgesia. Stay tuned in coming weeks as we delve deeper into sugar as an analgesic.
We’ll lead out today’s Fun Fact Friday by looking in more detail at the ingredients of the two market leaders formulas and explain them.
Each sachet of Ashton and Parsons contains just 2 ingredients –
Its “Active Ingredient” is 0.002ml of Tincture of Chamomile. Let’s be straight, this is a tiny amount of chamomile. But, it’s a measurable amount – it’s possible it could be enough to have a calming effect.
Its “Other Ingredient” is 130mg of Lactose. Lactose is a milk sugar that is comprised of one galactose molecule and one glucose molecule.
The immediate calming effects will most definitely be sweet-induced analgesia from the lactose. There is also a chance that chamomile’s calming effects may be present too.
Nelsons Teething Granules have a few more ingredients in their sachet, and a dirty trick too. Each sachet contains, Lactose Monohydrate, Xylitol, Starch and Pregelatinised Maize Starch
The active ingredient is 6C of Chamomile. That’s 0.000000000001ml of chamomile.
The sachets “Also Contain” –
Lactose Monohydrate – Ignore the monohydrate, it’s just lactose by another name.
Xylitol – a sweetener that is extracted from birch trees.
Starch – mainly used as a bulking agent, but is also a carbohydrate that when broken down becomes glucose.
Pregelatinised Maize Starch – this just means that it is cooked corn flour. Again, a starch that will end up as glucose.
Looking at those you can see that they’ve doubled down on the initial quick hit of sweet-induced analgesia, by using both lactose and xylitol. But, they have a dirty trick up their sleeve too. You see there will be a second, delayed, sugar induced analgesia hit from the starches.
No wonder Nelsons appears to work so well. And to achieve all that without even a trace – maybe even without a molecule – of its stated active ingredient.