- What other names is Arsenic known by?
- What is Arsenic?
- How does Arsenic work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Arsenic.
Arsenate, Arsenic Pentoxide, Arsenic Trichloride, Arsenic Trioxide, Arsénico, Arsenicum Album, Arsenicum Iodatum, Arsenite, Arsénite, Arsénite de Sodium, As, Atomic Number 33, Fowler's Solution, Numéro Atomique 33, Pentoxyde d'Arsenic, Sodium Arsenite, Solution de Fowler, Trichlorure d'Arsenic.
Arsenic is a trace element. It is found in several foods including seafood, poultry, grains (especially rice), bread, cereal products, mushrooms, and dairy products. Some forms of arsenic are used as medicine.
Despite serious safety concerns, arsenic is often used as a part of extremely diluted homeopathic remedies that are used for digestive disorders, food poisoning, sleep problems (insomnia), allergies, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Arsenic is also contained in traditional Chinese medicine formulas and used for psoriasis; syphilis; asthma; joint pain (rheumatism); hemorrhoids; cough; itchiness; cancer; to reduce swelling (as an anti-inflammatory agent); and as a general tonic and pain-killer.
Natural medicines can be contaminated with arsenic and may produce symptoms of poisoning when consumed in large amounts or for extended periods of time. Cases of arsenic poisoning have been reported with homeopathic arsenic products and with kelp supplements. High arsenic levels have been reported in people who consume raw opium for long periods of time. Measurable levels of arsenic may be found in some calcium supplements made from algae or shells. A study of 251 herbal products sold in the US detected arsenic in 36 (14%) of them.
- Treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia). A specific prescription-only intravenous medication is used for this purpose.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Food poisoning.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Itchy skin.
- Other conditions.
Arsenic is a trace element that occurs naturally in very small amounts in the diet. Its exact functions are not known. The estimated adult daily intake of arsenic from a typical diet is 12-50 mcg. A dietary requirement of 12-25 mcg/day has been suggested.
In leukemia, arsenic trioxide increases death of cancer cells.
Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts. The form of arsenic found naturally in foods (organic arsenic) does not seem to cause any harm.at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.
Also, arsenic trioxide (Trisenox) is LIKELY SAFE when given intravenously (by IV) to adults by a healthcare provider. It is an FDA-approved prescription drug.
Other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. These forms can be very poisonous, even in small doses. Don't take arsenic supplements. Taking 10 mcg/kg/day over a period of time can produce symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Taking 5 mg of arsenic, or sometimes less, can cause digestive tract symptoms. Higher doses can cause severe poisoning and death. Inorganic arsenic is classified as a human cancer-causing agent.
Laws have been made to regulate the amount of arsenic that is allowed in the water supply. The maximum permissible level of arsenic in drinking water is 10 mcg/L. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Children: Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten by children in normal food amounts. The form of arsenic found naturally in foods (organic arsenic) does not seem to cause any harm. Other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Arsenic is LIKELY SAFE when eaten in normal food amounts by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. However, other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Arsenic has been linked to birth defects and other serious harm in animals. Do not take arsenic supplements if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Low levels of folic acid (folic acid deficiency): There is some evidence that folic acid deficiency changes the way the body processes and removes arsenic and may contribute to higher arsenic levels.
Heart problems: The prescription form of arsenic (arsenic trioxide, Trisenox) can affect heart rhythm in some patients.
Medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat (QT interval-prolonging drugs)Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.
Some forms of arsenic might cause an abnormal heartbeat. Taking arsenic along with other medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat might cause serious side effects including heart arrhythmias.
Some medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat include amiodarone (Cordarone), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), ibutilide (Corvert), procainamide (Pronestyl), quinidine, sotalol (Betapace), thioridazine (Mellaril), and many others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia): Healthcare providers give prescription-only arsenic intravenously (by IV).
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Belon, P., Banerjee, P., Choudhury, S. C., Banerjee, A., Biswas, S. J., Karmakar, S. R., Pathak, S., Guha, B., Chatterjee, S., Bhattacharjee, N., Das, J. K., and Khuda-Bukhsh, A. R. Can administration of potentized homeopathic remedy, Arsenicum album, alter antinuclear antibody (ANA) titer in people living in high-risk arsenic contaminated areas? I. A correlation with certain hematological parameters. Evid Based Complement Alternat.Med 2006;3(1):99-107. View abstract.
Datta, S., Mallick, P., and Bukhsh, A. R. Efficacy of a potentized homoeopathic drug (Arsenicum Album-30) in reducing genotoxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: comparative studies of pre-, post- and combined pre- and post-oral administration and comparative efficacy of two microdoses. Complement Ther.Med. 1999;7(2):62-75. View abstract.
Khuda-Bukhsh, A. R., Pathak, S., Guha, B., Karmakar, S. R., Das, J. K., Banerjee, P., Biswas, S. J., Mukherjee, P., Bhattacharjee, N., Choudhury, S. C., Banerjee, A., Bhadra, S., Mallick, P., Chakrabarti, J., and Mandal, B. Can homeopathic arsenic remedy combat arsenic poisoning in humans exposed to groundwater arsenic contamination?: a preliminary report on first human trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat.Med 2005;2(4):537-548. View abstract.
Kundu, S. N., Mitra, K., and Bukhsh, A. R. Efficacy of a potentized homoeopathic drug (Arsenicum-album-30) in reducing cytotoxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: III. Enzymatic changes and recovery of tissue damage in liver. Complement Ther.Med. 2000;8(2):76-81. View abstract.
Kundu, S. N., Mitra, K., and Khuda Bukhsh, A. R. Efficacy of a potentized homeopathic drug (Arsenicum-Aalbum-30) in reducing cytotoxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: IV. Pathological changes, protein profiles, and content of DNA and RNA. Complement Ther.Med. 2000;8(3):157-165. View abstract.
Mallick, P., Mallick, J. C., Guha, B., and Khuda-Bukhsh, A. R. Ameliorating effect of microdoses of a potentized homeopathic drug, Arsenicum Album, on arsenic-induced toxicity in mice. BMC.Complement Altern.Med. 10-22-2003;3(1):7. View abstract.
Mitra, K., Kundu, S. N., and Khuda Bukhsh, A. R. Efficacy of a potentized homoeopathic drug (Arsenicum Album-30) in reducing toxic effects produced by arsenic trioxide in mice: II. On alterations in body weight, tissue weight and total protein. Complement Ther.Med. 1999;7(1):24-34. View abstract.
Oberbaum, M., Schreiber, R., Rosenthal, C., and Itzchaki, M. Homeopathic treatment in emergency medicine: a case series. Homeopathy. 2003;92(1):44-47. View abstract.
Amster E, Tiwary A, Schenker MB. Case report: potential arsenic toxicosis secondary to herbal kelp supplement. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:606-8. View abstract.
Chakraborti D, Mukherjee SC, Saha KC, et al. Arsenic toxicity from homeopathic treatment. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2003;41:963-7. View abstract.
Chiou HY, Huang WI, Su CL, et al. Dose-response relationship between prevalence of cerebrovascular disease and ingested inorganic arsenic. Stroke 1997;28:1717-23. View abstract.
Eckhert CD. Other trace elements. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, et al (eds). Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002. Available at: www.nap.edu/books/0309072794/html/.
Gamble MV, Liu X, Slavkovich V, et al. Folic acid supplementation lowers blood arsenic. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1202-9. View abstract.
Kim M. Mercury, cadmium and arsenic contents of calcium dietary supplements. Food Addit Contam 2004;21:763-7. View abstract.
Nielsen FH. Nutritional requirements for boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, and arsenic: current knowledge and speculation. FASEB J 1991;5:2661-7. View abstract.
Ratnaike RN. Acute and chronic arsenic toxicity. Postgrad Med J 2003;79:391-6. View abstract.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Statement: Arsenic. August 2007. Available at: www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp2-c1-b.pdf (Accessed 14 April 2008).
Uthus EO, Seaborn CD. Deliberations and evaluations of the approaches, endpoints and paradigms for dietary recommendations of the other trace elements. J Nutr 1996;126:2452s-2459s. View abstract.
Wasserman GA, Liu X, Parvez F, et al. Water arsenic exposure and children's intellectual function in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Environ Health Perspect 2004;112:1329-33. View abstract.