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Copper + Immunity: Amazing Science

In Ayurveda, cooking with copper, drinking overnight first morning water out of copper cups, and scraping the tongue with copper tongue scrapers are daily practices that date back thousands of years.

In This Article

Copper for Infection Risk: Ancient Wisdom with Profound Science

A recent study in the Journal of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology followed 650 ICU patients in 16 rooms over one year. Half had copper-surfaced objects inside and the other half did not. Both rooms were tracked for infection rates among the patients.

Rooms with copper-surfaced objects had half the incidence of infection compared to rooms without copper! Rate of MRSA (methicillin-resistant staph infections) in the copper rooms was significantly lower than in the non-copper rooms. This study was replicated and, once again, it was concluded that patients in ICU rooms with copper alloy surfaces had significantly lower rates of healthcare-acquired infections and/or colonization with MRSA or vancomycin-resistant enterococcus than did patients in standard rooms.1,2

Another study, in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, found copper alloy surfaces reduced the “microbial burden,” that is, bacteria counts (colony-forming units) found on surfaces by 83%!1

In a 2015 study, anti-viral properties of copper alloy surfaces were evaluated on human coronavirus 229E, responsible for SARS and MERS. The results were astonishing:

“Human coronavirus 229E was rapidly inactivated on a range of copper alloys within a few minutes for simulated fingertip contamination. Exposure to copper destroyed the viral genomes and irreversibly affected virus morphology.3

They concluded that, “copper alloy surfaces could be employed in communal areas and at any mass gatherings to help reduce transmission of respiratory viruses from contaminated surfaces and protect the public health.”3

There are no shortage of these copper studies. A hospital wing equipped with copper-lined linens and copper objects for just over a year was evaluated for the rate of healthcare-acquired infections compared to a hospital wing without copper-containing objects. The results were again amazing!

There was a 78% reduction in healthcare-acquired infections, 83% fewer cases of C. difficile, and 68% fewer healthcare-acquired infections due to multidrug-resistant organisms.6 There were no changes in rates of healthcare-acquired infections in the unmodified hospital wing.6

In 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recognized copper as the first antimicrobial metal. In in vitro assays, solid copper surfaces killed 99.9% of microorganisms within two hours of contact.7 The bactericidal activity of copper is mainly attributed to the release of ions, which affect the integrity of the membrane and/or bacterial wall, generate intracellular oxidative stress, and are genotoxic, resulting in death of microorganisms.7

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Copper for Lymph Support

It was traditionally believed that copper supported lymphatic flow. The lymphatic system is the gatekeeper immunity. Copper ions were believed to absorb into lymph and blood and support a healthy immune response. Studies on copper-deficient (compared to copper-sufficient) rodents support this theory. Natural absorption of cholesterol and chylomicrons into the intestinal lymphatic system was severely compromised in copper-deficient rodents.5

For years, copper deficiency was not a big concern because most Americans had copper pipes delivering their water, which perhaps offered copper ions. Today, most copper pipes have been replaced by plastic, and few people drink right from the tap. Depending on the filtration method, filtered water may be stripped of any copper ions it may have once contained.

How to Get More Copper

Note: Ingesting too much copper can be toxic. Studies report ingesting copper in excess of 1 gram (1,000 mg) can cause toxicity to the central nervous system, liver, and cardiovascular system.4 If you are concerned, a hair analysis or mineral blood test can access your levels. Check with your doctor before ingesting copper.

Maybe it’s time to break out the copper cups again. It was traditional to fill a copper cup before bed and drink the whole glass first thing in the morning. Bottoms up!

If hanging copper decorations in hospital rooms can decrease the rate of microbial contamination, break out the copper bracelets and for sure use copper tongue scrapers!

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References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22553242
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23571364
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4659470/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225400/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3420106
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27692785
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6321648/