As someone who has a long history of nosebleeds, starting in early adolescence, I now have zero doubt that copper can stop nosebleeds. It definitely stopped mine. But, until recently, I didn’t understand the reasons why. Here’s what I discovered:
How copper affects blood vessels
The process of growing new blood vessels from existing ones — angiogenesis — is important in growth, development, and wound healing. One of the factors found to be critical to blood vessel growth is copper, a vital nutrient that plays important roles in many life processes. In fact, the inhibition of blood vessel growth can be induced by administering compounds that reduce copper in the body. Yet the biological basis for this particular sensitivity of angiogenesis to copper remains an enigma.
What scientists do know is that copper is needed to absorb and utilize iron. It is also part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD). Copper is needed to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy the body runs on. Synthesis of some hormones requires copper, as does collagen (the “glue” that holds muscle tissue together) and tyrosinase (the enzyme that puts pigment into the skin).
Note the bold portion above. I suspect this facet of copper is the main reason my nose stopped bleeding when I began taking a copper supplement. This is also why certain skin care companies want to convince you that copper can be absorbed efficiently through the skin, from their creams!
Copper deficiency is uncommon. Children with Menke’s syndrome are unable to absorb copper normally and become severely deficient unless medically treated early in life. Deficiency can also occur in people who supplement with zinc without also increasing copper intake. Zinc interferes with copper absorption. Health consequences of zinc-induced copper deficiency can be quite serious. In the absence of copper supplements, vitamin C supplements have also been reported to mildly impair copper metabolism. Copper deficiency can cause anemia, a drop in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), and several other health problems.
Taking one 2mg copper capsule every day put a stop to my nosebleeds, in a matter of days, but the official recommended dose for copper supplementation is 1-3mg per day.
Even though most people don’t get enough copper in their diet, copper supplementation is especially important for people who take zinc supplements, including the zinc found in multiple-vitamin/mineral supplements.
The best dietary sources of copper are oysters (which also contain zinc), nuts, dried legumes, cereals, potatoes, vegetables, and meat also contain copper.
Side effects and interactions
The level at which copper causes problems is unclear. But in combination with zinc, up to 3 mg per day is considered safe. People drinking tap water from new copper pipes should consult their nutritionally oriented doctor before supplementing, since they might be getting enough (or even too much) copper from their water. People with Wilson’s disease should never take copper.
Since zinc interferes with copper absorption, people taking zinc supplements for more than a few weeks should also take copper. In the absence of copper supplements, vitamin C may also interfere with copper metabolism. Copper also improves absorption and utilization of iron, which prevents anemia. An important factor, if you are losing blood from frequent nosebleeds.
Not everyone can or should use copper supplements, but if you’re suffering from unexplained nosebleeds, and you don’t have Wilson’s disease, don’t wait. Put a stop to your blood loss today, by taking a copper supplement daily and/or eating foods rich in the mineral.