Alum popularly called Fitkari in India has wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses. It has many wide uses from water purification to skin lightening. But there are many types of alum and it is important to get to know which alum to use, the correct dosage and also the correct method to use it to prevent any side effects.
What Is Alum?
Alumpopularly called Fitkari | Phitkari is very commonly used in India. Though there are manytypes of alum, potassium alum is the one commonly used for householdpurposes. It is also the one that is most commonlyreferred to as alum.When we say the word “Alum”, most of us think of it’s use in shaving butalum has other wonderful uses and benefits too.
The chemical formula forpotassiumalum is KAl (SO4)2.H2O.Itis the hydrated form of potassium aluminum sulfate and it’snomenclature is potassium aluminum sulfate dodecahydrate.
Alum Common Names:
Potashalum iscommonlycalled Alum | Picking Alum in English, Fitkari in Hindi,Phitkari in Urdu, Padikaram in Tamil, Patika in Telugu, Phatakadi inGujarati, Phatikara | Patika in Kannada, Sphatikari in Sanskrit, Patkiin Sindhi, Phatakiri in Bengali, Phatakadi in Malayalam, Tawas inPhilippines and Turti in Marathi.
CharacteristicsOf Potash Alum:
Potash alum is found naturally in rocks wherepotassiumand sulfide minerals in the rocks are exposed to the weather. Alumis colorless in crystal form, 100 % pure alum block will be completelytranslucent. Alum is easily soluble in water and when heated it becomesporous. When you heat a small piece of alum block, it will keep onbubbling up, this is referred to as “Burnt Alum”.
Alum Chemical Properties:
Alum has astringent,antiseptic, antihemorrhagic, and anti bacterial propertiesmakingitvery effective for treating many skin problems and has many beauty uses.Alumhas been used since ancient times in both Ayurvedic and Chinesemedicine as it has many wonderful medicinal uses. In Ayurveda, alum isadded to many medicines and is used to treat a wide variety of diseases.
Alum Traditional Uses:
Alum is given in small quantities internally for treating cough anddiarrhea.Alum boiled along with babul is used as a gargle for sorethroat. Alum is also used for treating cracked heels, to stop bleedingand is also used as an external application for piles to reduce theinflammation.
Alum is also very commonly used in skin care especiallyfor skin tightening and skin lightening. It is used for treating acneand acne scars, prevent blackheads, lighten dark spots and dark circles,for vaginal tightening and for hair removal.
Can We Consume Alum?
Though alum is used widelyas a home remedy, it is rarely internally consumed and most remediescall for only external application of alum paste. In our place, we usealum for making homemade bindis too. InChinesemedicine, alum ispopularly called Ming Fan and is taken both internally and appliedexternally for skindiseases like body odor, athletic foot, etc.
AlumUse In Cooking:
Alum is popularly used in canning and pickling to addcrispness to vegetables and fruits and also as a preservative. But usingalum for pickling is diminishing as people are getting aware of thedangers of consuming alum regularly. Alum is also used as an additive tobaking powder.
AlumStone Spiritual Uses:
Alum stone also has spiritual uses and is believedto get rid of negative energy. Alum is also widely used in Vastu,hanging a piece of alum in the entrance of the house is said to preventany negative side effects cause due to Vastu defects in the house.
Alum is also used in leather tanning, fire prooftextiles and as a dye fixer for textiles and for water treatment.Itis amazing how alum purifies the water and it is one ingredient alwaysadvised for campers in case they run out of good water.
Types Of Alum:
To identify potash alum correctly, it is good to get to know the other different types of alum commonly found:
1. Potassium Alum:
This isthe type of alum that has been used in both ayurvedic and Chinesemedicine for centuries. It has wide uses and is popularly used in homeremedies and also has industrial uses and is the type of alum that isreferred to as fitkari or phitkari in India.
2. Ammonium Alum:
Thechemical formula for ammonium alumina sulfate is NH4(ALSO4)2.12 H2O. Itis not widely used for industrial purposes but ammonium alum isinexpensive and non toxic so it is used as adeodorant, animal and birdrepellent sprays, water purification, vegetable glue, dyeing andtanning.
3. Sodium Alum:
The chemical formula for sodium alum isNaAL(SO4)2.12H2O. Sodium alum is mainly used in food industry toincrease acidity and give a tart taste. Sodium alum powder is added tobiscuits as it helps in slow liberation ofcarbon dioxide which isessential for uniform browning of biscuits. It is also used as a mordantin dyeing, tanning, water purifying, engraving and waterproofingtextiles.
4. Chrome Alum:
The chemical formula for chromium potassium sulfate isKCr(SO4)2.12H2O. Chrome alum is a deep violet compound mainly usedintanning as chromium stabilizes the leather.
5. Aluminum Sulfate:
Thechemical formula for aluminum sulfate is Al2(SO4)3. It is also referredto as a type of alum but istechnicallynot an alum as usually alumshave double sulfate salts. It is used in baking powder,antiperspirantand since it is highly acidic it is added to veryalkalinegarden soilto balance out the pH levels of the soil. It is also used for purifyingwater, to fix dyes while dyeing fabrics and in paper making.
6. Selenate Alum:
Selenate alum form when selenium takes the place ofsulfur forming selenate alum. It is a strong oxidizing agent andtherefore is used as an antiseptic.
Alum Side Effects:
- Alum is takeninternally as a medicine in both Chinese and ayurvedic medicine butonly in very small amounts as it is toxic in large doses. I wouldsuggest consuming alum as medicine only under expert guidance and neveras a home remedy.
- When using alum as adeodorant try using it onalternate daysinsteadof regularly as even regular external applicationmight get absorbed into the blood stream. If you are experiencing anyirritation after using alum, stop using it.
- Alum is also used forvaginal tightening but please remember using alum for vaginal tighteningcan lead to irritation and increased chance of getting an infection sotry to avoid using alum for vaginal tightening.
- When using it on skin,use it sparingly and always use a moisturizer later as alum tends tocause skin dryness.
- Alum is also used popularly for weight loss,external application of alum on the stomach is said to reduce belly fatbut there is no scientific research proving this and please research wellbefore using alum for weight loss.
- Small pinch of alum is used in certain hair treatments to treat lice and dandruff, when using alum for hair please be careful of the dosage else it can lead to hair fall.
For water treatment 0.05 % is the recommended dosage that does not have any side effects. Ifyou experience any side effects after drinking water purified with alum,reduce the dosage even further. For internal consumption usually a tinypinch is used and I would strongly recommend not to consume alum more than this amount. If you accidentally consumed alum in large doses seek medical help immediately.
Where To Buy Alum?
In India, you can findalum stone pretty easily. Alum is either sold as fine powder under thename “Alum Powder” or in blocks like shown in the above picture. It isalso called shaving alum in the shops. In India we usually get alum inblocks and it can be stored for years and used.
How to Make Alum Powder?
For home remedies, if you have got alum in block form, we can powder itin a mortar and pestle to a very fine powder, sieve and use.Alum is very cheap, so try to have a block of alum for treating a variety of diseases at home!
10 Top Medicinal Uses & Health Benefits Of Alum (Fitkari) For Skin, Hair & Health:
1. Alum For Canker Sores, Teeth Whitening & Bleeding Gums:
Usuallyfor canker sores, a small piece of alum is powdered and then a pinch ofthat alum powder is pressed over the canker sore. It stings for awhile, but by the next day, usually the person is relieved of cankersores. But many don’t like to use the alum powder as such and youngchildren will find it hard to bear the burn caused due to alum powder.
Ahomemade alum mouth rinse is good way to use alum to get rid of mouthsores. To make the rinse, powder alum in a mortar and pestle. Boil waterin a pan along with little salt, once the salt has dissolved removefrom the heat and stir in the alum powder. Once the alum has dissolved,strain and use it as a mouth rinse at least 2 to 3 times a day.
Salt isalso very effective in treating canker sores and this mouth rinse can besafely used by both young and old. If you are using the raw alumpowder, make sure not to swallow it while applying over the canker soreand use only a tiny bit. This alum mouth rinse also will treat badbreath, brighten your teeth and will stop bleeding in the gums too.
2. Alum For Eye Abscess:
Alumis wonderful for treating eye abscess. One of my relatives who taughtme this remedy has been using alum for treating eye abscess for quite sometime. For treating abscess, rub alum on a sandalwood stone along withlittle water.
Sandalwood stone is a smooth stone that we use to rubsandalwood bark to get sandalwood paste at home. If you don’t have ityou can use any smooth stone that you have at home. Rub alum till youget a thick smooth paste.
This paste is very effective but it stingsinitially when applied, the boil breaks on the same day it isapplied giving one a good relief from eye abscess. But while doing thisremedy make sure the alum paste does not enter the eyes. Also since thepaste stings badly when applied, it is best not to use this remedy foryoung kids.
3. Alum For Athelete’sFoot & Cracked Heels:
Alumpowder is very useful in treating both athlete’s foot and crackedheels. Athlete’s foot is a common skin infection caused by a fungus.Itching, scaling and redness are the common symptoms of athlete’s foot.One of the best ways to use alum for treating athlete’s foot is byimmersing the feet in alum foot soak.
To make alum foot soak, take awide bowl and add enough warm water so that you can immerse your feet init completely. Now take 2 tsp of alum and mix it in 1/4 cup of watertill the alum crystals are fully dissolved and add to the foot soak. Nowimmerse your feet in this alum foot soak till the water turns cold.
Ifyou have access to fresh neem leaves, you can add a handful to the soaktoo. It will greatly help treat athlete’s foot as it has anti fungalproperties. Thisfoot soak will help with cracked heels too as alum softens the hardskin very effectively. After soaking your feet in this mixture, wash,pat dry and massage your feet with few drops of cold pressed coconutoil.
4. Alum Uses For Shaving:
Alumhas been used as an after shave treatment for centuries and here inIndia, you will find a piece of alum in most barber shops. Once youstart using alum, you will get rid of all the expensive after shaves.
Since alum has anti bacterial properties and stops bleeding fast,rubbing it on the face after shaving will heal minor cuts caused duringshaving and will also stop bleeding fast. You might not like it when youuse alum as an after shave the first time but if you continue to useit, you will find positive improvement in you skin tone.
To useafter shaving, rub a piece of alum block over the wet face for fewseconds and then wash it off. But please remember using alum in barbershops is one of the main reasons for getting a skin infection as one alum stone isused repeatedly for everyone. I would strongly suggest not using alumstone in barber shops at all.
5. Alum Uses For Water Purification:
Alumis an amazing and cheap way to purify water and soften hard water.Impurities found in the water are charged colloids and since they allhave the same charge (positive), they repel each other and stay separate.
Also since the particles are tiny the gravitational force acting on them is notstrong either so they never settle down. Alum has a negative charge andwhen added to the water dissolves in water well and since it has anegative charge, it joins up with the suspended particles and neutralizesthem.
Once there is no charge they clump together and this process iscalled coagulation. Due to the increase in weight they settle down atthe bottom leaving clear water on top.Topurify the muddy water, powder alum and add about . 01 gm of alumpowder for every liter of muddy water. You will find the muddy particlessettling down leaving you with clear water.
The water is almost cleanwith only very little fineparticlesdissolved in it. Boil the clearwater before drinking. If you use the correct dosage, there will not beany side effects at all.Next time you go on a camping trip, take a small block of alum with you, it will always come in handy.
6.Alum As ADeodorant For Body Odour:
Alum is wonderful as a deodorant due to it’s antiseptic and anti bacterial properties.Alum has been used as adeodorantfromancient times. When we sweat werelease water and salt through the sweat glands. Sweat by itself doesnot have any smell but when the bacteria in our body acts on it, itcauses body odor.
Why is alum a good deodorant? Alum has anti microbial properties and prevents thegrowth of odor causing bacteria. When we use anti antiperspirants theyblock the pores and prevents sweating and they also contain syntheticfragrances whereas alum does not prevent us from sweating but onlyreduce the bacterial growth which causes the body odor.
You can use alumin two ways as a deodorant, one is on the form of dusting powder. Tomake the deodorant, powder alum along with little myrrh and use it asdusting powder. The second way is to simply wet an alum block and rub itunder arms. Rubbing alum also lightens dark underarms as alum has skin lightening properties. However it isadvised to use alum every other day instead of every day.
7. Alum & Rose Water For Hair Removal:
Alum has been used as a home remedy for unwanted facial hair removal from ancient times. It works really welland canbe effectively used for both face and body hair removal. A mixture ofalumpowder and water or better still rosewater can be applied all over theface andbody.
This paste tends to retard the face and body hair growth over time. Alumwhen rubbed on the skin acts a mild abrasive and helps get rid of facialhair permanently. Traditionally after bath, alum powder is mixed withrose water into a very fine paste and then the paste is applied on theface.
Let the paste dry completely and once the paste is about to drycompletely, start rubbing in circular motions and gently remove thealum face pack completely from the face. Since alum is a mild abrasive, when we rubit gently on the face, it weakens the hair roots. With regular use, yourhair growth will slowly diminish over time. But alum can dry out the skinso always apply moisturizer after doing this treatment.
8.Alum Uses For Skin Tightening & Lightening Scars:
Alumhas both skin tightening and skin lightening properties. Rubbing alumgently on the skin is one of the most popular home remedies for skintightening. Though temporary, you will feel your skin tighten when yourub alum, this is due to it’s astringent properties.
One of my cousinsmentioned that his skin felt smooth after he regularly started usingalum as an after shave. Regularuse of alum gives one wrinkle free, smooth and tight skin. To use forskin tightening, take a piece of alum and wet itin water and rub it on your damp face for few seconds weekly twice orthrice. Wash your face in water and then apply moisturizer.
Many usealum for vaginal tightening but I would highly suggest not to as itwill cause intense irritation. Alum also has skin lightening propertiesand lightens dark spots and dark circles very well. To use alum for skin lightening, take a piece of alum and rub it along with little rawunprocessed honey into a thick paste and apply as a face pack. Since weare adding honey, alum does not dry out the skin.
You can also use alumpowder instead of alum block too. This face pack will prevent wrinkles,tighten skin, prevent blackheads and lighten dark spots and dark circleswell. Another recipe using alum that works so well is to add a smallpinch of alum to 1/4 cup of pure homemade rose water and a tsp of vegetable glycerin and use it as a facial toner.
9. Alum Uses For Pimples, Acne & Acne Scars:
Alumcan be effectively used for treating pimples and fading acne scars as it has both wonderful antibacterial and skin lightening properties. One of the best ways to use alum for acne is by applying itin the form of a face pack. You can make the face pack in two ways.
One isby mixing alum with turmeric powder and the other is by mixing alumwith multani mitti also called as fullers earth. To make alum andturmeric face pack, take a small pinch of alum and mix it in water tillit dissolves completely and then add the alum water to enough organicturmeric powder to form a paste and apply as a face pack.
Make sure touse only a tiny piece of alum else it will cause skin dryness. To makethe second face pack, take a small pinch of alum and dissolve it in rosewater. Now take a tbsp of multani mitti in a bowl. Add the alum rosewater mixture and mix to form a smooth paste. To use, apply this mixtureall over the face and neck and then wash it off.
10. Alum Sitz Bath For Piles (Haemorrhoids):
One big problem experienced by people suffering from hemorrhoids is the inflammation and thebleeding. Alum is very effective for treating the symptoms ofhemorrhoids as it arrests the bleeding, reduces the inflammation andcauses the hemorrhoids to shrink due to it’s astringent properties.
Oneof the best ways to use alum for shrinking piles is to make sitz bathwith it. To make alum sitz bath, fill a tub large enough so you canimmerse your hips in it fully. Now fill the tub with warm water till thehips can be fully immersed in it, make sure the water is not hot.
Nowmix 1/2 tbsp of alum powder in 1/4 cup water till the alum powder is fullydissolved and add it to the water in the tub. Don’t add anyshampoo or shower gel to the water. Immerse your hips in the waterfully, sit for 20 to 30 minutes. This alum sitz bath will help reducethe bleeding, shrink the size of the hemorrhoids and reduce theirritation but it will not treat it.