Copper and Health Throughout History

raw copper white background close up coral shaped

Since ancient times, healers have understood the role of copper in supporting and maintaining good health. In this post, we canvass the history of copper throughout history, starting from the ancient Egyptians, to the Greeks, to the Aztecs, to the Roman empire, to 19th century France, and finally to the modern era. Let's get started!

History of Copper in Health Care

low angle towards the sky of egyptian ancient hieroglyphics building

The ancient Egyptians used copper to sterilize their drinking water, cure headaches, and help with skin conditions. In addition, in approximately 400 B.C., the Greek Hippocrates, who is known as the father of modern medicine (and after whom the “Hippocratic oath” is named), recommended copper as a treatment for various diseases.

Even the ancient Aztec civilization used copper for medical purposes, including gargling with copper-infused water to combat sore throats and infections. Similarly, in ancient India and the far east, copper was used to treat skin conditions, lung diseases, and eye infections. During the era of the Roman Empire, physicians recommended using copper to cleanse the stomach, clear the body of toxins, cure mouth sores and ulcers, and to heal eye infections, cataracts, and even venereal diseases.

Copper has also had a central role in the history of health in more recent eras. For example, during the cholera epidemics in Paris in the 19th century, physicians were astounded to learn of copper’s importance in supporting a strong immune system. In particular, French physicians learned that copper workers appeared immune to cholera while their neighbours fell victim to the disease. During the later part of the 19th century, European physicians also recommended the use of copper to treat arthritis as well as diarrhea, dysentery, and tuberculosis.

Copper continued to enjoy a key role in the history of health in the 20th century. For example, in 1939, German medical researchers discovered that copper miners were unaffected by arthritis so long as they worked in copper mines. This observation led medical researchers to use copper to treat patients suffering from arthritis, fever, sciatica, and neck and back pain. In recent years, some medical researchers have even theorized that the heart attack rate is lowest in France of all European countries because of the significant consumption by the French of red wine, which has a higher copper content than white wine, as it is prepared with the skin of the grape intact (which gives red wine its colour).

group of male miners near a wheel barrow and tracks

Copper's important role in a healthy immune system has also been supported by medical research in respect of individuals suffering from “Menke's disease”, which is an inherited disease involving defective copper absorption. Individuals with this disease generally die of immune system-related infections, showing that the lack of copper absorption made them more vulnerable to infection. Furthermore, animals with copper deficiencies have been shown to have increased vulnerability to dangerous bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. This medical research has led researches to the conclusion that copper can not only cure various diseases, but also help prevent disease in the first place.

pots and copper kettle and pans placed on a stainless steel stove

In one of the most recent studies about the role of copper in health, scientists studied the effect of storing water in a copper pot on microbially-contaminated drinking-water, including serious bacteria such as e.coli salmonella. Incredibly, scientists discovered that the initially contaminated water was completely free of bacteria 16 hours later. This study supports what healers have known since ancient times: that copper has incredible health properties.

About the Authors: This article was collaboratively written by our team of researchers and writers with the benefit of all available scientific studies and other relevant literature. Our team of researchers and writers include experienced health researchers including a qualified medical professional. Please note that information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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