A Driving Instructor's Blog

A lot of people use Bach’s Rescue Remedy (or something similar, like Kalms) for their nerves when driving – especially on their tests. Someone found the blog today on the search term “can bachs rescue remedy make you over the drink drive limit because it contains alcohol[?]”Yellow flowers

The main thing to consider is that flower extracts and dilutions have been proven not to work. But that’s another subject.

Bach’s extracts can contain up to 40% of alcohol by volume, though I believe that original Rescue Remedy only contains 27% (bear in mind some versions of Rescue Remedy are alcohol-free). What does that mean in practice? Well, a pint of normal strength beer (3.5% alcohol) would contain 19.9mls of ethanol (which is what alcohol is). Alcohol-based Rescue Remedy in the 20ml size would be equivalent to a pint of beer in terms of ethanol… IF it were neat (100%) alcohol to begin with, and IF you used a whole container of it at a time.

Since original Rescue Remedy is only about 27% alcohol, a whole container would be equivalent to just under a third of a pint of beer. And since a 20ml container contains between 20-30 doses, each dose is equivalent to less than 10mls of normal beer. And there is also the question of what it means when they say “alcohol” on the label, because Bach apparently uses brandy (labelled as “grape alcohol”, but it’s the same thing), which is a maximum of 60% ethanol to start with, so the dilution would be still greater if this is what they were referring to.

So, unless you were already so close to being over the limit that a few mls of alcoholic liquid would take you over, the answer is no. Rescue Remedy cannot take you over the drink drive limit – not in the UK, at any rate. However, if you live somewhere they have a zero-tolerance alcohol limit, and if you had just squirted the stuff into your mouth when you got pulled over, a breath test might be a bit unpredictable.

In any case, there is an alcohol-free version for kids, the spray version is only water-based, and you can get it in tablet and pastille form.

But it still doesn’t work…

If you really are suffering from debilitating nerves on lessons or your test, you could consider seeing your GP to find out about beta blockers.

Does Rescue Remedy contain alcohol?

The original type does (above, left). But they do alcohol-free types (above, right), water-based sprays, tablets, and pastilles (middle).

How much alcohol is in one drop of Rescue Remedy/Bachs?

You really should stop overthinking this if you have to ask.

The maximum amount of alcohol it will contain is 40% by volume. You’d have to drink several entire bottles of Bachs/Rescue Remedy to get the same amount of alcohol as found in a pint of normal beer – and that’s assuming it’s the original type that has alcohol in it in the first place, that it isn’t heavily diluted by the manufacturer (which is likely these days), and that it is the theoretical highest alcohol version they ever produced. One dose contains negligible alcohol.

In short, you’d have to drink it neat, and if you’re doing that, it’s your own fault.

What is Grape Alcohol?

For all practical purposes, it is brandy. Both grape alcohol and brandy are produced by distilling either wine or wine must (pomace). Since brandy for drinking is usually higher quality, it is distilled from wine. Grape alcohol isn’t usually meant for drinking by itself and is made from the pomace, which is cheaper. The original Rescue Remedies were made using genuine brandy, I believe (usually this is at least 35% alcohol). These days, they use grape alcohol (at 27% alcohol).

Can I use grape alcohol for anxiety?

For driving, absolutely not, under any circumstances. Grape alcohol is brandy, so you’d be drink-driving.

If you mean just anxiety in general, the advice would be the same as for asking if drinking any sort of alcohol is a good idea in those circumstances.

Can alcoholics take Rescue Remedy?

Yes, definitely – if it is one of the alcohol-free versions. They do tablets, too, remember.

I don’t want to say that it’s OK to take the regular kind, because it depends on the individual. A quick squirt might not do any harm whatsoever for some alcoholics, but if the person gets it into their head that they’re taking alcohol…? It’s up to you.

Can Rescue Remedy make you drunk?

If you use the alcoholic type as per the label, no. If you drank a lot of it, then it could.

Ironically, if you did drink a lot of it, you wouldn’t be overdosing on anything – you’d just be drinking alcohol and water, which is pretty much what it consists of.

It appears that only the original liquid version is alcohol-based. The spray is a water-based product, and tablets and pastilles don’t contain alcohol, either.

Can it take you over the limit?

Technically, yes, the alcoholic type could. But if you already had so much alcohol in your system that two drops of Rescue Remedy was going to make any difference, it would just serve you right. On its own – if you haven’t already been drinking – no, it can’t take you over the limit, assuming you don’t drink a half pint of it.

Is it illegal to drive on Rescue Remedy?

No. Even if you used the kind which contains alcohol and comes in 20ml bottles, you’d need to drink at least ten bottles of the stuff in one go to imbibe the equivalent of two pints of beer. Even if that seems a likely possibility, the fact that it would cost you over £50 to do it ought to put you off. If it doesn’t, maybe it’s best for everyone if you just don’t drive. Ever.

Isn’t it just the alcohol that calms you down?

Nothing calms you down – except your own mind (or beta blockers, which are a prescription medicine). Rescue Remedy (and the like) have nothing active in them, and even if they did the purported ingredients simply don’t do anything. They are literally so diluted that there is probably not a single molecule of whatever is supposed to be in there actually there. And the dose taken each time is so small that even if it were pure alcohol it would have no discernible effect on anyone.

If anyone claims  that Rescue Remedy calms them down, it is all in their mind. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if it works, it works – but it is not a proper medicine. It is a placebo, of benefit only to those susceptible to the placebo effect.

Is there anything that can help my anxiety/nerves when driving?

Consider seeing your GP. He could prescribe beta-blockers – a genuine medicine that reduces anxiety.

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