What are the medical uses of Alum?

An adjuvant is an alum compound used to increase the potency and longevity of a vaccine.

Alum is the name generally given to two common salts: aluminum potassium phosphate and aluminum ammonium sulfate. In its natural state, the substance has been used for over 2,000 years in a wide variety of applications. Before the start of the 20th century, it was routinely manufactured and used for pickling, canning, leather tanning, and baking. From then on, its use in food processing gradually declined due to safety concerns about its side effects. Medical and healthcare professionals, however, still use it frequently to treat injuries and illnesses.

Aluminum is used as an astringent to reduce tissue around a wound and decrease bleeding.

In medicine, alum is regularly employed as an astringent to shrink tissue and reduce the discharge of bodily fluids, as an astringent to contract organic tissues and stop or reduce hemorrhage and bleeding, and as an emetic agent to induce vomiting when someone has ingested poison. It is also often used to improve certain vaccines and to prevent or treat infections. Veterinarians often advise pet owners to apply the powdered version to animal cuts caused by improper nail trimming as a way to stop bleeding.

Powdered alum is sometimes used to speed up the healing process of canker sores inside the mouth.

When this compound is used to potentiate a vaccine, it is classified as an adjuvant or supplemental contributing agent. Adjuvants that contain aluminum have been shown to make some vaccines last longer and often appear to help produce more antibodies against the disease. Relatively common vaccines licensed in the United States and typically given to children include diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP), where pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough; diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP), acellular meaning no whole pertussis cell; Hepatitis A and B; human papilloma virus (HPV); and anger.

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Toothpaste containing alum.

Some people believe that alum powder is an effective home remedy for canker sores. Proponents of this form of treatment often claim that rubbing the wound with the powder a few times a day speeds healing. Anyone who adopts this treatment method should, however, be aware of the possible side effects: the sores can burn and the dust can cause the mouth to pucker occasionally. Experts also recommended that anyone who puts the powder in or near the mouth rinse their mouth with water after treatment, as the compound can cause vomiting.

Aluminum causes vomiting when someone has ingested a poison.

Aluminum is still an ingredient in some everyday products found in many medicine cabinets. For example, people often use astringent pencils—small molded alum sticks with pencil-like tips—to stop bleeding from cuts caused by shaving. The substance is also often listed in toothpaste and tooth powder ingredients.

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