Sulphur - A golden mineral for health

Sulphur is a latin word which means 'Brimstone'. It is created naturally and is an essential chemical element. It is  an important mineral in the human body but cannot be synthesized within the body. We rely on our ability to consume sulphur in our daily diet to keep us healthy.

Sulphur is a latin word which means 'Brimstone'. It is created naturally and is an essential chemical element. It is  an important mineral in the human body but cannot be synthesized within the body. We rely on our ability to consume sulphur in our daily diet to keep us healthy. It is integral to many processes within the body as it helps in amino acid production and oxygen transport across cell membranes. It has powerful healing, antifungal and anti bacterial properties. It is needed for the structural integrity of joints, cartilages, skin, hair and nails. Sulphur is the component of following amino acids required for proper body functioning:
1.    Methionine (from eggs)- It is essential amino acid as body does not make it.
2.    Cystine- It is synthesized by body but the process requires a steady supply of sulphur.
In Ayurveda,  sulphur holds a very important place where it is known as Gandhak. According to ayurveda, it is purified before consuming as a medicine. The process of purification removes the impurities and toxic effects from sulphur.
It is ground to a super fine powder before consumption. It can be obtained through supplementation with methylsulfonlymethane(MSM).
Places With Highest Level of Sulphur
Volcanic areas have rich sulphur blankets in the soil. This enriches the ground and makes drinking water, grains and grass dense in sulphur. This sulphur is taken up from soil by the plants. It is then released into the atmosphere as highly volatile dimethyl sulphide. This dimethyl sulphide is then oxidized in the upper atmosphere to dimethyl sulphoxide which is again returned to the soil by rain. This is how sulphur circulates in our environment. United States has been the leading producer of sulphur. In India, it is found in limited amount. Puga Valley and Chumathang in  Ladakh have hot water springs containing sulphur. 
Health Benefits of Sulphur 
1.    Sulphur aids cellular detoxification and helps in production of immunity stimulant antioxidants like glutathione which is used for many biological functions and regulation of inflammatory response. Without sulphur, the immunity stimulant glutathione cannot be obtained.
2.    Sulphur is a key component of collagen which is the foundation of our skin. Thus sulphur is essential to provide support for the skin, improvement in its firmness and elasticity. Due to this property, it helps in preventing the aging process and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 
3.    Sulphur helps in regulation of blood sugar level. It is present in insulin that promotes the utilization of sugar derived from carbo-hydrates for fuel in muscles and fat cells. 
4.    Sulphur has antibacterial and antiseptic properties that prevent acne causing bacteria to thrive and spread. It continuously defends the skin from future break outs. It is able to penetrate and unclog the pores in diseased areas because of its keratolytic properties. As a keratolytic, it separates dead skin cells from the healthy skin cells to be washed away and heals it from within pores. Other keratolytic products in the market cause the dryness of skin but sulphur does not share this side effect.
5.    Human hair and nails are made from protein called keratin which is high in sulphur. The presence of sulphur in diet gives strength and elasticity to hair and nails. Its absence leads to brittle  hair and nails. Its deficiency also affects the hair growth cycle. 
6.    It improves calcium metabolism. It is a calcium phosphate dissolver and breaks up unhealthy calcium deposit in the body. 
7.    Sulphur is used in fungal infections of skin and  allergies. It promotes loosening and shedding of skin which helps treating skin conditions like ring worms, dermatitis, scabies and dandruff.
8.    Sulfation is critical in detoxi-fication pathway in the liver for medicines like paracetamol. That is why people taking pharmaceutical medications need more dietary sulphur.
9.    Sulphur can help to strengthen the cartilages for the proper functioning of the joints. The cartilage in the joint is important because it allows the joint to move smoothly and prevents the friction between the bones. Researches show that cartilage and joint integrity is a sulphur dependent state as certain molecules within joints are linked by sulphur atoms. Supplementation of organic sulphur relieves joint pain, improvement in joint mobility, swelling and walking time.
Indications of Sulphur In Ayurveda
1.    Purified sulphur is used with ghee for skin ailments.
2.    Used as a rejuvenator when taken with milk.
3.    Externally, it is used in the form of ointment to cure fungal and allergic conditions of skin.
4.    Purifies blood.
5.    Treats rheumatoid arthritis.
6.    Useful in eye diseases.
7.    Relieves asthma.
Impact of Sulphur Deficiency On Human Health
 There was a time when the soil was more nutrient rich and our diet consisted of more raw, simple organic foods which provided all the sulphur that we needed for health. Unfortunately, cooking and pasteurization neutralize most of the sulphur in food.  Moreover, nowadays farming industry is lacking this vital nutrient as artificial fertilizers are being used in agriculture which contain phosphate. These excess phosphates interfere with sulphur absorption in the soil.
1.    Genetic Damage
    Deficiency of sulphur creates a strong susceptibility for genetic damage and development of chronic inflammatory diseases.
2.    Reduced Protein synthesis
    Sulphur is present in amino acid cystine needed for making glutathione, a super antioxidant in our body that protects our cells from damage. Its deficiency results in reduced immunity and easy entry of diseases in the body.
3.    Joint Pain
    Sulphur is needed to form connective tissue that supports our joints. Thus its deficiency in body causes pain in joints.
4.    Obesity
    In absence of sulphur there is impaired glucose metabolism that results in weight gain.
5.    Cognitive loss
    There is foggy mind and concentration problems in deficiency of sulphur. Its low level in the body is the basic cause for Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative processes in the brain.
6.    Diabetes
    Insufficient sulphur may lead to insulin resistance which results in diabetes. Without sulphur, insulin cannot perform its biological activity.
7.    Chronic fatigue
    Due to inadequate sulphur, glucose metabolism becomes defective which results in muscle and fat cell damage.
Therefore sulphur supplementation is becoming a necessity in this toxic world to maintain the integrity of cellular system of living organism. 
Natural Sources of Sulphur
1.    Cruciferous Vegetables-     Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and turnip are rich source of sulphur containing compounds called glucosinolates which impart a pungent aroma and are found to be effective in killing cancer cells. They fulfil the requirement of sulphur for the body metabolism.
2.    Allium Vegetables- Garlic, onions, leeks and chives contain organic sulphur. The organo- sulphur compounds in these food items inhibit the formation of cancer in colon, esophagus, stomach and lungs.
3.    Drinking Water-     One of the best way to obtain sulphur is by drinking water. Hard tap water may contain more sulphur than soft water. 
4.    Nuts- Peanuts, brazil nuts, walnuts,  cashew nuts and almonds are rich in sulphur.
5.    Sea food-    A wide variety of seafood contain high levels of sulphur. These include oysters, fish and lobster.
6.    Milk- Milk of grass fed cow and coconut milk contain plenty of sulphur.
7.    Animal Food- Organic eggs and fish are rich source of sulphur.
8.    Seeds- Flax seeds and sesame seeds are high in sulphur which is responsible for proper functioning of brain and liver.
9.    Fruits- Banana, watermelon and coconut are good sources of sulphur.
An alternative therapy that involves treating health problems by bathing in hot springs and other mineral rich water containing sulphur which can help treat allergies of skin, scalp and respiratory system.
Intolerance to sulphur can manifest as shortness of breath, hives, itching skin, flushing and diarrhoea. Thus it is advised  to consume sulphur as a medicine under the supervision of a doctor only.

Dr. Rajni Thakur
Associate Professor,
Department of Shalakya Tantra,
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.
Mob.: 75892-37886 drrajnidav@gmail.com