Imitation Alka Seltzer for a Fraction of the Cost

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Introduction: Imitation Alka Seltzer for a Fraction of the Cost

About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

As I was making bath bombs to give for Christmas I felt a little heartburn. I reached for the Alka Seltzer... Wow... $8.99 for 36 tablets! One dose is made of 2 tablets, so that comes to 50 cents per dose. Then I looked at the active ingredients. Citric acid and sodium bicarbonate. Exactly what I was using for the bath bombs! Sour salt and baking soda! I made a rapid calculation: one dose comes to 2 grams of citric acid, and 3.88 grams of baking soda. If I figure that citric acid costs $4/lb and baking soda is $1/lb, the exact same dose of alka selzer's active ingredients would cost me about 2.5 cents to make myself.... Twenty times less than the store bought version! OK to be fair, I didn't figure the cost of filler, and the store bought alka selzer also contained aspirin, but I neither needed nor wanted the aspirin. I was looking for heartburn relief only. Even if you end up spending more on the citric acid and less for the Alka Seltzer than I did, you'll still come out ahead.

Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor, a pharmacist nor a chemist. I figured out the dose of the ingredients by weighing them and then converting the measurements to volumes, because it's a more convenient way of measuring for most people. Also, since there is no aspirin in this mixture it will do nothing for headaches, hangovers, or flu-like symptoms. This is for acid indigestion, upset stomach and heartburn only. All the warnings on the Alka Selzer label apply for this concoction:

Warnings
Ask a doctor before use if you have a sodium-restricted diet
Ask a doctor or pharmacist before use if you are presently taking a prescription drug.
Antacids may interact with certain prescription drugs.
When using this product do not exceed recommended dosage
Stop use and ask a doctor if you have taken the maximum dose for 2 weeks
If pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use.
Keep out of reach of children.
.........................................................................................................................................
Directions
adults and children 12 years and older
Fully dissolve two teaspoons in 4 ounces of water before taking
2 teaspoons every 4 hours as needed, or as directed by a doctor
do not exceed 8 teaspoons in 24 hours
adults 60 years and over
2 teaspoons every 4 hours as needed, or as directed by a doctor
do not exceed 4 teaspoons in 24 hours
children under 12 years
consult a doctor

Step 1: Recipe

I first tried to make tablets using the bath bomb principle: mix in a small amount to liquid (in this case I replaced the bath oils with agave syrup) and smush the mixture together. Perhaps with more patience the right balance could be achieved, but when the cute little balls started swelling, and ended up the next day as a bubbly, sticky mess, I opted for this dry, powdered version instead. Much less labor intensive to make, just as pleasant to consume.

Put the following ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly:

1/4 cup citric acid (aka sour salt or lemon salt)
1/2 cup minus 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup fructose (**see the notes on ingredients in the next step!)
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Store in an airtight container. When needed, pour 2 teaspoons into a small glass of water, stir, and drink. Make sure your measuring spoon is dry and you don't get any water in your jar...

This recipe will yield about 66 doses. If you'd like to try it out with a single dose, mix these quantities into a small cup, then add water:

1/4 heaping teaspoon citric acid (aka sour salt or lemon salt)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fructose

This makes a slightly smaller dose than the regular amount, but when it comes to medicine it's better to err on the conservative side.

Step 2: Notes on the Ingredients

Filler
Cornstarch and sweeteners are there just for taste and to prevent clumping. Basically to have a dose of 2 teaspoons, you'll want to put in 1/2 cup and 3 tablespoons of filler.

If you want to you can cut out the filler entirely. One dose of your mix will be 1 teaspoon instead of 2. It won't taste as good, but it will still work...

Fructose

I used fructose as a filler/sweetener because it dissolves faster in water than granulated sugar. You can replace it with powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar, icing sugar or caster sugar), but powdered sugar clumps a little when you combine your mixture with water. The end result is fine, it's just not quite as satisfying to watch. The real Alka Seltzer uses aspartame, which is sold in supermarkets as Nutrasweet. If you want to avoid sugar you can use that instead. You could also cut down on the sugar by replacing some of it with cornstarch.

Instructables member WayneR1 wrote the following comment, which I wanted to include here:

In a lot of people , fructose will cause strong heartburn.

I use glucose if anything, which does not cause any heartburn. The body metabolizes the two in quite different ways. Sucrose too can cause heartburn as it is made of one fructose unit bonded with a glucose unit, and the first step in digesting it, is the decoupling of those two units.


Citric acid
This can be found in the kosher section of supermarkets under the name "sour salt." In Brooklyn, New York, Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue carries it but they call it "lemon salt." Apparently it can also be found at brewers supplies stores. I've also seen it in regular supermarkets (if you call Garden of Eden regular) with their other spices and even at a cake supply store (but it cost more than $4 per pound). If all else fails, buy a large stash online and make borsh, bath bombs and dishwashing detergent as well as alka selzer.

UPDATE:
Several people have commented that plain baking soda can work too -- although it is a common home remedy, adding citric acid has two advantages:
1. when mixed with water and an acid, baking soda has a chemical reaction which produces carbon dioxide. This is the fizz which is produced when this powder is mixed with water. When this reaction happens in your stomach (rather than in the glass, where the gas dissipates into the air) it can cause swelling and tenderness, and it might force more of the acidic stomach juices up the esophagus -- which worsens the heartburn rather than help it.
2. the citric acid acts as a chemical buffer. This means it will not make the Ph of your insides fluctuate wildly as the base (baking soda) hits the acid (stomach juice).
A commenter who tried both methods said the plain baking soda seems to work faster but that soda combined with citric acid prolonged the effect.
Then of course it's simply much more fun (and tasty) to mix a fizzy, sweet drink rather than downing a glass of lukewarm salty water...

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Copied from step 2, notes on ingredients: I used fructose as a filler/sweetener because it dissolves faster in water than granulated sugar. You can replace it with powdered sugar (aka confectioners sugar, icing sugar or caster sugar), but powdered sugar clumps a little when you combine your mixture with water. The end result is fine, it's just not quite as satisfying to watch. The real Alka Seltzer uses aspartame, which is sold in supermarkets as Nutrasweet. If you want to avoid sugar you can use that instead. You could also cut down on the sugar by replacing some of it with cornstarch. Basically to have a dose of 2 teaspoons, you'll want to put in 1/2 cup and 3 tablespoons of filler.

But to add to that... the sweetener is just to make the drink more palatable. It is not needed for any reason other than taste. Also someone else commented that fructose might give some people heartburn, so using glucose instead would be a better option.

Anyone know how to get it in tablet form?

I make it as I go sometimes with aspirin, sometimes not. With
aspirin, drop 2 tablets into 6 oz cold water. Add 1/4 tsp baking soda.
This will react with the acid in the aspirin helping to break down the
tablets. Stir to speed up process. Add 1/2 tsp citric acid. The fizz
will begin, stir gently and drink! No need for cornstarch or any
sweeteners. Without aspirin, 1/4 tsp baking soda in 6 oz cold water then
1/2 tsp citric acid.

In a lot of people , fructose will cause strong heartburn.

I use glucose if anything, which does not cause any heartburn.

The body metabolizes the two in quite different ways.

Sucrose too can cause heartburn as it is made of one fructose unit bonded with a glucose unit, and the first step in digesting it, is the decoupling of those two units.

1 reply

I did not know that... thanks for the comment! Did you try this recipe with glucose? How did it work?

Thanks Belsey I want to make this as I get extreme allergic reaction in brain.Have done food rotation nothing seems to work to help the symptoms.Alka seltzer Gold helps a lot to relieve the symptoms what would the recipe be if you included potassium bicarbonate? I would like to keep the ingredients as close as possible to

what is in Alka Seltzer Gold?Thank you so much for your reply.I am very grateful!

3 replies

Look at the label of your Alka Selzer gold. They list the active ingredients and their weight -- all you need then is a small scale and the proper ingredients to recreate it. Once you've matched the proper dosage you can add whatever you'd like for the inactive ingredients (sugar, corn starch, etc). You don't need to follow the label for those.

Thanks for your reply, Where and what kind of scale should I buy ?

Thanks Kevin

Any small electronic scale which can measure a tenth of a gram will do.

Thanks Belsey I want to make this as I get extreme allergic reaction in brain.Have done food rotation nothing seems to work to help the symptoms.Alka seltzer Gold helps a lot to relieve the symptoms what would the recipe be if you included potassium bicarbonate? I would like to keep the ingredients as close as possible to

what is in Alka Seltzer Gold?Thank you so much for your reply.I am very grateful!

I was going to take it daily for GOUT, but felt the risks were more then the gains!

4 replies

Cherries and cherry juice (probably the different varieties have different or better effects), is an age old remedy for gout. There's sour cherries, dark cherries, tart cherries, but I think the tart are suppose to be the MOST medicinal.

sour cherries IS what is called for, but I hate them. Sweet cherries I usually love. Sadly the cherries did nothing for me. Thanks fer the input though.

My friend who had gout swore by the tart cherries (different than sour or sweet). I personally don't like the tart or sour, but the tart worked for him. He also said that aspirin made it worse, but that drinking lots of clean water and putting" raw apple cider vinegar" (1T. unprocessed kind) in an 8 oz glass of water, also helped him alot. Hope this helps at all. Good luck and best wishes :-)

he man for whom I am named (It is an Italian thing), praised apple cider
vinegar for everything including arthritis. Doesn't do jack for me! BUT thanks for the suggestion.

for heart burn I use a 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and heart burn gone in seconds

2 replies

THANK YOU, I was going to make a similar post... all the CA does is make the bicarb fizz!

Although plain baking soda will work, the citric acid DOES have a real function, it is not included just for the fun of watching it fizz. It serves as a chemical buffer and therefore it makes the solution a bit easier on your belly. In addition, by fizzing in the cup (rather than inside your belly when the baking soda hits the acidic gastric juices) the carbon dioxide is released in the air, rather than as loud burps, which besides being embarrassing, can also carry with them some of the acidity you are trying to avoid. If you read the instructable to the end, I do mention this -- unfortunately a lot of people seem to skip straight to the comments.