Arsenic

What other names is Arsenic known by?

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.

What is 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.

Healthcare providers sometimes give arsenic trioxide intravenously (by IV) to treat a type of blood cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia. This arsenic product is available by prescription only.

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.

Effective for...

  • 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...

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of arsenic for these uses.

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).


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