Longevity logo

Syrup of Ipecac

by Robyn Welborne 3 years ago in science

Age-old Remedy, Re-examined

The "Apothecary's Night Remedy"; a cure-all drug for poisonings is what the Syrup of Ipecac is known for back in the year of 1965. Ipecac can go by many names, such as: "road-side sick-making plant" (translated from the Tupi language), Carapichea ipecacuanha, Brazil Root, Brazilian Ipecac, or any forms stemming from the plant species of Elderberry. It can mainly be found in the countries of Nicaragua, Rio, Panama, Brazil, and Cartagena.


"Generations of parents knew the rule: Keep a bottle of ipecac around to induce vomiting in case your child swallows a poison. Now that rule may be about to change" (CBS News).

Ipecac is a natural plant that is used to make medicine for poison indigestion cases. You can find the “Ipecac Syrup” available in both a nonprescription over-the-counter product and also as an FDA-approved pharmacy prescription product.

Ipecac can possibly be safe for the majority of people if it is taken orally and only used for a short period of time. Ipecac has chemicals inside of it that irritate the digestive tract and trigger the brain functions to cause vomiting. Some side effects are stomach irritation, dizziness, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and a fast heartbeat, which can become severe if not monitored. Yes, it is generally taken orally to induce forced-vomiting after ingesting a poison, but there are other methods of getting Ipecac into your system. Health professionals sometimes give Ipecac by IV (intravenously) for Hepatitis and pockets of infection (abscesses). Some useful facts about Ipecac are that it can sometimes treat bronchitis with croup in children, a severe kind of diarrhea called Amoebic Dysentery, and even cancer. Ipecac is also used as an “expectorant” to thin mucous and make coughing easier. Daily usage of small doses, science says, can improve appetite. Despite the old beliefs in the past, science shows that Ipecac does not actually treat poisoning very well and is more commonly being abused, sometimes fatally, by people with disorders. It is sold in small bottles to help steer away from drug abuse, but yet some 4 percent of bulimia suffers in clinics admit to using Ipecac on a daily basis to purge.

The syrup does indeed induce vomiting by forcefully causing your gastric muscles to contract and wretch, but Ipecac was never meant to be used for every swallowed poison—anything caustic [caustic: the ability to be able to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action] or fluids that can be sucked or drawn into the lungs are not supposed to be thrown up. Here is the shocking news, even if you take some syrup within a half-hour of drinking a poison, modern studies show that Ipecac averagely removes ONLY ABOUT 30 PERCENT! That means that majority of the said poison is still in your system. Also, Ipecac reacts differently to other parts of the body, mainly when it comes in contact with the skin or when it is inhaled through the nose. The Ipecac plant contains Emetine, a substance that can irritate the skin and respiratory tract.

Ipecac is mostly unsafe when taken by mouth for over long periods of time and/or in large amounts, as well as through injections of a dosage containing more than 1 gram. Misuse of Ipecac, Ipecac syrup, or any parts of the plant can lead to serious re-poisoning, heart damage, and even cause death. A few signs that a person or you have been poisoned include difficulty of breathing, digestive tract problems, abnormal or irregular heart rates, blood in the urine, convulsions, shock, coma, and death.

It is said that most hospitals are starting to stop the process of vomiting and stomach-flushing as a treatment for poison. They now practice the use of "Oral Antidotes" or some activated charcoal that can quickly and more efficiently absorb certain deadly toxins before they can reach your bloodstream. But still, Ipecac has some pretty high risks. Ipecac can sometimes cause vomiting to continue for more than an hour which can lead to a rare case of where the constant retching can be so violent that it can trigger brain hemorrhaging [brain bleeding through injured blood vessels] or gastric tears. When used repeatedly, Ipecac can build up and destroy the muscle tissue, including the ones in the heart. A word of advice is to NEVER take charcoal and Ipecac together! This combination is very risky and can lead to serious health problems. The activated charcoal can interact with Ipecac in a way that can cause the syrup to bind up inside of the stomach. This will drastically decrease the effectiveness of Ipecac syrup.


This is just a little eye-opener for the next time that you are taking a trip to your local pharmacy store. A mini cautionary guide to judging which medicines are more useful than harmful because everything has its good and bad, but not being properly informed is deadly.


Robyn Welborne

I am an aspiring creative writer who is currently working for my double Associate’s Degree in English. My writing has no limits and no filter. Anything and everything from all genres; if I think about it, then I will write it down. Enjoy!

Receive stories by Robyn Welborne in your feed
Robyn Welborne
Read next: The Lost Childhood

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2021 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.