I ran into a guy named Mike the other day who was wearing a copper bracelet. I hadn’t seen one in a while so I asked him if he thought the metal next to his skin was helping his health. He said yes, with no hesitation.
Now, I’ve heard tell for many years – decades, in fact – that copper is one of those metals that has the reputation of being a curative, especially for arthritis. Seeing that copper ornament set me to wondering what this buzz is all about.
First and foremost, we think of copper as a metal – which it is – but it is also a mineral all humans need in very small (trace) amounts just to stay alive. Copper is found in every bodily tissue. Just look at all the things it does for us:
- Helps the body’s ability to manufacture red blood cells and support nerve cells and the immune system
- Aids the formation of collagen and elastin
- Absorbs iron
- Needed for energy production
Inside the body, we find the most copper in the liver, brain, heart, kidneys, and skeletal muscle. Although it is vital to good health, it’s important not to ingest too much or too little.
In the brain, copper is important for normal development. Both copper deficiency – having too little – as well as excess copper – having too much – can seriously impair brain functions.
How much copper is enough? The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is around 900 micrograms (mcg) a day for adolescents and adults. The upper limit for adults aged 19 years and above is 10,000 mcg, or 10 milligrams (mg) a day. An intake above this level could be toxic.
Having a low level of copper in the body is a rare medical condition so supplements aren’t recommended unless testing reveals an actual deficiency exists. Always consult with a physician before adding copper to your diet.
Copper imbalances have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Copper deficiencies may show up as Menkes disease, a medical disorder “characterized by sparse, kinky hair; failure to thrive; and progressive deterioration of the nervous system” and “weak muscle tone (hypotonia), sagging facial features, seizures, developmental delay, and intellectual disability.”
Low levels of copper can lead to a condition called neutropenia, when the body doesn’t have enough white blood cells (neutrophils) to fight off infection. Low copper levels in the body have also been associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. One research group indicated that copper supplements may help people suffering from heart failure.
Severe copper deficiency has been linked to lower bone mineral density and, therefore, a higher risk of osteoporosis (weak or brittle bones). Without enough copper, the body is unable to replace damaged connective tissue or the collagen that constitutes bone scaffolding (structural support). As this condition progresses, the breakdown of tissues can result in joints that no longer work properly.
Too much copper can cause oxidative stress, a disturbance in the balance between the production of free radicals and antioxidant defenses.
There is a delicate line between ensuring the body has enough copper to synthesize copper-containing enzymes without crossing over into oxidative stress caused by high copper levels, which may play a role in producing tissue damage in patients with diabetes mellitus.
Arthritis is a rheumatic condition with aching pain, stiffness, and swelling in and around one or more joints in the body. It usually afflicts the same joints on both sides of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is “a long-term, progressive, and disabling autoimmune disease.”
Nobody knows what makes a healthy immune malfunction. We do know that RA makes the immune system’s antibodies attack the smooth lining of a joint (synovium), producing pain and inflammation. Inflammation causes the synovium to get thicker. Left untreated, this can penetrate and destroy the connective cartilage which protects and cushions the ends of our bones.
Did you know that copper was the first metal humans ever used? Jewelry, tools, containers, utensils, and weapons made around 5,000 B.C. have been discovered in the Middle East.
It seems the ancients knew that copper kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. One of the oldest books in existence today is the “Edwin Smith Papyrus” – papyrus being a type of paper common in ancient Egypt and surrounding areas. Experts reckon that this text was written between 2600 B.C. and 2200 B.C. The author documented using copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water.
People like my pal Mike who sports a copper bracelet believe firmly that small amounts of copper rub off the jewelry onto – and into – the skin. Once in the bloodstream, the copper travels to damaged joints where it helps regrow cartilage, restoring painless functionality.
Some folks store water in a copper container overnight to accumulate copper traces and then drink it to achieve the same effect as wearing it against the skin.
“The way copper helps reduce joint pain is not fully understood,” wrote Dr. Sarah Brewer. However, one scientific study tested 240 people with rheumatoid arthritis. Subjects who wore copper bracelets “had a statistically significant improvement compared with those wearing a placebo. Each copper bracelet lost an average 13mg of copper during the trial.”
Just remember to proceed with caution where copper intake is concerned. If you notice any negative side effects from adding this essential trace element to your diet or lifestyle, ease up and consult a professional healthcare provider.