The original Alka-Seltzer is a remedy for headache, indigestion, gas, stomach cramps,and heartburn. Sodium bicarbonate in Alka-Seltzer also makes it effective in treating mild blood acidosis associated with allergy (see citation). Alka-Seltzer is a combination of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, C9H8O4), sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), and citric acid (C6H8O7), designed to treat pain and simultaneously neutralize excess stomach acid (the "Alka" being derived from the word "alkali"). It is provided in the form of large effervescent tablets, about 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter, which are dissolved (two at a time for the usual adult dosage) in a glass of water. As the tablets dissolve, the base (Alka) and bicarbonate react vigorously producing carbon dioxide gas (hence the "Seltzer"), which also produces enough agitation to allow the active ingredients to dissolve slowly. The patient then ingests the resulting solution.
The product has been extensively advertised since the beginning of the mass media era in the U.S. It was formerly marketed as something of a cure-all; at one time its ads even suggested taking it for "the blahs." Subsequent regulation has taken into consideration that aspirin is a relatively powerful drug which is not tolerated by everyone and should not generally be taken at all by children or adolescents due to its linkage to Reye's syndrome; the product is no longer marketed in this fashion.
The product has suffered a decline in popularity in the U.S. in recent decades; there are apparently several factors involved in this.
The increasing medical awareness of the U.S. general public, most of whom now realize that it is not advisable to take a multi-symptom treatment product unless one has all of the symptoms that it treats (i.e., in Alka-Seltzer's case, a headache simultaneous with an upset stomach.)
A general trend away in the U.S. from aspirin-based products to those based on other pain relievers, notably acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
The product is believed to have a bland, chalky taste, rather off-putting to some; in recent decades, flavored versions have been available as a concession to this fact.
At one time the product was available in both long glass tubes and foil packets; the latter is the primary way the product is provided today, with two tablets in each packet.
As the sale of the original product has declined, Bayer HealthCare (formerly Miles Laboratories) has put the famous brand onto newer products, such as the Alka-Seltzer Plus line of remedies for the common cold. Some of the newer products are now neither effervescent nor aspirin-based. This is because the years spent building the brand through advertising are still yielding benefits; many Americans still remember catch phrases from its ads such as "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!", "Mamma mia, that's-a spicy meat-a-ball!", "Try it, you'll like it!" and "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, oh what a relief it is!"; a similar slogan in the United Kingdom referred to "plunk, plunk, fizz-ics".
On March 28, 2006, Alka-Seltzer celebrated its 75th anniversary with a world record setting buffet at the Las Vegas Hilton. Over 500 dishes were featured at the buffet. The event was hosted by Kathy Griffin and was featured in the final episode of the second season of the Bravo reality show Kathy Griffin: Life on The D-List. In late 2006, Griffin appeared in another re-introduced Alka-Seltzer ad, the "Try it, you'll like it!" spot.
Chemistry of the effervescence
The aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is not an active ingredient in the effervescent action of Alka-Seltzer, but the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and citric acid are active.
A well known icon was the "Speedy" character, an American advertising icon created by George Pal of the Wade Ad Agency in 1951 as Sparky, then changed to Speedy by a sales manager to promote "speedy relief." Speedy was either a little boy or an elf (opinions vary) whose body was primarily one Alka-Seltzer tablet while he wore another as a hat; he proclaimed Alka-Seltzer's virtues and sang the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" song in his high, squeaky voice (provided by voice actor Dick Beals).
George Raft starred in the 1969 Alka-Seltzer commercial "The Unfinished Lunch." It consists of Raft incarcerated and in the prison lunchroom. He takes a bite of the awful prison food and recoils back. Suddenly he bangs his cup on the steel table loudly in the lunchroom. It ripple effects throughout the room. He starts intoning "Alka Seltzer, Alka Seltzer..." Soon, the other hundreds of inmates do the same. The commercial is regarded as a "classic", mostly because the product is never seen, and the brand name is the only word spoken. It is reminiscent of the old radio ad for a similar product, Bromo-Seltzer, with its "freight train" rhythmic repetition of the product's name.
Alka-Seltzer had a series of commercials during the mid 1960s which utilized a song called "No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In," which was recorded by the T-Bones and was released as a single which became a hit in 1966. The ads were unique in that they featured only the mid-sections (no faces) of people of all shapes and sizes.
In an Alka-Seltzer commercial from 1970, an actor (played by Jack Somack ) in a commercial for the fictional product "Magdalini's Meatballs" has to eat a meatball and then say "Mamma mia, that's-a spicy meat ball-a!" in an ersatz Italian accent. Take after take is ruined by some comedic trial or another. By the commercial's end, "Jack" has eaten so many meatballs that it's "Alka Seltzer to the rescue". With his stomach settled, Jack does a perfect take, except the oven door falls off. The director (off-camera) sighs and says, "OK, let's break for lunch." Although it has been said that this commercial was dropped because it was allegedly demeaning to Italians, more likely it was dropped because it failed to increase sales of the product (even today most people think it was a commercial for spaghetti sauce).
Another 1970 commercial shows a newlywed couple in the bedroom after his wife has finished serving him a giant dumpling; the implication is that her cooking skills are severely lacking. She lies on the bed in delusional triumph. She offers her beleaguered husband a heart-shaped meat loaf; he disappears to take some Alka-Seltzer. When she hears the fizzy noise coming from the bathroom, he quickly covers the glass of dissolving Alka-Seltzer as she wonders aloud if it is raining. Just when he has recovered his well-being, he hears her misreading recipes for dinner the next night: "marshmallowed meatballs," and "pouched (actually poached) oysters". He returns to the bathroom for more Alka-Seltzer.
A 1971 commercial featured the catch-phrase, "Try it, you'll like it!" It was remade by Kathy Griffin in 2006. 
In 1972, an actor spent the commercial moaning, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!" while his wife made sarcastic comments and finally advised him to take some Alka-Seltzer. 
Another Alka-Seltzer commercial from the same era is one concerning "The ultimate businessman's lunch". Seeking "revenge" on his underlings for former bad suggestions, "The Boss" [aka "Mr. J.G.", played by character actor Milton Frome ] is taking his "boys" out to lunch in the most out-of-the-way place imaginable. In this instance they are seen trudging through the snow in a howling windstorm towards their destination, a Chinese restaurant in the mountains of Tibet. Once inside the restaurant and removing their parkas, J.G. and the boys are greeted by the proprietor, "Moo Chee" [a thinly veiled reference to other oriental food], played by character actor and voice artist Marvin Miller [best-known for playing Michael Anthony, personal assistant to John Beresford Tipton [III] on the 1950's TV series "The Millionaire", and the voice of "Robby the Robot" in the 1950's film Forbidden Planet ]. Moo Chee directs them into the dining room where J.G. orders all the food, including roast yak in a special hot sauce followed by "chocolate moose". One of the boys complains "but J.G., that's a French dessert!". J.G. responds "No, this is a real moose!" followed quickly by Moo Chee chiming in "with special hot chocolate sauce!" [as in hot peppers]. In the next scene J.G. and the boys are eating and getting sick, when in comes Moo Chee announcing "Important phone call for Mr. J.G.!" In the next scene, the hung-up telephone is seen [just a prop in the ruse to get away from the boys], and J.G. is finishing his Alka-Seltzer, thanking Moo Chee for his timely "rescue" from the awful food. Relieved, the boss returns to the now-empty dining room with Moo Chee. "Where are the boys?" asks J.G. The final remark is by Moo Chee "Maybe they too have important phone call, Mr. J.G." All of this detail is conveyed in a 30-second spot.
In late 2005, Alka Seltzer re-introduced the "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" ad with Peter Boyle, apparently "in character" as Frank Barone from the 1996–2005 TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond (his TV wife, Doris Roberts as Marie Barone, appeared alongside Boyle in some of these commercials). In one commercial, she gives him a piece of cake to eat, at the end; in true Marie Barone fashion she adds, "drop one crumb and you're dead!"
References in pop culture
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Jack Benny suggests it as a cure for a hangover on his February 9, 1953 radio episode "Steak Ride"
Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) in the television comedy Black Books refers to Alka-Seltzer as "fizzy-good-make-feel-nice."
The 1970s commercial was also featured in the movie Dick. Another "Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz" ad is featured in the 1976 comedy Silver Streak.
FBI Agent Jack Crawford frequently takes Alka-Seltzers in the Hannibal Lecter series of books by Thomas Harris. .
A con man with a weak stomach is seen taking Alka-Seltzer in the movie Ocean's Eleven.
The band Oasis mention Alka-Seltzer in relation to a girl named 'Elsa' in their song "Supersonic." In the song they refer to Elsa snorting the Alka-Seltzer to get high.
In the 1976 Columbia Pictures theatrical release "Taxi Driver," Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) puts Alka-Seltzer in his water, during a scene in a luncheonette . Oddly enough, De Niro shares this scene with Peter Boyle, who appeared in a new ad campaign for Alka Seltzer beginning in late 2005 using slightly altered dialogue taken from the 1970s original (see above).
In the movie Body Shots, Trent suggests opening a package of Alka Seltzer in order to feign putting on a condom.
The Bloodhound Gang's song Shut Up features the lyrics "I'm an Alka Seltzer, that's right you're a seagull", which is a reference to the urban myth that a seagull will explode if it swallows an Alka Seltzer.
The song No More Shoes, by Stephen Malkmus (from his album Face the Truth), ends, after a lengthy psychedelic jam, with the distorted voice of Malkmus shouting at the top of his lungs "I want my Alka-Seltzer!"
Alka Seltzer appeared in a strip of Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin likes to see his cereal crackle when he puts milk in it probably referring to the effervescent property.
The band Gym Class Heroes use a reference to Alka Seltzer in their song "Cupid's Chokehold", the lyrics are "...i mean she even makes me pancakes, and alka seltzer when my tummy aches, if that ain't love then i don't know what love is."
In Shrek 2, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss in Boots sneaked into the potion room to find a potion that would transform Shrek into a handsome prince. Puss in Boots was able to leap from shelf to shelf in order to look for potions. One of the potions that he found was Elfa-Seltzer (Alka-Seltzer).
The German a cappella group "Wise Guys" mentions Alka-Seltzer on their album Radio in the song Aber sonst gesund (Healthy otherwise)
In the song Trilogie auf Frau Pohl by German singer-songwriter Reinhard Mey, Mey's landlady invites him to a glass of Alka-Seltzer after he had an alcoholic party where parts of her furniture were demolished.
Alka-Seltzer's latest ad campaign, first showcased during Super Bowl XLI, features child star Jack Johnson as an edgy concert-goer.
In the Star Trek TNG episode Unification, Part I, there is a ship called the USS Alka-Selsior at Surplus Depot Z-15, a play on the name Excelsior and Alka-Seltzer.
In the Weekend Update segment of the September 25th, 1976 Saturday Night Live episode, it was announced that Speedy Alka-Seltzer "came out of the medicine cabinet this week, and admitted that he was a bicarbonate," and had subsequently committed suicide by throwing himself into a bathtub, where he was "fatally effervesced."
Conker the Squirrel uses Alka-Seltzer to get rid of his hangover in Conker's Bad Fur Day
In the 1988 film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, a member of the city council, played by Kurt Fuller, is seen taking Alka-Seltzer at a town meeting after Elvira uses a magical casserole to turn everyone in town into "sex-addled maniacs".
In an issue of the defunct magazine Coronet, a mother writes deploring the actions sometimes depicted in commercials, such as people deliberately spilling stuff on a floor, since kids might copy that. But then she saw he young son confronted by a local bully. The younger boy started singing "Plop, plop, fizz, dizz, oh, what a relief it is!" The bully's attitude changed and the two kids walked down the street singin.
Lil Wayne mentions Alka Seltzer in Dj Khaled's - I'm so Hood (Remix) he quotes "...I be shitting on your boys I need an alka-seltzer sandwich".