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Other Names:

Arsenate, Arsenic Pentoxide, Arsenic Trichloride, Arsenic Trioxide, Arsénico, Arsenicum Album, Arsenicum Iodatum, Arsenite, Arsénite, Arsénite de Sodium, As, Atomic Number 33, Fowler's Solution, Numéro Atomique 33, Pentoxyde d’Arsenic, Sodium Ar...
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ARSENIC Overview
ARSENIC Side Effects
ARSENIC Interactions
ARSENIC Overview Information

Arsenic is a trace element. It is found in several foods including seafood, poultry, grains (especially rice), bread, cereal products, mushrooms, and dairy products. Some forms of arsenic are used as medicine.

Despite serious safety concerns, arsenic is often used as a part of extremely diluted homeopathic remedies that are used for digestive disorders, food poisoning, sleep problems (insomnia), allergies, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Arsenic is also contained in traditional Chinese medicine formulas and used for psoriasis; syphilis; asthma; joint pain (rheumatism); hemorrhoids; cough; itchiness; cancer; to reduce swelling (as an anti-inflammatory agent); and as a general tonic and pain-killer.

Healthcare providers sometimes give arsenic trioxide intravenously (by IV) to treat a type of blood cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia. This arsenic product is available by prescription only.

Natural medicines can be contaminated with arsenic and may produce symptoms of poisoning when consumed in large amounts or for extended periods of time. Cases of arsenic poisoning have been reported with homeopathic arsenic products and with kelp supplements. High arsenic levels have been reported in people who consume raw opium for long periods of time. Measurable levels of arsenic may be found in some calcium supplements made from algae or shells. A study of 251 herbal products sold in the US detected arsenic in 36 (14%) of them.

How does it work?

Arsenic is a trace element that occurs naturally in very small amounts in the diet. Its exact functions are not known. The estimated adult daily intake of arsenic from a typical diet is 12-50 mcg. A dietary requirement of 12-25 mcg/day has been suggested.

In leukemia, arsenic trioxide increases death of cancer cells.

ARSENIC Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Effective for:

  • Treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia). A specific prescription-only intravenous medication is used for this purpose.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Food poisoning.
  • Insomnia.
  • Allergies.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Psoriasis.
  • Syphilis.
  • Asthma.
  • Rheumatism.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Cough.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Cancer.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of arsenic for these uses.

ARSENIC Side Effects & Safety

The form of arsenic found naturally in foods (organic arsenic) does not seem to cause any harm when taken in food amounts.

Arsenic trioxide (Trisenox) is safe when given by IV by a healthcare provider. It is an FDA-approved prescription drug.

Other forms of arsenic (inorganic arsenic) can be very poisonous, even in small doses. Don’t take arsenic supplements. Taking 10 mcg/kg/day over a period of time can produce symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Taking 5 mg of arsenic, or sometimes less, can cause digestive tract symptoms. Higher doses can cause severe poisoning and death. Inorganic arsenic is classified as a human cancer-causing agent.

Laws have been made to regulate the amount of arsenic that is allowed in the water supply. The maximum permissible level of arsenic in drinking water is 10 mcg/L. Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water at a level of 50 mcg/L has been linked to reduced scores on intelligence tests in children.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: The trace amounts of arsenic naturally found in food are safe. But arsenic supplements should not be taken. Arsenic has been linked to birth defects and other serious harm in animals.

Low levels of folic acid (folic acid deficiency): There is some evidence that folic acid deficiency changes the way the body processes and removes arsenic and may contribute to higher arsenic levels.

Heart problems: The prescription form of arsenic (arsenic trioxide, Trisenox) can affect heart rhythm in some patients.

ARSENIC Interactions What is this?

Major Interaction Do not take this combination

  • Medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat (QT interval-prolonging drugs) interacts with ARSENIC

    Some forms of arsenic might cause an abnormal heart beat. Taking arsenic along with other medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat might cause serious side effects including heart arrhythmias.
    Some medications that can cause an irregular heartbeat include amiodarone (Cordarone), disopyramide (Norpace), dofetilide (Tikosyn), ibutilide (Corvert), procainamide (Pronestyl), quinidine, sotalol (Betapace), thioridazine (Mellaril), and many others.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For treating a certain type of leukemia (acute promyelocytic leukemia): Healthcare providers give prescription-only arsenic intravenously (by IV).

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Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

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