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Nelsons Teething Granules scam

Alastair Grant | Mon 31 Jul 2017

My usually technology related web-site is straying into the world of babies, I have one, it's teething. Teething granules are the hip and trendy thing to give them. It's £5 a pack for this "medicine", which is available from reputable chemists like Boots. It allegedly works wonders.

What's not to like? Well £5 for a box that has the words Homeopathic written on it. What does this mean? Well Homeopathy is the idea of diluting things in water to create a treatment. Seems reasonable, I think most liquid medicines contain a lot of water - look at Calpol for instance, that's largely water with only 120mg of Paracetamol per 5ml dose.

The active ingredient is Chamomile - a herbal ingredient from daisy-esq flowers. It is commonly available as an infusion (like, tea). Herbal sounds a bit iffy? Well yes, but there is a long history of very effective herbal remedies for many aliments. I tried Marshmallow root for a while as a natural antihistamine, it works but makes you very drowsy and cheap pharmaceutical drugs worked better, was easier to swallow and have no discernible side-effects. Chamomile is commonly used to settles stomachs and relieve stress. It also seems, it's used to help with teething.

Or does it? You see Homepathy isn't just herbal medicine, it's about diluting the herbs to an extreme level. The dose in question is "6C". I wasn't au fait with this unit of measurement - in modern money it works out at 10-12. Or, 1 part per trillion. Yep, that's right.

1 part per trillion is a super tiny amount, I mean really super super tiny. In fact, it's so small, we as a species cannot easily detect that level of concentration. If this is the only ingredient in the product, what you have is actually very, very pure water.

Let's put that into context. My local water board delivers clean and safe drinking water - it's not pure H2O. There are other molecules kicking about in there, obviously we don't want anything potentially hazardous to our health, so there are strict guidelines on safe levels of other chemicals can exist. Arsenic, which is toxic and a danger to the environment can exist in our water supply at up to 10 parts per billion. That's an order of magnitude higher than the amount of Chamomile found in our teething granules. The famous poison Cyanide can exist at even higher levels of 50 parts per billion. In our safety-concious world, these are likely to be quite a bit lower than what humans can actually handle without adverse effects.

The tightest controlled substance is Benzo[a]pyrene, a group 1 carcinogenic with known impact on nervous, reproductive and immune systems and will interact with your DNA. Even this is safe at 10,000 parts per trillion.

So if that much cyanide doesn't impact a child who drinks safe water, what chances does an even weaker concentration of Chamomile have of having any impact what so ever? I'll answer that for you - none.

What about the other ingredients?  Ingredients go down to a small number, but tiny quantities of containments - providing they aren't at risk to health, aren't declared.  But the numbers here are still drastically higher than the levels of the active ingredient in question.

The other declared ingredients are the interesting ones.  Water is ice when solid, not very useful for packing and selling in a shop.  Instead the "active" ingredient has to be crystallized in something else.  In this case, sugar and alcohol is used.  That's what the granules actually consist of, sugar and alcohol.

I'm not really too happy about giving those ingredients to a baby.

The really worrying thing about homeopathic products is that they're not medicine - they're just foodstuffs.  Which means there is no regulation or testing required for them.  Pharmaceuticals have to go through an insane degree of testing to ensure they aren't harmful and the side-effects are well known.  None of this applies to these products - I don't see it as being any different from feeding your kid plant feed (which contains bleach, so don't) because somebody on the Internet has given it to all their kids.

Are Nelson's Teething Granules a scam?  Absolutely.  £5 for some packets of sugar.  Do they work?  Possibly, chewing on sugar and alcohol granules is likely to be distracting for a baby in pain.  But you're a mug if you're paying that sort of money for it.

Stop buying these products and providing an economy for companies praying on the desperation of tired parents.

Breaking from the voyeuristic norms of the Internet, any comments can be made in private by contacting me.

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