Last Editorial Review: 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Atomic number 29, Citrate de Cuivre, Cobre, Copper Citrate, Copper Gluconate, Copper Sulfate, Cu, Cuivre, Cuivre Élémentaire, Cupric Oxide, Cupric Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate Pentahydrate, Cuprum Aceticum, Cuprum Metallicum, Elemental Copper, Gluconate de Cuivre, Numéro Atomique 29, Oxyde Cuivrique, Pentahydrate de Sulfate de Cuivre, Sulfate de Cuivre, Sulfate Cuivrique, Sulfate Cuprique.


Copper is a mineral. It is found in many foods, particularly in organ meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, grain products, and cocoa products. The body stores copper mostly in the bones and muscles. The liver regulates the amount of copper that is in the blood. Copper is used as medicine.

Copper is used for treating copper deficiency and the anemia it may cause. Having too little copper (copper deficiency) is rare. It sometimes occurs in people who get too much zinc from diet or supplements, have intestinal bypass surgery, or are fed by feeding tubes. Malnourished infants can also have copper deficiency.

Copper is also used for improving wound healing, Alzheimer's disease, and treating arthritis and brittle bones (osteoporosis). It is used for some types of diarrhea, lupus and acne.

There is no evidence that people who eat a normal diet need copper supplements. Not even athletes need extra copper if they have a good diet.

How does it work?

Copper is necessary for producing and storing iron. Copper is also involved in many of natural processes in the body.


What is another medical term for osteoporosis? See Answer

Uses & Effectiveness

Likely Effective for...

  • Copper deficiency. Taking copper by mouth at recommended levels or given intravenously (by IV) by a healthcare provider is effective for treating copper deficiency and anemia caused by copper deficiency.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Alzheimer's disease. Research suggests that taking copper by mouth daily for 12 months does not improve symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
  • Diarrhea. Young children with severe diarrhea due to a gut infection do not seem to be helped by taking copper.
  • Lupus. Taking copper daily, alone or together with fish oil, does not seem to improve symptoms of a type of lupus called system lupus erythematosus.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Acne. Some early research suggests that taking a product containing copper and several other ingredients (NicAzel, Elorac, Inc) might reduce a severe form of acne.
  • Dental plaque. Early research suggests that rinsing the mouth with a copper solution decreases plaque.
  • Osteoporosis. Some early research shows that taking copper in combination with zinc, manganese, and calcium might slow bone loss in older women.
  • Arthritis.
  • Wound healing.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of copper 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).

Side Effects

Copper is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts no greater than 10 mg daily.

Copper is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in large amounts. Adults should consume no more than 10 mg of copper per day. Kidney failure and death can occur with as little as 1 gram of copper sulfate. Symptoms of copper overdose include nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, low blood pressure, anemia, and heart problems.


Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures See Slideshow

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Copper is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should consume no more than 8 mg dailyper day if they are 14 to 18 years old, and no more than 10 mg dailyper day if they are 19 or older. Taking copper by mouth in higher doses is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Higher amounts can be dangerous.

Children: Copper is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Children should not get more than the Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) of copper. The UL is 1 mg daily for children 1 to 3 years, 3 mg daily for children 4 to 8 years, 5 mg daily for children 9 to 13 years, and 8 mg daily for adolescents. Taking copper by mouth in higher doses is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Higher intake can cause liver damage and other harm.

Hemodialysis: People receiving hemodialysis for kidney disease seem to be at risk for copper deficiency. You might need copper supplements if you are undergoing hemodialysis. Check with your healthcare provider.

Certain hereditary conditions, including idiopathic copper toxicosis and childhood cirrhosis: Taking extra copper might make these conditions worse.

Wilson's disease: Taking copper supplements can make this condition worse and might interfere with treatment.


Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Penicillamine is used for Wilson's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Copper might decrease how much penicillamine your body absorbs and decrease the effectiveness of penicillamine.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For low levels of copper (copper deficiency): doses up to 0.1 mg/kg of cupric sulfate per day.
  • For osteoporosis: 2.5 mg copper combined with zinc 15 mg, 5 mg manganese, and 1000 mg calcium per day.
The National Institute of Medicine has determined Adequate Intake (AI) of copper for infants: 0 to 6 months, 200 mcg (30 mcg/kg/day); 7 to 12 months, 220 mcg (24 mcg/kg/day). Infants should get all their copper from food or formula, unless a healthcare provider recommends supplements and provides follow-up care and monitoring.

For children, a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of copper has been set: 1 to 3 years, 340 mcg/day; 4 to 8 years, 440 mcg/day; 9 to 13, 700 mcg/day; 14 to 18 years, 890 mcg/day.

For men and women age 19 years and older, the RDA of copper is 900 mcg/day.

For pregnancy, the RDA is 1000 mcg/day, and breast feeding 1300 mcg/day for women of all ages.

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), the maximum amount for which no harmful effect is expected, has been established for children and adults. The ULs for copper are: children 1 to 3 years, 1 mg/day; 4 to 8 years, 3 mg/day; 9 to 13 years, 5 mg/day; 14 to 18 years (including pregnancy and lactation) 8 mg/day; adults age 19 and older (including breast feeding), 10 mg/day; pregnancy age 19 and older, 8 mg/day.


  • Healthcare providers give copper intravenously (by IV) for copper deficiency.

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