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Germanium. The secret behind the health benefits of garlic, ginseng and mushrooms.

Although not officially classed as a "trace mineral", Germanium is one of the most important reasons why natural foods, such as garlic are recommended by nutritional practitioners.

Many disease states, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, immune system dysfunction and cancer have all been shown to respond to germanium therapy. It would appear that the reason for germanium's effectiveness is its ability to regulate the uptake of oxygen in the cells

In plants, this process helps protect them from infections by viruses, bacteria and fungi as well as increasing growth and protecting them from the cold. In humans, it seems the effects are both related to oxygen regulation and strong antioxidant activity.

Germanium seems to be particularly effective in enhancing the body's natural resistance to viruses. this led to it being used as a treatment for AIDS in the late 1980s, prior to some toxicity problems with one of the synthetic forms. If the same critical approach was applied to aids drugs, they would surely be taken off the market tomorrow (or even better, would never have even got there!).

It is no surprise that the dietary sources rich in germanium are those that are used routinely by traditional medicine, such as garlic, ginseng, comfrey and mushrooms. It is also a powerful analgaesic, which enhances the effects of the body's own endorphins.

Functions of Germanium in the body

  • Antiviral activity
  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Analgaesic
  • Anticancer properties
  • Enhances oxygen supply to tissues
  • May protect against osteoporosis

Germanium deficiency

Although germanium deficiency per se is not recognised, a lack of germanium is associated with infection and immune disorders, heart disease and high cholesterol, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer and many other conditions.

Normal amounts of Germanium in the diet

Germanium is present in many natural foods, comprising around 1mg/day in an average western diet. High intakes of synthetic germanium (50-250mg/day) have been shown to be detrimental to health, although this seems to depend on the form taken.

Sources of dietary Germanium

Mushrooms (especially shitake)

Germanium supplements

Whilst organic germanium (germanium sesquioxide) and germanium lactate citrate seem to be fairy safe, germanium dioxide has been associated with permanent kidney damage. It was this knowledge that prompted regulatory bodies to ban ALL forms of germanium on a "tar them all with the same brush" approach that led to its withdrawal for the treatment of AIDS patients, despite the fact that the alternatives not only kill AIDS patients, but they may even be responsible for it in the first place!

Germanium supplements are now not easily available and it should be sought through dietary sources.

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