How to Swallow Bitter Medicine

Two Parts:Swallowing Liquid MedicineSwallowing Pills

We live in a time where numerous illnesses and conditions can be treated with just a few pills or spoonfuls of liquid. Unfortunately for us, many medicines come with a bitter and unpleasant taste that can make taking them more difficult. There are, however, a few ways you can overcome a medicine's taste and keep yourself healthy at the same time.

Part 1
Swallowing Liquid Medicine

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    Check with your pharmacist before mixing your medication. The easiest way to take bitter liquid medicine is by mixing it with a better-tasting drink. This is usually fine with most medications, but you have to be careful. There could be interactions between your drug and certain liquids. Grapefruit juice, for example, has become notorious for inhibiting the effectiveness of several drugs, including Lipitor, Zocor, and Allegra.[1] Check with your pharmacist and ask what the best kind of liquid is for your medication, and if there are any juices that will interact with your drug.
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    Mix your liquid medicine into a strongly-flavored drink. Usually fruit juices work best for this because they have strong tastes that can overwhelm the taste of the medicine.[2]
    • Make sure to measure out the correct dose of your medicine. Then pour this into a full glass of juice or water and drink it quickly.
    • Drink the glass entirely to ensure that you get the full dosage of medicine.
    • Carbonated beverages may not be the best choice for this method- the bubbles will make it hard to swallow fast. Milk may also not work best because mixing it with medicine could cause an upset stomach.[3]
    • You may also want to "chase," or follow the medication with pleasant tasting drink afterwards can assist in erasing the foul taste.
    • Never mix your medicine with alcohol. Alcohol interacts with many medications and it can be harmful to drink while taking medication.
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    Ask your pharmacist if he can add flavor to your medicine. Sometimes pharmacists can modify your medicine by adding flavors like cherry or bubblegum. This will help remove the bitter taste and make taking the medicine much easier. A trained compounding pharmacist should be able to do this for most medicines in liquid form, including prescription and non-prescription medications. If you have trouble taking your medicine because of its taste, ask your pharmacist about this option.[4]
    • Ask pharmacist about availability of flavoured medicine.
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    Chill your medicine before taking it. Medicines usually have less taste when cold. If you can't dilute your medicine, you can try serving it cold to reduce the bitter taste. Leave it in the refrigerator for about an hour before taking it to ensure that it is sufficiently cold.[5]
    • Check with the pharmacist prior to doing this as certain medications can become unstable in severe fluctuations of temperature.
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    Suck on an ice cube or ice pop before taking the medicine. This will numb your mouth and make it harder to taste. With your mouth numbed, you can swallow the medicine before getting too much of a bitter taste.[6]
    • Suck on either an ice cube or ice pop until your mouth is numb- probably around five minutes. Then drink your medicine quickly before you regain feeling in your mouth.
    • Have water or juice standing by. Drink this right after taking your medicine. If you don't drink something, you'll get the medicine taste as soon as your mouth warms up.

Part 2
Swallowing Pills

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    Check with your pharmacist before altering your medication. Many methods for taking pills involve grinding or breaking the pills and mixing them into food. Before doing this, make sure this won't inhibit the effectiveness of your medicine. Some pills have time-release coating and can be harmful if ground up. Oxycontin, for example, is wrapped in an extended release coating and can cause an overdose if crushed. Some other common, non-prescription medicines that shouldn't be crushed are Motrin, Claritin-D, and Bayer aspirin.[7]
    • The Institute for Safe Medical Practices has compiled this list of pills you should not crush. New medications come out often, however, so always check with your pharmacist before grinding up a pill. There are other options if you can't crush your pills.
    • For some medications (like oxycontin) there are abuse deterrent formulations that still require this medication to be swallowed whole, but if crushed or tampered with inactivates the active ingredient.
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    Crush your pills and mix them into food. If you've consulted your pharmacist and confirmed that it is safe to crush your pills, then use this opportunity to take your medicine with food you enjoy.[8][9] At the same time, be careful when doing this with your favorite foods, as adding your bitter medicine can cause an aversion to your favorite food if it tastes horrible.
    • Before crushing a pill, moisten it with a few drops of water. Let it soften for 15 minutes.
    • Purchase a pill crusher. Otherwise use a mortar and pestle or crush the pill using a spoon. Do this carefully so you don't lose any of the medication.
    • Add the crushed pill to food. Any food will do, but sweet things usually work best. Sweet flavors will be most effective at distracting your taste buds from the medicine's taste. Things like ice cream, chocolate or vanilla pudding, honey, or chocolate syrup usually work best.
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    Suck on an ice cube before taking the medicine. If you have to take a foul-tasting pill and aren't allowed to have it with food, you can use the same mouth-numbing trick as you used with liquid. Suck on an ice cube until your mouth is numb. Then place the pill in your mouth, chew if necessary, and swallow with a gulp of water.[10]
    • If you use this method, be sure to check your mouth after you swallow to ensure the pill went down. With your mouth numb, you may not be able to feel the pill.


  • Take a drink of water before taking any medicine. This will lubricate your mouth and make medicine go down easier.[11]
  • If your doctor is okay with it, coat the pill in butter. This can make it much easier to go down your throat.
  • If you have trouble taking pills, the following method opens the throat more and may make it easier for you to swallow the pill.[12]
    • Place the pill on your tongue.
    • Take a sip of water, but don't swallow.
    • Tilt your chin toward your chest and swallow while your head is tilted.
  • Drink water before and after any medicine. And if it's the medicine that you will drink, hold your nose and drink it all fast so you won't taste it much.
  • Flatten out a Starburst (chewy candy) and wrap it around your pill. The candy coats the pill so it doesn't taste bitter and terrible and the candy itself is slippery so it doesn't get stuck to the back of your throat!


  • Never take medication that isn't prescribed to you.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if these methods of taking the medication are acceptable. Food can interrupt and/or react badly to certain medications. Certain medications need to be taken on an empty stomach. Always following advice on how to take medication will ensure that it works to the best favor towards expected health outcome.

Article Info

Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine