Formed by volcanic activity, sulfur is a common mineral found around hot springs and volcanic ridges.
Number 16 on the periodic table of elements, sulfur is a yellow mineral used in the production of matches, gunpowder and vulcanized rubber. Producing a noxious, rotten-egg smell when burned, sulfur is a product of volcanic activity and is a naturally occurring mineral in the human body and food sources. Sulfur aids in the synthesis of amino acids in the human body. Essential for continued health and survival, sulfur is often a component in medical and homeopathic remedies.
The idea of using sulfur in medical practices is an ancient one, spread throughout much of the ancient world, from Rome and the Middle East to Celtic and Druid Britain. Also called brimstone by ancient people, sulfur was an antiseptic and disinfecting agent, burned to cleanse a body or environment of impurities. One example of the ancient belief in the cleansing power of sulfur is in the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which God rained sulfur from the sky to cleanse the impure and sinful cities.
Sulfur is an ingredient in many creams used to treat acne.
One medical use of sulfur today is in the treatment of skin disorders and irritations, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Because of its natural antiseptic properties and its essential role in the synthesis of collagen, sulfur is beneficial to the skin when applied topically in cream, gel or ointment form. Often combined with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or alcohol, sulfur is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter acne creams and washes.
HIV and AIDS
Researchers and doctors are studying the use of sulfur in patients with HIV/AIDS. According to a 2000 study in “AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses,” German researchers noticed a decline in natural sulfur levels in HIV and AIDS patients, and theorized that these declining levels might hasten the progression of the disease. Because sulfur aids in the synthesis of essential proteins, cleanses the blood and is necessary for cell regeneration, administering the mineral to HIV and AIDS patients may slow the progression of the disease by inhibiting the wasting process.
Another common medical use of sulfur, both today and in the ancient world, is to get rid of parasitic infestations such as crab lice, scabies and fleas. A popular component of many homeopathic remedies, sulfur powder, called sublimed sulfur or flowers of sulfur, often accompanies anti-parasitic soaps in this treatment. The powdered sulfur not only acts as an insecticide, but also aids in the regeneration of healthy skin cells affected by various parasitic rashes and irritations.