An elixir is a hydro-alcoholic solution of at least one active ingredient. Elixirs consist of alcohol and water and are sweet in taste and have a nice flavor. The alcohol is mainly used to:
  • Solubilize the active ingredient(s) and some excipients
  • Retard the crystallization of sugar
  • Preserve the finished product
  • Provide a sharpness to the taste
  • Aid in masking the unpleasant taste of the active ingredient(s)
  • Enhance the flavor.
The lowest alcoholic quantity that will dissolve completely the active ingredient(s) and give a clear solution is generally chosen. High concentrations of alcohol give burning taste to the final product.

Elixirs have low viscocity than syrups and they can flow more freely as there will be very less use of agents that increase viscocity like sucrose. To call a formulation as elixir, it must be hydroalcoholic and the amount of alcohol may vary greatly.

Medicated Elixirs
  • Antihistaminic elixirs: used against allergy: chlorampheniramine maleate elixirs (USP), diphenhydramine HCl elixirs.
  • Sedative and hypnotic elixirs: sedatives induce drowsiness, and hypnotics induce sleep: pediatric chloral hydrate elixirs.
  • Expectorant: used to facilitate productive cough (cough with sputum): terpin hydrate elixirs.
  • Miscellaneous: acetaminophen (paracetamol) elixirs, which are used as analgesics.
Elixirs Ingredients
  • Alcohol
  • Water
  • Glycerin
  • Sugar and/or sugar substitutes like the sugar polyols glycerol and sorbitol
  • Preservatives (parabens and benzoates and antioxidants like Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and sodium metabisulfite)
  • Sorbital
  • Flavouring agents and flavor enhancers 
  • Buffering agents
  • Chelating agents (like sodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid / EDTA)
  • Coloring agent
Glycerin and syrup may also used in the formulation. This enhances the solubility of drug, or to increase the sweet taste. Propylene glycol can also be used as solvent.

Elixirs can be prepared more easily than syrups they contain less amount of ingredients that are to be dissolved.

Elixirs Preparation
If water soluble and alcohol soluble ingredients are present in formulation then the following procedure is followed.
  1. Add all the water soluble ingredients to water and dissolve them.
  2. Now sucrose should be mixed and let it dissolve completely.
  3. Take all the alcohol soluble ingredients and dissolve them in alcohol.
  4. Then add the first solution to second solution. To make the elixir clear, filter it.
  5. Make the final volume with water.
Sucrose will enhance the viscocity and reduces the solubility of water. To make the elixir clear which is compulsory, talc or siliceous earth are used.

Dry Elixirs
These are the formulations in which NSAID and alcohol are encapsulated. Dextrin is used for encapsulation. As a result the solubility will be enhanced and so the bioavailability of the drug.

Note:
  • Alcohol precipitates substances like tragacanth, acacia from water. So incompatibility reactions should be thoroughly checked.
  • Alcohol increases the saline taste of bromides etc. so the formulator has to seek some other solvent during these conditions. Syrup is the best choice when taste is the main consideration.
  • Elixirs should be stored in a tightly closed and light resistant container away from direct heat and sunlight.
Advantages of Elixir
  • Easy to swallow than tablets or capsule.
  • It tastes good.
  • Clear solution, no need to be shuffled again.
Disadvantages of Elixir
  • Alcohol is not good for children.
  • Because they contain volatile materials, it must be stored in a watertight screw-top jar and away from sources of ignition.