WMBF Investigates: Alert Drops

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – It's supposed to give you the alertness of an energy drink or a cup of coffee in a split second and without the caffeine or sugar. But does it work? And is it safe?

Alert Drops is a product Anson Williams came up with. Williams is well known for his role in the TV show Happy Days. Now, he's gotten into the world of making products. He says he got the idea for Alert Drops after a near-death experience.

"I was driving home, and I fell asleep at the wheel and almost killed myself bouncing around in the local desert," Anson Williams said.

Luckily for Williams, someone close to him was there to help. Williams' second cousin is Henry Heimlich, the inventor of the life-saving technique to help people who are choking. Heimlich had some advice for Williams.

"I talked to Dr. Heimlich, and he said, 'Anson, next time that happens, cut up lemons in the car.' He said, 'When you start feeling that exhaustion, that kind of sleepy beginning, bite into the lemon. The citric acid in the sour lemon will hit the lingual nerve on top of your tongue, and the automatic reflex reaction of the body is adrenaline,'" Williams said.

So Williams did that for a long time, but eventually he thought he could turn it into a spray.

"I call up Dr. Heimlich and I said, 'What if we took citric acid and sour lemon and water, and what if we put it in a spray drop, and what if we just sprayed it on top of the lingual nerve on the tongue?' He said, 'Absolutely do it,'" Williams said.

Alert Drops works by stimulating the lingual nerve on the tongue.

"It's the nerve in our tongue," Dr. Dennis Rhoades with Doctors Care said. "It's related to our taste buds. It's a nerve that sends signals back to the brain."

When something lemon flavored touches the lingual nerve, the natural reaction is adrenaline.

So does Alert Drops actually work? WMBF Investigates put it to the test.

When our reporter tried it, he definitely felt the rush of adrenaline it's supposed to cause.

But is it safe?

Alert Drops is not approved by the FDA, but that's because it doesn't have to be since it's essentially just a lemon juice.

Alert Drops is made up of five ingredients. The ingredients are water, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.

Doctors say citric acid is neither good nor bad for you, so that ingredient checks out. The FDA's definition of natural flavor is a lengthy one, but in a nutshell, it's exactly what it sounds like. Any kind of flavoring that's natural. Sodium benzoate can be harmful in large doses, but since Alert Drops is just a spray, it should be fine. A 2010 study revealed potassium sorbate can cause DNA damage, but not enough to be significant.

Dr. Rhoades says the product is lacking any studies that would prove whether it's completely effective, but he also says there's nothing to prove it's not effective.

"I see no deleterious effects to it," Rhoades said. "I see nothing wrong with it, and if someone says, 'Hey it works for me,' then certainly give it a shot and see if it works for you. There's really nothing in it that's chemically bad for you."

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