Imitation Alka Seltzer for a fraction of the cost

Picture of Imitation Alka Seltzer for a fraction of the cost
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:

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.
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

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ldmorgan7 months ago

Bravo! Great 'ible!

paizley1 year ago
For me, it's 2 parts citric acid to 1 part sodium bicarbonate. Using very cold water, add the citric acid first and dissolve. Add the the bicarb. Don't stir. It will react. The cold water slows the reaction so it won't overflow. It does help to use a larger glass and only fill half with water. If you want to use aspirin, add it with the citric acid. My ratio is tarter than regular Alka Seltzer but that's how I like it. It's fast and easy.
Tobita4 years ago
I'm pretty sure you could compress it into a tablet if you were to mill the powder much finer before pressing it dry.
belsey (author)  Tobita4 years ago
That might work theoretically, but practically I don't have any way to grind it super fine, and even if I did some powder would probably become air-born and uncomfortable. Just pouring regular citric acid into the bowl can get a little unpleasant, so if the particles were finer I imagine it would be even worse. I see the problem as how to squeeze the powder into shape --  and thinking of your comment, I realized a garlic press might be the perfect tool! Line it with a small piece of aluminum foil, press it, pull it out with the foil and wrap it up... Might just work! Still a lot of labor though, so I'm not sure if it's worth the effort. The powder works just as well spooned into a cup of water...
lawdog3234 years ago
FYI- aspirin is great for your skin... :)
lsrieck5 years ago
 Really cool idea - but for me the active ingredient is aspirin.  I've ground up plain old aspirin, and added it to vitamin C, with some baking soda and come up with a pretty good substitute.  Good for colds, hangovers, upset tummies and the like.
i made this and enptied out a old paracetamol Tablet thingy ! (could use a tablet organizer you know themt hings monday tuesday etc ) steralized it in my mini steamer (must make a ible on that too) and put this in them Made about 20 tablets because i left out cornstarch ! yay
belsey (author)  stephenniall5 years ago
If you used the quantities I gave in the instructable your dose is wrong. You should be getting 66 tablets, not twenty. Give or take a little (because you left out the cornstarch), your tablets are 3 times too large. Nothing life threatening, but do be careful!
i didnt use the dose you supplied Plus i left some not in tablet form
belsey (author)  stephenniall5 years ago
Glad to hear that...
rattyrain6 years ago
Do you think it would be possible to form a tablet by mixing the active ingredients with melted (liquid) sugar?
It seems some people are having problems with the stuff hardening if cornstarch is left out. Perhaps this can be used for making tablets?
belsey (author)  omnibot5 years ago
Yes, I just thought of that too. As soon as I get a chance I'll do some experiments and if it works out I'll post an update.
I've been thinking about beeswax or gelatin to help form pills under pressure.
belsey (author)  rattyrain6 years ago
That's what I was trying to do with the Agave syrup -- my experiment failed, but that doesn't mean it's not possible. I might simply have put too much syrup into the mix. I didn't have the patience to make it work, but if you want to attempt it I'd love to hear about your results!
alkatom5 years ago
Made up a batch following recipe and 10 minutes later it hardened in the air tight container. One thing i left out was the cornstarch , didn't have any. Is it the cornstarch that keeps it from hardening?
belsey (author)  alkatom5 years ago
Yes, the cornstarch would help prevent it from hardening, but it's odd that happened. I've made it without cornstarch (using extra fructose) and I didn't have any trouble. The only time it did turn to stone was when I tried replacing the cornstarch with powdered vitamin C. I still used it though... hacking at it with a fork was a pain but it worked just as well. Maybe your fructose had absorbed more water than mine had. Sorry. Hope you have better luck next time.
alkatom belsey5 years ago
Broke it up with a knife and hammer, added the cornstarch, and no more cement. Have been taking alkaseltzer for 40 or 50 years with the aspirin and this is a nice substitute. Thanks to the author.
kid do u even know the cause of heart burn? it is excess acid in the stomach all u need to do is dissolve bicarb of soda in water and drink it
belsey (author)  Captain Dyson5 years ago
Yes, sweetie, I know that. The citric acid acts as a buffering solution, preventing the stomach's Ph to fluctuate too much with the sudden arrival of bicarb... in practical terms this means this solution might be slower to act, but the effect lasts longer.
Jupitane5 years ago
Very cool man!
SoapyHollow5 years ago
FYI, just plain ol bicarbonate (baking soda) is the traditional remedy for heartburn. You can stir about a teaspoon into water, and it'll settle tummy gas. :)
belsey (author)  SoapyHollow5 years ago
Yes, I do know that... but this does have a few advantages over plain baking soda: the acid works as a buffer solution, which theoretically means it brings the acidity in your stomach within a certain range regardless of what the Ph was to begin with. Practically it means that the soda works faster but the effect does not last, whereas this combo might not kick in instantly but it works longer (so you'd need to take it less often). This is quite unscientific, coming just from a single person who tried both. Whether it is true for everybody or not, at the very least this is more fun and tastes a whole lot better than plain ol bicarbonate. And by the way, your bath bombs were a great success (although I wasn't so good at getting them out of the molds without breaking them, so I ended up grinding them and putting the powder in pretty glass jars).
Oh yeah, I wasn't criticizing. Just passing along folk wisdom. :) I'm sorry to hear that your bombs broke though. Lemme know if you want some help troubleshooting them. :)
belsey (author)  SoapyHollow5 years ago
and I didn't mean to sound defensive... when I published this I knew the citric acid was there for a reason (or it wouldn't have been listed as an active ingredient) but I wasn't sure of its exact role. I was interested to learn though comments what it does and wanted to pass that on... The relative failure of the bath bombs was entirely my fault. For my first batch, I had a tin mold which had a slight rim which pulled the 2 halves apart. The second time I wanted to experiment with cocoa butter, powdered milk and chocolate fragrance -- eventually I'll get it to "stick" but the first version worked well simply as fizzy bath salt.
Cocoa butter is really tricky in bath bombs. Any butter is. I recommend saving the butters for making melts instead. (I should do an instructable on my chocolate raspberry cocoa and shea bath melts. They're beyond decadent, and super easy to make. ) To get a good chocolate color, replace a tablespoon or two of the corn starch with cocoa powder. (The unsweetened don't want to attract ants.) I'd stick to using a light oil and water emulsion for the liquid. To add milk, replace up to an 1.5 oz of corn starch with milk powder. Again, try to find one that does not have corn syrup solids in it. Cheers, and happy bathing!
belsey (author)  SoapyHollow5 years ago
Thanks for the good advice... that's pretty much what I did, except I replaced more cornstarch with milk because I wanted to use the entire 3.2 oz pack. That might have been the problem, but I think my main mistake was I didn't have quite enough liquid. I'll just have to try again. I have a big jar of cocoa butter, so until you publish that interesting instructible there's only so much chocolate lip balm I can make...
Keep your butter in the fridge, and it's good practically forever. You can freeze it too, but I find that it makes the butters "grainy" for lack of a better word. You can also add up to 2% tocepherol (liquid Vit E), and that will add a natural preservative. But seriously, in the fridge...universes will end before that stuff will go rancid. :)
belsey (author)  SoapyHollow5 years ago
I'll do that. Thanks again for your comments!
omnibot6 years ago
Cool .. my partner has a bad stomach and we just go for the bicarbonate. I'll try this as well. Before she used a fortune in anti-acids. My personal view is that having a sour stomach on a regular basis is a symptom of a real problem and anti-acids are just a temporary quick-fix, change your diet and see a doctor. Good instructable, this will save a lot of money for a lot of people. You wouldn't happen to know what Efexor antidepressants are made of by any chance? ;)
omnibot omnibot6 years ago
I wonder if the citric acid is a key-component or just there to make it taste better.
belsey (author)  Little Frisky6 years ago
That's interesting -- thanks for the link. I guess that means in this application the citric acid makes it gentler on the belly than pure soda -- regardless of how acidic it is inside, the citric acid/soda combo will bring the internal Ph within a certain range, whereas with pure soda the result will vary more depending on what's going on inside.
omnibot belsey5 years ago
Well .. from initial tests it seems soda with acid works slower and longer than just soda which gives instant results but wear off quite fast. Depending on needs we use either.
belsey (author)  omnibot5 years ago
Good to know. Thanks for the comment!
Buffer solutions .. I didn't think of that. Thanx. Yeah, I'm Swedish but I'm very comfortable with english especially with technical stuff. Unfortunately the school I went to was so full of brainless sportsjockeys that when they kicked me out in 8'th grade they they were still trying to learn how to read. The physics- and chemistry-classes were a joke, we never did anything more than destil water. I just built my own lab in a secret location *Moah ha ha ha*
I always prefer Swedish to English. I've read a lot of English textbooks, mostly of mathematical and technical nature. English books have at least five times more pages and are written in very small text -- they have more errors and contain less information, sometimes they even leave out proofs. Ad to damage most American writers of technical literature are afraid not to be taken seriously and writes really boring (with the excellent exception of Donald Knuth, I usually giggle myself through his books, andthey are only twice as heavy as they would be in Swedish). Of course, German books are even thinner then Swedish ones and are always very detailed. Sometimes I force myself to read in German because of this, despite the fact that I read German painstakingly slow.

The worst books to read are badly translated English books, most technical literature in Swedish is in this cathegory. Even worse are books written in English by Swedish professors. Swenglish is even more verbose then English (as you may have noticed).

Tip If you use a technical manual to operate some gizmo and fail to make it work. Read the German manual, it is better proofread then the other languages.
Phoghat omnibot6 years ago
The citric acid just makes it fizz.
belsey (author)  omnibot6 years ago
On the box it says its purpose is as an antacid -- which is weird because it is definitely acidic. The Alka Seltzer web site says their tablets work faster because the fizzing dissolves the medicine in the glass. To quote their site: "Simply put, the medicine dissolves fast and is ready to work the instant you take it. The time it would take for the body to dissolve a solid form pain reliever is eliminated." The citric acid together with the baking soda and water causes this reaction, so maybe the only purpose is to speed things up. Since there's nearly twice as much soda as citric acid the acid is neutralized and the soda can act faster. If this theory is true, that would mean that your solution, pure bicarbonate, is the simplest and cheapest solution. The bubbles are just smoke and mirrors -- but they are kind of fun, and it does taste good.
omnibot belsey6 years ago
In case you haven't seen it : Little Frisky has replied it's a buffer solution. Good to know.
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