If you’ve ever encountered some unwanted gastrointestinal distress, we bet that you’ve been glad to have had a bottle of Pepto-Bismol around. The pink, viscous liquid has been used for more than a century to treat heartburn, stomachaches, and other tummy troubles, but have you ever really stopped and thought about what the stuff actually tastes like? If you haven’t, then you’ve probably never realized the original version it’s mint-flavored.
Probably the only substance on the planet that looks like bubble gum but tastes like mint, Pepto was actually originally devised in the early 1900s as an aid to help ease the symptoms of cholera (its original name was Mixture Cholera Infantum), and the original formula included pepsin (an enzyme), zinc salts (which aid digestion), salol (a mild painkiller), and pink coloring, according to the company. Another original ingredient? Oil of wintergreen, an especially minty-tasting herb that’s been used for centuries to ease stomach pain and aid digestion.
Even though the formula has completely changed over the years (the active ingredient today is the somewhat mysterious bismuth subsalicylate), the color and primary flavor hasn’t. Unfortunately, Pepto no longer contains real wintergreen oil; nowadays it gets its flavor from synthetically-derived methyl salicylate, which is actually the compound that gives wintergreen oil its flavor. If you’d prefer to never have the need to use Pepto, check out these 10 tips for avoiding food poisoning.