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Experts reveal whether the metal works for this and a host of other conditions


Copper has been used throughout history for its perceived medical properties. This continues today, with everything from copper socks claiming to heal broken skin to copper bottles said to kill bugs in drinking water.

But do they really work? ADRIAN MONTI asked experts to review a selection of copper products. We then assessed them.


Copper Compression Socks, £24.95, allergybestbuys.co.uk

CLAIM: The maker says these copper-infused socks “promote healing in eczema” and “destroy odor-causing bacteria.” They are also claimed to improve circulation and “eliminate swelling in the feet, ankles and lower legs.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Copper has antimicrobial properties, so these socks can prevent bacteria, viruses and fungi from growing in them – and in turn can help prevent smelly feet and certain infections, such as athlete’s foot, from emerging,’ says Dr Hayley Leeman, a consultant dermatologist at Cadogan Clinic in London.

“But I don’t think they will do much to prevent infections of skin affected by eczema, especially the most common type, atopic dermatitis, which often has a genetic link.”

Compression stockings can reduce the swelling associated with venous eczema (which affects the lower legs and feet and is common in people with varicose veins). But since these socks are ankle length, the compression benefit will be minimal.

“It’s also not clear what the copper concentration is, or how machine washing will affect it.” 4/10


Paani copper bottle, £35, paanibottles.com

CLAIM: This 700ml reusable bottle is made from copper which is said to be ‘scientifically proven to kill bacteria’. The copper may “improve digestion, relieve joint pain and reduce inflammation” because it “helps purify the water and make it easier for the body to absorb.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Copper has both antibacterial and antiviral properties – this has long been proven,’ says Professor Nigel Brown, molecular microbiologist and former president of the Microbiology Society.

‘It is thought that copper particles attach to bacteria and viruses in water, inactivating them.

‘Copper also prevents bacteria from adhering to the surface in the bottle and forming a sticky biofilm on which to thrive. . This would happen with a plastic or glass bottle and you would have to wash with detergent to remove it.

‘A study last year from Southampton University showed that this bottle reduced bacteria in tap water by 99.9 percent. However, our tap water is generally safe to drink and most of the microorganisms in it are harmless.

“Note: Leaving water in this bottle for longer than 16 hours can cause a metallic taste as it changes the pH – although this is harmless.” 8/10

Brace that relieves pain in the lower back

Copper compression lumbar support for the lower back, £54.74, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: The compression provided by this brace helps “relieve lower back pain with reliable support,” while copper wires are anti-microbial and “anti-odour.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This back brace can relieve stiff and sore muscles as it provides the wearer with physical support,’ says Lucy Macdonald, a physiotherapist at Octopus Clinic in London.

“This, in turn, helps them feel more confident to move, and I’m a proponent of exercise to treat and prevent back pain.”

“But there is no conclusive evidence that copper will ease the pain. A back brace would do exactly the same job even without copper wire – and cheaper options are available.’ 5/10


Solgar Chelated Copper Tablets, £10.95 for 100 tablets, solgar.co.uk

CLAIM: The copper is ‘chelated’, a chemical process that, according to the maker, improves absorption. Take one a day to “support immunity” and for “healthy hair and skin.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Copper deficiency is rare, but can occur if you’ve had bariatric surgery or have untreated celiac disease,’ says Aisling Pigott, a dietitian in Cardiff. ‘Adults need 1.2 mg of copper per day, which you can get from a balanced diet, as it is found in fruits, vegetables, breakfast cereals, milk, dairy and meat. So don’t waste money on supplements, just eat well.’ 1/10


Pure copper magnetic bracelet, £24, gausstherapy.com

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CLAIM: This bracelet provides relief from fibromyalgia (pain around the body), joint pain, carpal tunnel, and sore muscles, says the maker. It also reduces inflammation in the arm and “restores energy to reduce fatigue, stress, insomnia and migraines.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Many people with arthritis carry copper to try and help with stiffness and pain,’ says Dr Wendy Holden, rheumatologist consultant at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust and medical adviser to the Arthritis Action charity.

“People think that copper is absorbed through the skin and that this helps arthritis, but there is no strong evidence for this.

‘Actually, there is also no evidence that copper bracelets help with fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel.

“But there’s no harm in wearing a bracelet like that, so if it makes patients feel better, that’s good – it could have a placebo effect.” 3/10


Sterimar Cold Defense Nasal Spray, 50ml, £6.25, boots.com

CLAIM: Made with seawater enriched with copper salts, this spray protects against colds by rinsing out impurities, says the maker. Spray into each nostril and then blow your nose.

EXPERT VERDICT: “I haven’t seen any clinical evidence for this product, but given that we know that copper is effective in killing viruses, it could be effective,” says Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor of Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading.

“I think it might work best in the early stages, but you may have to use it often.”

“However, viruses can also pass through the mouth and eyes, which this spray does not help prevent.” 7/10


The Original Copper Heeler for Pain Relief, £16.65, medicalsupplies.co.uk

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CLAIM: These insoles, which are placed in your shoes, “use the benefits of copper to eliminate aching feet, ankles and legs, improve posture and relieve the knees.”

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘The principle of these supports is that they help address a presumed foot position abnormality, such as an arch problem,’ says Matthew Fitzpatrick, a London-based podiatrist.

“Other similar orthoses help with biomechanical or musculoskeletal issues, but you need a professional to diagnose the root cause of the underlying problem before finding the right support for you.

“The copper is a bit of a red herring — I haven’t seen any robust research showing that copper can specifically help with sore feet or ankles, as claimed.

“Standard insoles, made of plastic, EVA (a compressed foam) or carbon fiber, would be a better idea.” 3/10


Welfare copper-infused cushion, £24, silentnight.co.uk

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CLAIM: This pillow’s copper-infused cover can “reduce skin irritations caused by allergens, dust mites, and bacteria,” “prevent breakouts (i.e., pimples), reduce wrinkles, and boost collagen production,” says the maker.

EXPERT VERDICT: “There are some poor quality studies suggesting that lying on a copper pillow would reduce wrinkles and fine lines on the face, but I don’t see how that works,” says Dr. Leeman.

“You do need a small amount of copper to help with collagen and elastin production to keep your skin looking younger, but this happens internally.”

‘You can’t absorb copper by simply lying on it.

The maker of the pillow also claims that the copper helps prevent acne breakouts. But acne is primarily an inflammatory condition, not an infectious one – it’s caused by the clogging of the skin pores by dead skin cells and sebum.

“It can be made worse by things like dust or oil on your pillowcase, but washing your regular pillowcase twice a week would be a better way to deal with acne.” 2/10


Upgraded Formulas Copper (59ml), £26.96, functionalself.co.uk

CLAIM: The maker claims that adding 2 ml of the liquid copper supplement to your drink daily “promotes healthy skin and nails” and “balances mood.”

EXPERT VERDICT: Aisling Pigott says: ‘I am not aware of a strong relationship between mood and copper intake. A balanced diet will provide you with plenty of copper – save your money and buy an apple to eat instead.” 2/10

Home remedies…Traditional treatments that really work

This week: Honey can stop a cough

When researchers at the University of Oxford analyzed studies comparing the effect of taking honey for upper respiratory infections to that of cough syrups or antibiotics, they concluded that honey was better at reducing the severity and frequency of coughs.

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A 2007 study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine said honey is an emollient — a substance known to reduce mucous membrane irritation.

Note: Honey should not be given to children under one year of age due to a small risk of botulism infection, which can be dangerous in infants.

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