An elixir is a clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medical purposes, to be taken orally and intended to cure one's illness. When used as a pharmaceutical preparation, an elixir contains at least one active ingredient designed to be taken orally.
The word was introduced in late Middle English, through Latin from Arabic al-ʾiksīr (الإكسير), which in turn is the Arabization of Greek xērion (ξήριον) "powder for drying wounds" (from ξηρός xēros "dry").
They are used as solvents or vehicles for the preparation of medicated elixirs: aromatic elixirs (USP), isoalcoholic elixirs (NF), or compound benzaldehyde elixirs (NF). Active ingredient dissolved in a solution that contains 15 to 50% by volume of ethyl alcohol.
- Antihistaminic elixirs: used against allergy: chlorampheniramine maleate elixirs (USP), diphenhydramine HCl elixirs.
- Sedative and hypnotic elixirs: sedatives induce drowsiness, and hypnotics induce sleep: pediatric chloral hydrate elixirs.
- Expectorant: used to facilitate productive cough (cough with sputum): terpin hydrate elixirs.
- Miscellaneous: acetaminophen (paracetamol) elixirs, which are used as analgesics.
East Asian vitamin drinks
Daily non-alcoholic non-caffeinated 'vitamin drinks' have been popular in East Asia since the 1950s, with Oronamin from Otsuka Pharmaceutical perhaps the market leader. Packaged in brown light-proof bottles, these drinks have the reputation of being enjoyed by old men and other health-conscious individuals. Counterparts exist in South Korea and China.
Western energy drinks typically have caffeine and are targeted at a younger demographic, with colorful labels and printed claims of increased athletic/daily performance.
- Solubilize the active ingredient(s) and some excipients
- Retard the crystallization of sugar
- Preserve the finished product
- Provide a sharpness to the taste
- Aid in masking the unpleasant taste of the active ingredient(s)
- Enhance the flavor.
The lowest alcoholic quantity that will dissolve completely the active ingredient(s) and give a clear solution is generally chosen. High concentrations of alcohol give burning taste to the final product.
An elixir may also contain the following excipients:
- Sugar and/or sugar substitutes like the sugar polyols glycerol and sorbitol.
- Preservatives like parabens and benzoates and antioxidants like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and sodium metabisulfite.
- Buffering agents
- Chelating agents like sodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
- Flavoring agents and flavor enhancers
- Coloring agents
Elixirs should be stored in a tightly closed, light resistant container away from direct heat and sunlight.
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- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 281–282..