Bismuth subsalicylate

November 28, 2005
Image of Bismuth subsalicylate

Bismuth subsalicylate was originally used in a formula developed 100 years ago by a doctor in his home to combat cholera infantum. A staple of many medicine cabinets, bismuth subsalicylate, in the form of Pepto-Bismol, is be taken by countless people during the holiday season to help reverse the effects of overindulging.

MOTW update:
May 9, 2022

Bismuth subsalicylate1 was the Molecule of the Week for November 28, 2005. It is the active ingredient in more than century-old antiacid formulations, such as Pepto-Bismol, for “upset stomach”—nausea, indigestion, and the like.

Despite its long use, the crystal structure of bismuth subsalicylate was unknown until recently. Tom Willhammar, A. Ken Inge, and fellow researchers at Stockholm University used 3-D electron diffraction and scanning transmission electron microscopy to discover that the molecule has a layered structure with multiple stacking orientations. The stacking variations are the reason that the structure determination was so challenging. 

1. CAS Reg. No. 14882-18-9.

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