What Are the Medical Uses of Alum?

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Alum is an extremely astringent crystal of potassium aluminum sulfate. Alum is both a particular chemical compound and a group of chemical compounds. The exact compound is the hydrated potassium aluminum sulfate (Potassium alum). Alum refers to two double salts, potassium aluminum phosphate and ammonium aluminum sulphate. These are usually called common or ordinary alum. Alum is a popular and an easily available ingredient. Alum is a natural mineral that is found in both ground and surface water, and in the food we eat. Potassium alum is the common form of alum available commercially, although both soda alum and ammonium alum are manufactured. As, alum originated naturally before 2,000 years ago, people across many cultures found a number of uses of alum. Until the early part of this century, alum was used as an ingredient in baking powder. It has also been used for giving crispness to pickles and maraschino cherries and to harden gelatin. Medical and health care professionals, often use alum to treat injuries and illness.


Where do Alum crystals occur?

Alum crystals are found all over the world, as stated in Potassium Alum, but the major location is in the Andes Mountains in South America in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. In the United States, alum crystals are found in Tennessee, Nevada and Arizona. In the places where large deposits of alum are found, they are extracted in a mine.


What are the general properties of alum?

  • There are some exclusive properties of alum powder. Here is a list of the properties of alum powder.
  • Alum powder is got from rock form of alum which can be identified by its colorless, transparent, crystalline structure.
  •  It readily dissolves in water and the solution thus obtained is slightly sweetish in taste.
  •  It is acidic in nature and an alum powder solution turns a litmus paper red.
  •  On heating, alum powder changes to liquid first and if heated further, then the salt starts swells up to form froths.
  •  It has a good astringent quality which helps the skin tissue to shrink and thus, do not let the germs get into skin pores.
  •  It is antiseptic in nature and prevents the growth of bacteria.


Can Alum crystals be produced artificially?

Alum crystals can be produced artificially. It is very easy to find the difference between natural and synthetic. Potassium Alum declares the apparent. The collectors prefer natural alum crystals. The synthetic alums are just not as attractive and enviable. Also, synthetic crystals cannot be used in cosmetics, medical procedures or pickling. All these require the natural alum crystals. Synthetic alum crystals can be used in industrial settings such as water purification and tanning. Those industrial uses opt for synthetic, as it is cheap.


What are the therapeutic uses of Alum?

There are many medicinal uses of Alum. Some of them are listed below:

  • Alum is used as an adjuvant in many sub-unit vaccines, such as include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular Pertussis (DTaP), (DTaP), in order to augment the body's response to immunogens. An adjuvant is an agent that may stimulate the immune system and increase the response to a vaccine. Adjutants having aluminum have been proven to make some vaccines last for longer period of time and to help generate more antibodies to fight against disease.
  •  Styptics are a specific type of anti-hemorrhagic agent that works by contracting tissue to close the wounded blood vessels. Styptic pencils contain astringents. Alum in powder or crystal form, or in styptic pencils, is at times applied to cuts to prevent or treat infection.
  •  Alum in rock form is used as an aftershave. If it is rubbed on a freshly shaved face, its astringent property helps to prevent and reduce bleeding in minor cuts and abrasions.
  •  Alum's has a strong antibacterial property and so it is useful as a natural deodorant by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria responsible for body odor. It is also important to know that alum does not prevent perspiration.
  •  Alum is used as an ingredient in skin whitening toner.
  •  Powdered alum is generally used as a home remedy for canker sores.
  •  Preparations having alum are used by pet owners and veterinarians to stop bleeding associated with animal wounds and cuts that are caused by improper nail clipping.
  •  Alum is listed as an ingredient of some brands of toothpaste or toothpowder.
  •  Alum powder dissolved in 5 parts water has been used to shrink hemorrhoids and stop them from bleeding and reduce the discharge of bodily fluids.
  •  Alum acts also as a styptic to contract organic tissues and stop or reduce hemorrhage and bleeding.
  •  It is also used as an emetic agent to induce vomiting when a person has swallowed poison.
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