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Old Time Remedy for Upset Stomach

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Peggy served as caregiver and patient advocate to family members for over a decade. Here is some of her best advice.

Wikimedia, Public Domain, Coca Cola Five Cents

Wikimedia, Public Domain, Coca Cola Five Cents

Things were simpler when I was growing up, years ago. For one thing, there were fewer choices. Back then, if we had an upset stomach or a case of diarrhea, Mom would treat our discomfort with something we could buy over the counter at the general store. The nearby corner store was the place to find nearly anything you needed.

The Family Medicine Cabinet

By O'Loughlin, Gregory L. Related names:  So. CA Edison Company Eastwood, John S Huntington, Henry E Ward, George C Pacific Light and Power Corporation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By O'Loughlin, Gregory L. Related names: So. CA Edison Company Eastwood, John S Huntington, Henry E Ward, George C Pacific Light and Power Corporation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Our family medicine cabinet held only a few familiar items. Most common ailments could be fixed with aspirin, Vick's VapoRub, Noxema, or Mercurochrome. For minor burns or insect bites, we used Unguentine or Bactine spray to ease the sting. But the most frequently used cure to a minor stomach problem called for a dose of a brown miracle elixir available from the local drug store. If our supply ran low, we would head to the corner store to fetch a refill.

Drug Store Sign

Drug Store Sign

Mom would generally send my brother or me to the store just a couple of blocks away from the house. We'd pedal our bicycles as fast as we could down the tree-lined back streets to Chappell's Variety Store. Once there, we'd park in the concrete bicycle racks and head directly to the pharmacy at the back, averting our eyes from the racks of toys along the way.

Waiting at the window to catch the eye of the druggist behind the partition, we could hear him clanking away on an old typewriter preparing labels for prescriptions. The pharmacy was raised a level above the rest of the store allowing a view of his white coat flapping as he moved about behind the etched glass partition. Racks of empty glass bottles and blank labels littered the counter where he worked.


Manual typewriter

Manual typewriter

The store carried a variety of household items from bread and canned goods to fishing gear, cold cream or Fitch Dandruff Remover Shampoo. There were light bulbs, sets of dishes and of keen interest to us kids, a rack of the latest ten-cent comic books like Super Man, The Adventures of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.

The variety store was the neighborhood hangout, popular for its soda fountain and grill where they served the best hamburgers in town. That was the place to go before fast food places made their way to the small island of Key West.

Old Fashioned Soda Fountain

Woolworth Soda Fountain, Asheville NC. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the US. Photo by Jane023 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Woolworth Soda Fountain, Asheville NC. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in the US. Photo by Jane023 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We'd take a seat on red vinyl swivel stools that stretched the length of the side wall and wait while our fifty-cent hamburgers sizzled on a flat grill. At the fountain, you could order a Coke in the nickel or dime size served in a glass with chipped ice. Many summer days were spent sitting beside dispensers of orange and grape drink, basking in the aroma of hot dogs grilling on the rotisserie. It made for a fine treat on a tropical day in the Keys.


Post Office

Postal services were also available through a window where we mailed out parcels wrapped in brown paper cut from grocery store bags. The package had to be tied securely with sturdy, white cotton string before mailing. Regular postage stamps were four cents with air mail stamps at seven cents for faster delivery. Letters could be dropped off at the mail slot next to the pharmacy.

The local post office

The local post office

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Lessons from It's A Wonderful Life

We were careful to keep our antics in the store to a minimum, knowing better than to cause any trouble. It would mean big trouble for us when we got home if our parents got a call from the druggist.

Every Christmas we looked forward to watching reruns of the old Jimmy Steward movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Young George Bailey worked behind the counter for the pharmacist who prepared pills for a family with diphtheria. George (Jimmy Stewart) got his ears boxed for not delivering them promptly. This valuable lesson was a reminder of our true mission and kept us from dawdling in the store.

The Magical Remedy

From our place on the swivel stools where we sipped our fountain drinks, we could listen for our name to be called. We'd slurp our sodas and hop down to fetch the white bag with the precious remedy; a concentrated solution of Coke syrup in a small bottle.

We’d pay the cashier up front while eyeballing the assortment of candy bars and bubble gum, before hopping back on our bikes clutching the package like a bag of gold.

Vintage Coca Cola Machine

The ten cent coke machine dispensed glass bottles of soda. The handle released the mechanism allowing one bottle to be released.

The ten cent coke machine dispensed glass bottles of soda. The handle released the mechanism allowing one bottle to be released.

The Dose

Once we got home with the remedy, Mom would send one of us to fetch a tablespoon from the silverware drawer. Armed with the bottle of coke syrup, she would ascend the stairs to the bedroom of the sick family member.

In the rare instances when Dad was the one with the stomach ache, we would slink up the stairs behind her and wait quietly on the landing while she gave him a dose. If one of the children was ailing, the rest of us would march boldly behind her into the bedroom of the afflicted. We'd surround the bed and watch as she opened the glass bottle and poured out a measure of the sticky syrup. The patient, sitting in bed with lips puckered, would swallow the brown liquid, smooth as silk, leaving us to lick our lips vicariously at the sickeningly sweet taste.

Glass Medicine Bottles

Vintage bottles held home remedies filled by the pharmacist on site.

Vintage bottles held home remedies filled by the pharmacist on site.

There are countless over-the-counter products these days claiming to offer relief from minor stomach aches and indigestion. Catchy jingles sing about heartburn, stomach ache, and diarrhea, but I still turn to the old family favorite whenever it's needed. Whether it's the carbonation or the actual formula, it still works for me when I'm feeling queasy.

Coke syrup can still be found online, although it's doubtful your local pharmacist will carry it or prescribe it for your health. All things in moderation, as the old saying goes.

Coca-Cola was originally intended as a patent medicine. Invented by John Pemberton in the late nineteenth century, it became a popular carbonated soft drink. Two of its original ingredients were kola nuts and coca leaves. The Coca-Cola Company, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, produces concentrate of the revised formula, which is sold to licensed bottlers and distributors in over 200 countries throughout the world.

The current formula still remains a trade secret.

Coca-Cola History in Two Minutes

© 2010 Peg Cole


Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 17, 2020:

Hi Peggy, We only had a few remedies in our childhood medicine cabinet. There was always a bottle of coke syrup, Vick's VapoRub, Absorbine Jr., Mercurochrome, Alka Seltzer, a jar of Noxema, and a few others that served to heal us when we were sick. Quite different these days.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 17, 2020:

Reading this took me back to the good old days of simple home remedies. I never heard of this particular remedy for an upset stomach. It is fun knowing what your mother used to cure cases of upset stomachs.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on August 16, 2017:

Hi Sandy, That sounds almost like a Cola slushy. What a nice way to take the remedy. Thanks for dropping in.

Sandy on August 16, 2017:

My mom used to get Coke syrup from the local drug store only she poured it over crushed ice for us. It was almost worth being sick for. :)

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on May 28, 2017:

Sorry, Don. I don't remember that name. Thanks for stopping in.

Don on May 25, 2017:

Does anyone remember Moxie. Very popular drink in the 1920s thu 40s. It had the elixer start as well.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 14, 2015:

Hi Glenn, The days have truly flown in the wink of an eye. Simple remedies like these still provide relief and I'm glad to have found a source for this once popular item that was a household staple. The ten cent soda machines that dispensed bottles of cold Coke were everywhere back in the day. Traveling the highway, we always stopped for gasoline and bought a bottle from the machine. I find that Coca-cola works most of the time when I'm feeling a bit queasy, too. I think all the bad publicity about the detrimental effects of soda has to do with drinking mass quantities.

Thanks so much for stopping in today.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on October 13, 2015:

Interesting info about Cola Syrup. I always knew about using Coca Cola for an upset stomach. But I didn't know about Cola Syrup. I learned something new from you.

Your story about the history of it is well written and provides a lot of interesting researched facts.

You also brought back a lot of memories, but also made me realize how the years have gone by. I do remember those 10¢ bottles and that red vending machine.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 09, 2014:

Hi Au fait, I'm glad to know that coke syrup in small quantities is still available. I haven't seen it except in the huge sizes that are designed to fill a fountain type dispenser. That would last nearly a lifetime for our small family.

While going through some old things at my Mom's house, I found a box full of old, old stamps. I'm looking forward to going through them since many are from the days when stamps were really cheap.

C E Clark from North Texas on July 09, 2014:

Coke syrup (not the soda, but just the syrup) is available in small bottles from Sam's Club, Amazon, Walgreens, and other places and it's fairly cheap, about $3-4.

Yes, I've heard of coke syrup for stomach and intestinal issues many times over the years. I never used it because I'm one of those strange people who hates the taste of coke, but I've known lots of people over the years who swear by coke syrup for a diarrhea solution and for upset stomach. And I have letters from years ago with 2¢ stamps on them that my mother passed on to me!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 23, 2014:

Still works for me Stephanie. Anytime I've got that queasy feeling I turn to the old remedy. As bad as the sugar and syrup may be for our health, I still trust it above the current remedies made of even more chemicals.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on June 23, 2014:

I love your story about the corner variety store and pharmacy! Coca-Cola was a remedy for stomach upsets in our house, too, and one I used for our kids. It did seem to work.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 18, 2014:

Thanks for dropping in Mary615. I spend a lot of time on memory lane. We also used ginger ale and loved to hear my Dad tell us about making real root beer. So you were a soda clerk - cool! I worked at Neisner's where there was a soda fountain. I loved the cherry cokes and hot dogs on the flat iron grill. They used to toast the buns.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 18, 2014:

Thanks for the info and for the trip down memory lane! My very first job was in a soda shop and I served many cokes! My mother's favorite remedy for an upset tummy was ginger ale and saltines.

I never knew coke would be a good remedy; I'll remember this.

Voted UP, etc.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on June 14, 2014:

Lol. Because it is the last thing anyone would expect someone as suave as George Hamilton to say. :D

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 14, 2014:

One of my favorite movies of all time, too, Sharkye11. I also love that part where George Hamilton quotes Doc Hogue - "If you don't hire him, you're a bovine, city-fied, clodpated moron."

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on June 14, 2014:

Haha! One of my favorite movies! I loved that old doctor! :) We lived waaaaaay out in the sticks, and did the majority of our own first aid. I can really relate to his "home remedies". The Coke, of course, being one of the tastier ones!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 13, 2014:

Hello Sharkye11, I'm not surprised by your daughter getting some relief from the Coke. Sometimes that is exactly what I need when I'm feeling a bit queasy or have the stomach ache. Did you ever see the movie "Doc Hollywood"? I love the part where old Doc Hogue fixes the little kid who ate his Paw's chewing tobacco and had the stomach ache. He pulls a can of Coke out of his pants pocket and pops the tab.

Not good for all emergencies, but sometimes it does provide some needed aid. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the great comment.

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on June 13, 2014:

Cool hub! Yep, my family has used Coke as a cure-all for generations, so this definitely brought a smile. I drink tons of Diet Coke (hate the taste of sweetened sodas) but it has to be a regular Coke for tummy troubles. I always drank them to help nausea from hypoglycemia and motion sickness. My husband thought I was crazy, our daughter had bad stomach pains. He wanted to take her to ER. I gave her some Coke in her sippie cup and she was good as new within an hour.

Again, great hub, and I hope you saved a lot of people unnecessary expense on medications!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on May 30, 2014:

Hi Jason444, Thank you for taking time to let me know you enjoyed the story. Times were so different back then, our Mom had no qualms about us riding our bikes to the store. I'm glad for your visit and thanks for the nice comment. You'll find out here that most writers respond to their commenters. It is a friendly site.

jason444 on May 29, 2014:

Very well told story. Certainly Glad i found it. I was overwhelmed with nostalgyia reading it thank you very much for sharing. Wow 4 years and still responding to every post as of 7 weeks ago now thats impresive!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on April 10, 2014:

Hi Jess. Glad to hear you use this old time remedy and sorry to hear about your gallbladder. Thanks for stopping by.

Jess on April 09, 2014:

I still use cola syrup at age 26 helps out a lot cause I get upset tummy all the time since I had my gallbladder removed 3 yrs ago

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 26, 2014:

Hi Miryam Z. Pa. Thanks for the reinforcement on the coke syrup as a home remedy. Goodness - 5th gen. You're right about too much sugar not being good. Everything in moderation. We used to lick the spoon, too.

Miryam Z. Pa. on February 23, 2014:

My grandson will be 4 in June & the 5th generation 2 be given coke syrup. It works when the meds. the drs. give u make them sick. The best part is the reaction mmmmmmmmmmmm gram I like this & they lick the spoon: but as always the best part is 4 mom they get well soooooooo fast. Just watch cheap brands are adding 2 much sugar & --a cancer ingred.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 04, 2013:

Hi Doug, We did too. Even now, when I feel queasy a little bit of Coke usually helps. I think you're right about the pick-me-up. All in moderation.

Doug on October 03, 2013:

We always used Coke syrup when nothing else would stay down. A little bit over ice chips usually worked. 50 years on I find out that some triathletes drink coke to fuel because it is easy on the stomach, has sugar for energy and caffeine for a little pick-me-up.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on April 20, 2013:

Hi Maria,

Thank you for sharing that sweet story from your dear Momma and her home remedy. It brings back memories of other remedies that were once available from the local pharmacist. I remember hearing my Dad talk about paregoric and laudanum used for various ailments such as calming coughs and teething in addition to stomach problems. Interesting to read about the history of the old prescriptions and to learn of their original ingredients.

So good to have you visit and thank you again for the cool story.

Love, Peg

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on April 19, 2013:

Ah Sista,

I saw this featured and am so glad as I had missed it...

Super cool old fashioned picture. My dear Momma told the " sweetest" story about when she had cramps and would have a coke from the the way she described it, it had " paregoric", which is a derivative of opium and she slept like Dorothy in the poppy field.

I agree...nothing like a coke for a jumpy tummy. Voted UP and UBI.

Love, Maria

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on March 28, 2013:

Hello Beingwell. Nice to see you here. Coca-cola sure works for me. Of course, everything in moderation.

beingwell from Bangkok on March 28, 2013:

Wow! It's really the first time I've read about the classic coke being a first-aid for anything but thirst! Voted up and sharing. Thanks pegcole!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 16, 2013:

Hello Rajan Jolly. Nice to see you here. I doubt the Coca-cola formula is the same as in the old days. From what I hear, they have substituted high fructose corn syrup. Nonetheless, I still turn to a moderately small glass of Coke when needed. I read an article recently that suggests it has a "success rate of more than 90 percent, according to researchers from Athens University", in aiding digestion and stomach blockages.

Hoping you are well.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 15, 2013:

Just wondering if the coke of today is as good as the coca cola of the good old days. Just a thought!

Very interesting.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 11, 2013:

Hi MomsTreasureChest. Thanks for sharing that extra bonus for this old time remedy. Glad to know it worked to calm your nausea.


MomsTreasureChest on February 11, 2013:

I don't like Coca-Cola, but when I was pregnant and nauseas day and night Coke Syrup was the only thing that worked to calm the nausea!

Great hub, thanks for sharing!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 10, 2013:

Hi Vespa. I hope you're feeling better soon. Thanks for reading this hub and for remembering. Get well. Peg

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on February 10, 2013:

This caught my eye since I have an upset tummy right now. I enjoyed reading about your memories of heading to the pharmacy for Coke syrup when someone in the family was sick. I'll have to go try a glass of Coke now. Thanks!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 04, 2013:

Hi Poetic. Rather not have an outside link in the comments if you do not mind. I can find it from your reference above. But thanks so much.

Leanna Stead from North Carolina, United States on February 04, 2013:

You are quite welcome! If you would like, I can post the link to the vermont store here -- that syrup is the type you can mix with seltzer water to make your own cola -- but I wasn't sure if you'd want an active link outside HP in the comments -- that's why I used the vendor name instead of the full site.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on February 04, 2013:

Hi PoeticVine. I saw some coke syrup for sale in the grocery super store the other day but it was in the huge size for coke machines. Glad to hear that some drug stores still sell it. I'll be checking at CVS next time I'm there. Nice to meet you and thanks so much for the comments.

Leanna Stead from North Carolina, United States on February 04, 2013:

Hey, my Dad would give us flat Coke to sip as kids too -- and they do sell cola syrup still in pharmacies! I think CVS carries Flents Cola syrup... but I found a site that sells the classic version as an upset stomach remedy. It's at :)

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 23, 2012:

Hello Ron in MI. Remember, everything in moderation. Not the Route 66 size. lol. I hope I'm not in trouble with your girlfriend. :)

Ron in MI on October 23, 2012:

My girlfriend thought I was nuts when I told her Coke was good for stomach aches. Then, I showed her this article. :) Thank you!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 25, 2012:

Hi Sunny Mayer,

It is surprising that they even have coke syrup anymore. I hope what they gave you is as good as the original was. It does sound kind of costly but if it works, well worth the price. Thank you for coming by.

Sunny Mayer on July 25, 2012:

I just went to the pharmacy to buy coke syrup and was let to Cola Syrup which isn't the thick gooey syrup like the original was. We'll see if it's as good. Not to mention it cost a fortune considering what it is-one pharmacy was $3.99 and the other $3.17 for 4 ounces. Next time I'll leave a bottle of coke or pepsi on the counter and drink that. YIKES. It does work though.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on March 12, 2012:

Hello DMurphy324, That is a great idea to use the syrup for the SodaStream machine. I'm not familiar with that machine. I do remember we drank gingerale sometimes when we were not feeling too well.

It was so nice of you to stop in and let folks know where they could get the coke syrup. Thank you.

DMurphy324 on March 12, 2012:

I found some coke syrup that works! It is the syrup for the SodaStream machine. I used gingerale syrup and coke syrup from that. The best remedies ever. Thanks!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on June 03, 2011:

Jo, It does seem a million years ago. Wow, six siblings. That's a lot of coke syrup! Nice to see you here and Thanks.

Jo_Goldsmith11 on May 25, 2011:

Ahh, those days seem like million of years ago. I grew up in the 70's. My mom had used the same stuff when we would get sick. She had six of us, who seemed to get sick all at the same time! you can imagine, how much she had to buy to help her six children feel better. nice hub!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on April 03, 2011:

LC, I'm glad to know it's still available. We found it to be really effective. Thank you for dropping in and for your comment.

L C on April 02, 2011:

My mom used coke syrup as a remedy for nausea when I was growing up. I also used it for over 30 years for my own family and still use it today.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on March 31, 2011:

Thank you crystolite, for dropping by and for the nice comments. God bless you.

Emma from Houston TX on March 31, 2011:

Lovely article which is presented with the sole aim of informing the people about this coke syrup.Thanks for a job well done.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on March 06, 2011:

Thanks Mrs. J.B. - That was from a great show which aired on the History Channel. Coke syrup really does calm the stomach. A regular coca cola usually works for me as well.

Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on March 04, 2011:

I love love love the photo of the corner store. Also thanks for the tip. It certainly beats the price of all the medications that are out there.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on January 18, 2011:

SilverPoet - wow, really is it still sold? I haven't tried to get it for years. Now I'll have to go check out Walgreens. Thanks for stopping in and for taking time to comment.

Silver Poet from the computer of a midwestern American writer on January 01, 2011:

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best after all! I recently saw cola syrup for sale at Walgreens. I don't know if they still carry it, though. Recently is a couple years ago.

Lazo21 on November 17, 2010:

great info... very useful... i tried when i had an upset stomach and had to travel - it worked!!!! :)

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 14, 2010:

Hi travel_man1971. Thanks so much for dropping by. Yep, it could be the fizziness of cokes that settle the stomach or something in the original formula for the syrup. It works! And we generally had alka selzer around the house too, just in case.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on November 13, 2010:

Wow! That's what my mother used to do with me, when I was a child. Maybe, it's something about the soda.

When I was onboard ship, the remedy for upset stomach is the soda water or the alkasetzer.

Thanks for re-telling it here, Ms. Peg. :D

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on October 19, 2010:

Glo - Thanks for dropping by and letting me know that Doctors recommend this old home remedy. It sure worked for our family.

Glo on October 17, 2010:

Our family doc told us to go get coke syrup for stomach ache to. A couple doses and it would settle the intestines down.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 08, 2010:

prasetio30 - You are very kind. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I always enjoy your articles.


prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on July 07, 2010:

Good information from you. I really enjoy this very much. You always come up with useful hub. I give appreciation to this hub. Thank you very much!


Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 01, 2010:

DeBorrah, Here's to our mutual health! (Imagine we're toasting with an iced glass of Coca-Cola). Nice to meet you here on HubPages.

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on June 30, 2010:

PegCole, Nice hub! Great story! All is well! But it is certainly worth a try next time I'm feeling queasy! Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas,