3 Active Ingredients of Excedrin PM

Excedrin PM is one of the top 10 selling over-the-counter (OTC) medicine brands in the US. It is in the form of tablets or caplets, used in relieving headache pain.

Over the years, different forms of the drug have been produced: Excedrin Migraine, Excedrin Tension Headache, Excedrin Back and Body, Excedrin Extra Strength, Excedrin Menstrual Complete, and Excedrin Pm.

They all share a unique active ingredient –acetaminophen, but in different concentrations. However, for this article, our focus will be on Excedrin Pm, its content, use, how it works, and side effects.


Excedrin Pm was the first headache and sleeping pill combined product. It is an analgesic combination of two medications: acetaminophen and antihistamine. The acetaminophen helps to reduce mild fever mild to moderate pain such as headaches and backaches, while the antihistamine causes drowsiness and dizziness, which makes excedrin Pm a nighttime sleep aid. It comes in caplet forms and is basically used in treating headaches, minor aches and pains as well as difficulty in sleeping.


Each caplet contains 3 active ingredients: 

  1. Acetaminophen – 250mg
  2. Aspirin – 250mg
  3. Diphenhydramine citrate -38mg

Other inactive ingredients it contains are Benzoic acid, calcium carbonate, hydroxyl propyl cellulose low substituted, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, maltodextrin, medium chain triglycerides, polydextrose, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, polyvinyl alcohol, povidone, FD&C blue #1 aluminum lake, D&C red #27 aluminum lake, ferric oxide, stearic acid, talc, titanium dioxide, zinc stearate, polysorbate 80, pregelatinized corn starch.


It contains 3 active ingredients: Acetaminophen, aspirin, and diphenhydramine. Acetaminophen belongs to a group of drugs known as analgesics and though it is not fully understood how it works, it is believed that it works by elevating the body’s pain threshold, thereby allowing you to tolerate more pain, or by blocking pain signals from traveling to the brain, so you don’t feel any pain, hence providing pain relief.

Aspirin on the other hand belongs to a group of drugs called salicylates. It is a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which works by blocking the production of certain natural substances –prostaglandins, that cause fever, and pain.

Meanwhile, diphenhydramine belongs to a group of drugs called Histamine H1 Antagonist. It is the antihistamine component of Excedrin Pm and works by blocking the actions of histamines and symptoms of allergies, but it is also responsible for the sleepy and drowsy feeling you get after taking the medication. Because of this drowsy feeling, Excedrin Pm is recommended to be taken once a day, only at bedtime, with a full glass of water.

Excedrin PM
Excedrin PM


It is an oral drug and can be taken without food, but in case you experience stomach upset when you take it without food, you may take it with food or milk, or as directed by your doctor.

The dosage is based on your age, medical condition, and your response to treatment, however, the recommended dosage for adults and children who are 12 years and over is 2 caplets at bedtime, and unless directed by your doctor, do not take more than 2 caplets in 24 hours and do not use in children who are under 12 years.

Don’t crush or chew the caplet because doing so can release all the drug at once which can result in an increased risk of side effects. And unless directed by your doctor, don’t split the caplet unless they have a score line. Swallow the whole drug whole.

If you’re taking Excedrin Pm for pain, you shouldn’t take it for more than 10 days (for adults) or 5 days (for children) unless directed otherwise by your doctor. And if you’re taking it for fever, then you shouldn’t take it for more than 3 days, unless of course, your doctor directed it differently.

However, after the recommended duration, and your condition persists or gets worse, seek immediate medical attention. Don’t drive or operate any heavy machinery after taking Excedrin Pm.


Not everyone experiences side effects from taking Excedrin Pm, but should you experience any of the following possible Excedrin Pm side effects, you shouldn’t panic as side effects are just how the body responds to the effect of a drug when taken in its proper dose.

Several serious side effects have been reported with acetaminophen, so you may experience the following due to the acetaminophen content of the drug:

  • Severe skin reactions such as skin reddening, blisters, and rash
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Signs of liver problems such as dark coloring of urine, stomach upset, light-colored stools, or yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Blurred vision 
  • Dry mouth 

Other side effects you may experience are:

  • Signs of allergies such as hives, rash, swollen blisters or peeling skin with or without fever, trouble breathing, and swelling of the face, mouth, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy
  • Feeling of nervousness, excitement, or agitation.

There could be other side effects, talk with your doctor about all possible side effects before taking Excedrin Pm, and if you notice any feeling you’re not comfortable with while taking the drug, consult your doctor.


When drugs or any substance such as supplements or alcohol interacts with another drug, it either increases the severity of side effects from the drug or decreases the potency of the drug. Therefore, knowing drugs that can interact with Excedrin Pm helps reduce the risk of side effect and ensures results from the drug is effective.

474 drugs are known to interact with Excedrin Pm, some of which are:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
  • Multivitamins
  • Tylenol
  • Tramadol
  • Excedrin Extra Strength
  •  Excedrin Migraine
  • Vitamin B12
  • Opioids
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D3
  • Cough relievers such as codeine
  • Hydroxyzine

Some medical problems could also interact with the potency of Excedrin Pm:

  • Liver problems
  • Alcoholism
  • Glaucoma
  • Asthma 
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Ulcers 
  • PKU
  • Diabetes 
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Depression

Let your doctor know about your medical condition and if you’re taking any drugs before using Excedrin Pm, to reduce the risk of side effects due to drug interactions.


  • If you miss a dose of Excedrin Pm, take it as soon as you remember, but if it is already close to the time to take the next dose, skip the missed dose. Don’t bother taking double the dose to make up for the missed dose as that could lead to overdosing, which in turn could cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, flushing, seizures, or hallucination.
  • Pregnant women should only use Excedrin Pm when it is clearly prescribed by their doctor. Breastfeeding mothers, on the other hand, might want to stay away from the medication as it can pass into breastmilk and may cause undesirable effects on infants. However, consult your doctor before using Excedrin Pm while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • If you need any medical or laboratory tests, be sure to inform your doctor that you are taking Excedrin Pm, as the drug may interfere with certain lab tests, possibly causing false results.
  • Don’t combine the drug with any drug that can make you dizzy or drowsy, such as marijuana, as they can increase the drowsy or sleepy side effects of the drug. Don’t do anything that requires alertness, such as driving, after taking Excedrin Pm, and also avoid alcohol when taking this drug.
  • Inform your doctor of any medication, including vitamins and herbs, you’re taking before starting Excedrin Pm. Don’t stop any medication without consulting your doctor first.
  • Be careful when using the drug in children because they are more sensitive to its effect and it can easily cause agitation and excitement instead of drowsiness. Overall, keep all medicine out of children’s reach.


As of January 2020, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company that produces Excedrin, decided to temporarily stop making and distributing some of its products due to inconsistency of their workers in measuring the ingredients used in making Excedrin products. Both caplets and gel tablets of Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Migraine were temporarily discontinued, however, Excedrin Pm was not affected by this decision.


The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, as of December 2020, announced that 400,000 bottles of Excedrin products were recalled due to the containers of the drugs allegedly having holes. The reason for this recall was that if the bottles had holes in them, it would allow easy access for children to painkillers, which eventually could lead to an overdose or poisoning.


Excedrin Pm is a member of the excedrin painkillers family. It is used to relieve pain and also helps to induce sleep. Caution should be taken when taking Excedrin Pm as it could readily interact with several drugs and substances making it either less potent or it could lead to severe side effects. To be safe, it is best to take Excedrin Pm only on your doctor’s recommendation.

error: Content is protected !!