Lugol’s solution is a strong iodine solution, a liquid mixture of potassium iodide and elemental iodine in water. It was first concocted in 1829 by Jean Lugol, a French physician. Impressed by its antimicrobial properties, he mistook it for a miracle drug against tuberculosis, causing quite a stir at the time. His mix ratio was 10 parts potassium iodine to 5 parts iodine to 85 parts of distilled water.
Lugol’s Solution Uses
Due to its versatility and usefulness, Lugol’s solution is a staple of World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, the list of safest and most beneficial medications.
One of the reasons why it is so practical is the way it interacts with different kinds of tissue. Mucous tissue with high levels of glycogen reacts with the iodine and turns brown. The reaction makes any other kind of tissue stand out, including tissue that may indicate cervical cancer in Schiller’s Test.
The same effect is useful in dentistry and oral surgery, since Lugol’s solution can also make the mucogingival junction in the oral cavity easier to visualize.
When regularly administered for several days before thyroidectomy, the surgical removal of the thyroid gland, it decreases blood loss during the operation.
Lugol’s iodine also protects the thyroid gland after radioactive iodine therapy by blocking the absorption of radioactive iodine with increased iodine intake.
Lastly, Lugol’s solution is a very common disinfectant, although it has fallen out of favor due to scarring and temporarily discoloring the skin.
Historically, it has been almost a cure-all, used to treat hyperthyroidism, to replenish iodine deficiency, and to sterilize and decontaminate drinking water.
Lugol’s Iodine Solution Benefits
The popularity of Lugol’s solution is now suddenly on the rise once more, especially with exciting new research, which suggests that it may have some other, previously unknown benefits. For example, results of clinical trials published by Rosner and others in the journal Oncology Letters indicate that molecular iodine has beneficial effects on monthly breast pain and fibrocystic breast disease. Also, their research shows, iodine can inhibit the growth of certain human carcinoma cell lines.
These new breakthroughs may gain some credibility to the many other uses and benefits of Lugol’s solution, outside of the typical medical applications, which have so far been mostly relegated to the realm of alternative medicine.
In addition to the known benefits of Lugol’s iodine solution, some articles go as far as to claim the following:
- that it can prevent cancer
- that it improves healthy brain functioning and mental capacity
- that it can help with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- that the iodine can break down plaque clogging the arteries and be used to treat atherosclerosis
- that it can be used to treat food poisoning (salmonella for example) due to its antibacterial properties.
With all of these wondrous claims, where do we draw the line and is it wise to use Lugol’s solution as a dietary supplement?
Even if you find some of the benefits of Lugol’s solution hard to believe, the importance of iodine for the normal functioning of our bodies cannot be understated. Iodine is one of the essential elements for all life, a mineral that all organisms need to survive and maintain normal functioning. In humans, it is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate growth.
You might wonder about iodine deficiency and whether you unknowingly suffer from it. People should ideally get the necessary levels of iodine from their regular diet. However, when the soil isn’t rich in iodine and in populations that do not consume sufficient quantities of seafood, iodine deficiency could theoretically pose a problem. Through public health initiatives since the early 20th century, iodine has been added to table salt in most developed countries (iodized salt). Nevertheless, iodine deficiency still affects up to 2 billion people worldwide and remains the most easily preventable cause of developmental and intellectual disabilities (with cretinism as the most severe form).
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
The symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, include:
- slow metabolism
- weakened immune system
- hindered cognitive function
- hormone imbalance
- lack of libido
- emotional instability
- breast tenderness
- mental health issues, like anxiety and depression
- goiter, enlarged thyroid gland (the body’s desperate attempt at obtaining more iodine)
- mental handicap and stunted growth (children of mothers with iodine deficiency)
Insufficient iodine intake can eventually lead to thyroid disease, which opens a Pandora’s box of additional health problems, such as memory impairment, brittle nails, allergic reactions, fatigue, weight gain, muscle pain, puffy eyes, weight loss, sensitivity to cold, high cholesterol and others.
Iodine Rich Foods
Populations that eat a lot of seafood are on average much healthier and have longer life expectancy. One of the reasons for this is the high iodine content found in marine food such as fish, kelp and seaweed. However, if you live in an area where seafood isn’t readily available or if the thought of eating sea vegetables disgusts you, you can opt for one of the following choices:
- potatoes, navy beans, green beans
- fruit like strawberries, cranberries, bananas
- organic dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- dried prunes
- boiled eggs
In populations where sufficient levels of iodine cannot be maintained through regular diet, supplementation may be necessary.