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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 10, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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A naturally occurring soft metal that is reddish brown in color, Copper actually oxidizes to a light blue-green known as verdigris. Copper is the first metal utilized by humans because of several factors. First, it is one of the most common metals there is. Second, it is easily extracted from the earth because it can be found on or near the surface. Third, as it is such a soft metal, it is easily formed into whatever the artisan wishes; first by hammering, later by heating and hammering, and finally, melting and pouring .

History of Copper

The Ancient Romans used the soft metal to form pipes to carry water from the aquaducts that they had created. They noticed that the water that traveled through these pipes (or that were stored in copper urns), did not result in illness the way other piping or storage tanks sometimes did. They also noted that people that had copper utensils and cookware did not have as many food ailments as those that did not.

Ancient Uses of Copper

Copper was used to fight epilepsy, cure headaches, and help speed the healing of wounds in ancient civilizations. Copper was used as an effective antibacterial agent (as they did not know about the existence of bacteria, it was believed to absorb ‘bad humors’). Copper compounds were also used for a variety of neurological, dermatological and inflammatory disorders. In addition, Copper was used to sanitize water for drinking and cooking purposes.

Modern Uses of Copper

Copper is the third most utilized mineral by volume in the human body. Low copper levels can lead to stunted growth, anemia; brittle bones or osteoporosis; lowered blood cell count, body temperature, pigmentation and resistance to infection; increased cholesterol and possible auto-immune disorders; birth defects; thyroid disorders; dilated veins; edema; hair loss; diarrhea; dermatitis, bruising and bleeding under the skin.

It helps the body absorb and store iron and sugar (and then releases it to be utilized); it is a necessary component for at least 50 different enzyme interactions in the body. Copper is a strong anti-oxidant that reduces inflammation of arthritic joints; and is also the primary agent in the formation of melanin. Copper is also used for pigmentation in eyes, hair and skin (as well as your ‘tan’). Copper is also necessary for proper functioning of the brain and is essential to the production of red blood cells, nerves and bone. It is also necessary for the formation of myelin, the coating that protects nerves throughout the human body.

Side Effects of Copper

As with most metals, it is possible to absorb too much and suffer the effects of metal poisoning. Acute poisoning will usually present with bloody vomit and black or tarry feces (also blood), jaundice (liver damage), or possibly coma.

Food sources of Copper

The single highest source of copper is oysters, followed by liver, then other meats and seafood. Other sources include avocados, nuts, whole grains (such as barley, wheat and oats), beets, lentils, soybeans and Garlic Bulbs. Be aware that prolonged storage in tin cans or other storage materials high in acid content reduces the available copper content.

Read also: Manganese

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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