Sulfur: A Stinky Friend

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When it comes to essential trace elements, sulfur is usually treated like an outcast. Maybe it’s because of its smell. Once you’ve smelled burning sulfur or sulfur gas, you’ll never forget it. (Sulfur compounds are usually the main component in those "fart-in-a-bottle" liquids sold in gag and novelty stores.) But, despite its lowly reputation (and odor), sulfur has amazing health benefits.

Your body requires 850 mg of sulfur each day to carry on normal activities. Most of the intake comes from four different amino acids that contain the mineral: cysteine, cystine, taurine, and methionine.

Sources of Sulfur

Egg yolks are among the best food sources of sulfur. Eating two eggs a day will provide enough sulfur that the rest can usually be obtained from the sulfur-containing amino acids in other foods. These foods would definitely include cruciferous veggies: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, horseradish, and mustard. Additional sulfur-containing foods are fish, poultry, oysters, clams, meat, cheese, peanuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, watercress, cranberries, red peppers, garlic, onions, and pineapple.

(It is the sulfur compound in the gas from sliced onions that brings tears to your eyes. And garlic’s ability to lower blood pressure stems from its sulfur.)

The Benefits of Sulfur

Sulfur has strong antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Wine makers use it to selectively rid wines of certain bacteria. Sulfur is also used on dried fruit to kill bacteria and parasites.

Sulfur was used as a laxative and as a remedy for a long list of health problems centuries ago. With the arrival of prescription medications, the use of plain elemental sulfur for human complaints took a backseat.

Anyone raising livestock, however, knows why sulfur used to be called the "beauty mineral." You’ll still find yellow, sulfur-laced salt licks for cattle and wildlife. The diets of chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep are all supplemented with sulfur. It improves the overall health of the animals, as well as the quality of their hair, skin, and joints.

Many modern medicines get their powers from sulfur. A good example is DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). It appears that one of the tricks of this unique solvent is to carry sulfur through the skin to areas where it can be used.

Within the body, sulfur content is highest in the skin, hair, and joints. In earlier days, arthritis was treated orally and topically with sulfur. Nowadays many find relief with DMSO applied topically. 

Many of the older skin ointments contained sulfur and I can remember chewing chalky flower of sulfur wafers as a teenager to help clear up skin problems. 

For practically any skin or hair condition, or arthritis, I would suggest looking at sulfur as a remedy. Enjoy a couple of eggs every day and load up on the cruciferous vegetables. And try using sulfur topically by itself in a water or oil-based paste, or with DMSO. 

Dr. David Williams

Meet Dr. David Williams

For more than 25 years, Dr. David Williams has traveled the world researching alternative therapies for our most common health problems—therapies that are inexpensive and easy to use, and therapies that treat the root cause of a problem rather than just its symptoms.

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