"If you are worried, you also have a liqueur, " says the vernacular. You could also say, "He who has medication has alcohol." Many medications, especially herbal supplements in liquid form, contain alcohol. Colloquially, alcohol is understood as meaning ethyl alcohol or ethanol. It can be found in the classic alcoholic beer, wine or high-proof, but also as a preservative and extractant of various drugs again. Ethanol is the best known representative of the large chemical group of alcohols.
Ethanol is extractant ...
For the production of herbal medicines, ethanol has always been used in order to achieve a high active ingredient content in the medicament. For this purpose, for example, herbs or plant components are placed over a long period in alcohol and then poured off. Ethanol is also a natural alcohol that is found everywhere, where wet, sugar or starchy substances are fermented by ubiquitous yeast cells.
Thus, alcohol is a natural part of many foods such as bread or fruit juices. Also, human blood contains alcohol in concentrations of 0.002-0.003 percent - without the intake of alcohol.
... and preservative
At the same time ethanol is a natural preservative, so that the use of alcohol in medicines can be dispensed with other, artificial preservatives. Ethanol inactivates enzymes: this has a beneficial effect on remodeling and degradation reactions in the cells, thus promoting the action of the drugs.
Risks and side effects
The alcohol content of medicines is completely safe for most people, even if they take a herbal medicine over a longer period of time. Alcohol in medicines is not regarded as a precursor to alcohol dependence among pharmacists. But that does not mean that alcoholics are allowed to take alcoholic medications. Here, the commandment of absolute abstinence takes precedence. In children, however, the spirits argue.
The currently available preparations usually contain 30 to 50 percent by volume of alcohol, which is taken in single doses of about 2 ml or 2 g. From this, a momentary blood alcohol level of 0.01 to 0.02% can be deduced, which is reduced again after a few minutes.
Danger for children?
From a pharmaceutical point of view, therefore, there is no risk for children of alcohol-containing drugs. On the contrary, pharmacists and pharmacists point to what they consider to be the greater danger of negligent use of over-the-counter alcohol. In addition, parents and educators must ensure that any type of medication - not just alcoholic - is kept out of the reach of children.
Alcohol substitution is problematic
For pharmacists, ethanol is an undisputed component of various formulations. Their composition is specified and regulated in the Drug Law. Thereafter, a drug containing a fluid extract or tincture must always contain ethanol and must not be labeled "alcohol free". The physical, technological and antimicrobial properties of ethanol can be well complemented with those of water, making ethanol-water mixtures easy to produce and beneficial to the consumer. Although there are substitutes, but they are often only mixtures of higher alcohols.
Thus, these preparations are by no means "alcohol-free", but only "ethanol-free". The use of other solvents for the herbal active substances is therefore not recommended by pharmacists. It should be noted that alcoholics should also take no alcohol in medicines.
For children, the intended use is considered completely harmless - a bottle of beer in the hands of children is more dangerous.