Copper has been renowned over the centuries for its healing properties. Its benefits for arthritis and joint pain well known; many civilizations including the Egyptians, monks of Tibet have believed in its health benefits. Some examples of modern day findings are summarised below.
Copper is essential for the function of a number of antioxidant enzymes, including powerful superoxide dismutase (SOD). It is also involved in vitamin C metabolism and the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein in bones and joints. There is no recommended daily allowance for copper and deficiency is thought to be common, as up to 70 per cent of dietary intake (from seafood, nuts, pulses, wholegrains and vegetables grown in copper-rich soil) is not absorbed in the bowel. Lack of copper reduces activity of SOD and may contribute to the development of inflammatory diseases.
Trace amounts of copper are absorbed through the skin, and in one study of 240 people with rheumatoid arthritis, those wearing copper bracelets had a statistically significant improvement compared to those wearing a placebo. Each copper bracelet lost an average 13mg of copper during the trial.
Although it is possible that direct absorption of copper helps reduce some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, another theory suggests that copper bracelets work through a process known as “iontophoresis”. Iontophoresis is where the copper leaches excess sulphates from the body, where they are deposited as a blue-green discolouration on the skin. The efficacy of the bracelets is thought to depend on the level of copper in your body.
According to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the flow of copper in the brain has a previously unrecognized role in cell death, learning and memory. The researchers’ findings suggest that copper and its transporter, a protein called Atp7a, are vital to human thinking. They speculate that variations in the genes coding for Atp7a, as well as other proteins of copper homeostasis, could partially account for differences in thinking among individuals.
Copper’s antimicrobial properties have been known for more than five millennia. Ancient Egyptians used copper pipes to transport water to help destroy parasites and other water-borne pathogens. Shipbuilders have used copper for thousands of years to keep algae from encrusting on the hulls of ships. French vintners have used a copper sulfate compound to fight fungus on grapevines for hundreds of years.