Miracles are said to spring from waters of the grotto in Lourdes, France. In 1858, a young girl claimed that the Blessed Virgin Mary had visited her several times at the grotto. She told the girl to drink and bathe in the waters. Since then, more than 7,000 cures have been attributed to Lourdes. Some say that the high germanium content of the water may have something to do with it. But is germanium truly a miracle cure?
Germanium has many sources. You can find it in certain minerals, including:
It’s also a byproduct of coal combustion and zinc ore processing.
There are two types: organic and inorganic. Both are sold as supplements. Organic germanium is a man-made blend of germanium, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Common names include germanium-132 (Ge-132) and germanium sesquioxide.
Inorganic germanium is generally considered toxic. It’s usually sold under the names germanium dioxide and germanium-lactate-citrate.
Organic germanium is touted as a remedy for a range of conditions. It’s said to stimulate the body’s immune system and protect healthy cells. It’s promoted as treatment for conditions such as:
- heart disease
- chronic fatigue syndrome
There is no definitive proof that it can help treat cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Research is extremely limited in scope. However, one study showed that oral germanium supplements caused a woman with a rare form of lung cancer to go into remission.
It can cause kidney damage and kidney failure. The ACS says at least 31 cases of kidney failure have been linked, primarily to inorganic germanium. More rarely, kidney failure has been associated with organic germanium. In addition, a number of deaths have been reported. Other known side effects include:
- extreme weakness
- peripheral neuropathy
- interference with diuretics
There is still a lot of disagreement over its safety. Germanium remains popular among proponents of alternative therapies. Some argue that the negative findings in early studies from the 1970s and 1980s are due to errors and interactions with other treatments.
Recent research tends to support these negative findings. For example, a German study linked it with instances of:
- kidney failure
- pericardial effusion
- partial thyroid failure
- rapid heartbeat
- gastrointestinal distress
Another study, published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found a link between taking germanium and kidney disease, anemia, peripheral neuropathy, and even death.
The FDA bans the import of germanium, including products promoted as drugs or as nutritional supplements, because of the risk of kidney injury and death. While you can still purchase organic germanium products in the United States, research indicates that germanium is more menace than miracle.