Not vinegar exactly.

The title of this thread was originally: What, exactly, is an ‘active’ ingredient?

Then, I decided it wasn’t worth asking… until I read this

And, FWIW, the text of the post as I left it on the hard drive:

Reading Cecil’s column brought the whole thing back to me. Why does Vinegar have an active ingredient? Is acetic acid listed as an active ingredient anywhere? Under what circumstances?

I know that the question regarding how much vinegar is harmful is pretty innocous, but it is also rather interesting that more and more these days questions like this (about other things we ingest) keep coming up.

I mean that, nowadays, it seems we’re getting caught up in the minutia of what’s good for us and what’s bad. Take a look at the low-carb fad for example. Someone says that carbs are bad for us, and we, as an American society eschew them like the plague. Furthermore, there are some who took it to the extreme and started on the ‘no-carb’ plan, only to have some health complications later because they weren’t getting enough carbs!!!

Also take a look at the number of health suppliments you can get over the counter, holy smoke, it’s everything from capsicum to dessicated porcine thymus glands. And we are made to believe that for the ailments that we’ve got this is the silver bullet that’ll do the trick; and for some suppliments and people they can have beneficial effects. Never mind you that “I’ll take a large fries and diet soda with that order, sir.”

In the end though, you really are what you eat and alot of us have forgotten, or not cared to remember this. Also, there’s a quote worth repeating that I learned several years ago in grad school for toxicology:
All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.

Not only does this mean that too much cyanide will put you out cold, but that too many french fries will also, as well as not enough carbs, or too much or too little of just about anything. In other words, take everything in moderation and more than likely you’ll be better off for it in the end.

An active ingredient is an ingredient that makes a compound work as advertised.

This reminds me of a guy who lived on our floor in our dorm freshman year. He’d give himself a full-body vinegar rubdown every night before he went to bed. He was also a reallly hairy dude, so you could see all his body hair matted down after his “ritual”. The roommates, naturally, rarely spent any time in there that they didn’t have to. Nobody ever got quite a straight answer as to why he did it, but he was a pretty strange character overall (smart, but strange). Ugh.

Maybe I was right the first time: I should have just let this question die.

However, I guess I’m wondering if the “advertised” part has anything to do with it. Can I sell dessicated porcine thymus glands with an active ingredient of porcine thymus stuff, or not?
Likewise, if a product includes acetominophen or any other ingredient that might otherwise be considered active but it’s not part of what the product is alleged to do, does it need to be listed as active?

FWIW: I did do a google search to find the “dictionary” definition.

A guy asking if he’s eating a couple too many salads with italian dressing is worty of a cecil column? Maybe we’re done fighting ignorance. If this is all that is left, let’s call it a day.

The US Food and Drug Administration defines active ingredient (in 21 Code of Federal Regulations 210.3(b)(7)) as:

Some ingredients can be either active or inactive depending on the circumstances. From the FDA’s FAQ on inactive ingredients:

I can see menthol falling into the category of either active or inactive based on its use. In shaving cream, it may not have any pharmacological purpose (i.e. its function is unrelated to disease or treatment). An ointment, on the other hand, it intended as a treatment, so the menthol gets listed as an active ingredient. It’s also an active ingredient some cough drops.

Whether something is listed as an active ingredient isn’t specifically tied to how the product is advertised, but it is indirectly related.

Thanks for that.

SDMB active ingredient: JeffB (among others)