Reverse Engineering: Puking Pastilles

March 2012 Prof. Scarlet Leslie

Yum! The Puking Pastille is perfect for those who want to make themselves sick, specifically by vomiting. It is a sweet developed for the Skiving Snackbox sold by Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Fred and George themselves ran into some trouble developing the puking pastille. Let's take a look at why.

Why do people puke? One reason is motion sickness. In your ears, there is a part known as the vestibular apparatus. It helps you maintain balance through the input you get from all your senses. If you are on a boat, however, there may be a mismatch between your body position and what your eyes see, causing you to feel uneasy. To combat this, you should stay in the middle of the boat and keep your eyes on a fixed point in the horizon. Although the Weasley twins have magic, it is unlikely that the Puking Pastille induces motion sickness.

There are also many other reasons for vomiting, including pregnancy and consuming too much alcohol. By far, the most common reason for puking is food-related, especially overeating. The food sits longer in your intestines and irritates them, Toxins in your blood can be detected by the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ). The CTZ relays the information to the vomiting center in your brain, causing you to puke.

Ipecac syrup and activated charcoal are used to induce vomiting, especially after someone is poisoned. It is unclear whether ipecac syrup is really helpful, so it has fallen out of favor. Activated charcoal is a gritty black powder that can adsorb many types of substances. It is always combined with other agents to improve the taste. Children in particular may vomit as quickly as 10 minutes after ingesting activated charcoal. Considering how quickly Puking Pastilles work, it is likely that activated charcoal is an ingredient.

How is vomiting treated? Hydration is key. Carbonated drinks, especially ginger ale, are good if the person can tolerate it. Fruit juices are also helpful. I would highly recommend keeping some juice nearby if you are planning to use a Puking Pastille.

Nutrition is still important, but a bland diet is suggested. Some call it the BRAT diet:
Apple sauce

For overeating, agents used to treat heartburn may relieve symptoms. Antacids neutralize stomach acid. The liquid antacids work faster than the tablets form. Histamine2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) last longer than antacids.

Bismuth subsalicylate is good for all irritations throughout your digestive tract. It is the main ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, known for relieving nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea. Sounds perfect for the Puking Pastille, right? Due to the salicylate component, bismuth subsalicylate should not be used in children younger than 12 years old. There is a possibility of developing Reye's syndrome, which could be fatal. Since Fred and George tested some of their products on first years, who could be 11 years old, bismuth subsalicylate should not be in Puking Pastilles.

Phosphorylated carbohydrate solutions are helpful in reducing vomiting. It is a mixture of fructose, glucose, and phosphoric acid. Since phosphorylated carbohydrate solutions can be pricey, you can simply get a dark cola (Coke or Pepsi) because they contain phosphoric acid.

Finally, what is a pastille? It is a type of hard candy or medical lozenge. A pastille is meant to be lightly chewed as it dissolves in one's mouth. A good example is a cough drop. For a candy that makes you puke, a pastille is a good choice. It gives you a little bit of time to prepare for the effects. It also might take some time for the lift the effect of the side that makes you sick. Rather than swallowing the cure immediately and having the risk of throwing it back up, it remains in your mouth for some time.

The end that makes you sick must be a mixture of activated charcoal with some more pleasant flavors. The end that makes you better should include phosphoric acid and fruit juice, possibly some bananas or apple sauce. Toss in a little Weasley twin magic and experimentation to find the right balance. Voila! A Puking Pastille!