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Are Inactive Ingredients Really Inactive?

by Cassandra Willis
Author of Articles on Topical Liniments

So-called “inactive ingredients” might also trigger a food or chemical sensitivity (and therefore inflammation) in someone who has a sensitivity to the source material of the ingredient. Many inactive ingredients come from common allergens like wheat, soy, and corn. Below is a breakdown of the inactive ingredients in both Traumeel® and Zeel®.

Zeel, Arthritis Pain Relief Ointment

Cetylstearyl alcohol:

Cetylstearyl alcohol is most commonly made from palm oil, but can be made from coconut oil, or the saturated fats from many types of plants and nuts. If you react to the source material, you will likely react to cetylstearyl alcohol made from it.


Ethanol is most commonly made from the fermentation of grains (wheat, corn or any other type of grain) or the fermentation of cellulose (most commonly corn cobs, straw or sawdust). Because it is purified by fractional distillation after fermentation, it is safe for most people with food sensitivities. If you have an extremely severe food sensitivity to the source material used to make a particular batch of ethanol, it is possible you might react.

Traumeel Pain Relief Ointment


Paraffin is made from either bees wax or crude oil. Some people do react to bees wax. If you have a sensitivity to bees wax, you will likely react to paraffin made from bees wax. It is rare to react to paraffin made from crude oil.


Petrolatum used to be derived exclusively from crude oil. It is rare to react to petrolatum made exclusively from crude oil. However, “hybrid petrolatums” are often used commercially. These are made from blending petroleum derived petrolatum with various types of vegetable oils. If you have a sensitivity to the vegetable oil used (for instance many people have a reaction to all soy products, including soy oil), you will likely react to the petrolatum.

To learn more about the source materials used in any commercial product, contact the manufacturer. Since manufactures are sometimes suddenly forced to switch suppliers in response to availability, price, and a host of other factors, it is best to call the manufacturer directly. Anything we publish today about the source materials of the ingredients in any particular product could be out of date by tomorrow.

If you find that there are not any commercial ointments on the market with ingredients safe for you to use, you might try making your own. The Complete Medicinal Herbal is a good place to start for this information. It includes detailed instructions on how to isolate the herbal or homeopathic ingredients needed as well as how to turn them into ointments, creams, and other healing remedies.

For a list of the active ingredients in Traumeel® and their purposes click here.

To learn more about food sensitivities and how to identify them, read about the ALCAT Test.

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