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Alum: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

By Dr Ashok Pal +2 more


Alum is a mineral found in nature in both pure and impure forms. It is a mineral salt. It is obtained from the soil ore found in Nepal, Bihar, Punjab, and the Kathiawar area.1 It is a colourless, clear, odourless, crystalline mass or granular powder with a sweetish astringent flavour. It is found in Egypt, Italy, England, Germany, and India.

Phitkari, phatkiri, phatphadi (Bengali); aluminous sulphate, sulphate of alumina and potash, sulphate of aluminium and ammonium (English); phatkari (Gujrati); phitkari, phitikhari, phitkiri (Hindi); fatkari (Punjabi); pati-karam, padikharam, shinacarum (Tamil); sphatikari, surashtraja, kamakshi, tuvari (Sanskrit); pitki (Sindhi) are the common names of alum.2

benefits of alum

When heated, it melts at around 200 degrees resulting in an anhydrous salt. It is frequently contaminated with impurities in markets. It may be made suitable for potential health uses.2 It is found in many pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food products. It has a strong astringent quality. It comes in four different colours: white, green, yellow, and red. White is known as phitkari, green is known as heera kasees, yellow is known as kasees, and red is known as surkh phitkari. The most notable quality alum, according to Unani physicians, is one that easily shatters.3

Did you know?

  • Alum has been used in traditional medicine to treat canker sores, hemorrhoids, and vaginal infections. source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  • Alum has been used as a traditional remedy for treating water and purifying it from impurities. source: usgs.gov
  • Alum has been found to have antifungal properties, making it effective against certain types of fungi. source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Chemical Composition of Alum:

Alum is composed of potassium, aluminium, hydrogen, sulphur and oxygen.1

Properties of Alum:

Various properties of alum are listed below.3

  • It might be an antibacterial agent
  • It might have an antiplatelet (prevents platelet aggregation) property
  • It might have an anti-obesity activity2
  • It may be an anti- haemorrhagic (stops bleeding) agent1
  • It may have an anti-inflammatory potential
  • It may have an antidandruff property
  • It may be an anti-asthamatic3

I have read that Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian, believed that alum could do some fascinating things. According to him, alum may have the power to possibly control and reduce perspiration, making you sweat less. Additionally, it was believed that alum might have the ability to counteract unpleasant odours, making the armpits smell more pleasant.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Also Read: Hing: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

Potential Uses of Alum:

Potential use of alum for infections:

Different alum concentrations were tested against Proteus mirabilis, which causes urinary tract infections. The study’s findings revealed that potential antimicrobial activity was demonstrated by the possible loss of bacteria motility in culture media.1

Using an in-vitro bioassay method, the antibacterial activity of alum and clove extract was assessed against pathogens such as S. aureus, S. epidermidis, E. coli, and K. pneumonia. Potential antibacterial activity was observed in the alum and clove extracts, suppressing bacterial growth isolated from various infection sites.2

Using alum mouthwash and rinsing twice a day might be efficient in lowering the level of salivary mutans Streptococci in the children.3

The antifungal activity of alum was tested on yeast isolated from mouth lesions. It was concluded that alum might help control fungal isolates and it might be helpful against infections such as oral thrush and mouth ulcers.3 However, more studies are required to ascertain the use of alum for infections.

Potential use of alum for platelets:

In an animal model, the antiplatelet action of alum was investigated in terms of platelet aggregation and bleeding time. After alum injection, platelet aggregation was significantly lowered. The time it took for an animal model to bleed after receiving an alum injection was also much longer. The study’s findings suggest that alum might be helpful as an antiplatelet drug.2 However, more studies on humans are required to prove its effectiveness.

Potential use of alum for obesity:

In an obese animal model, oral intake of potash alum showed a potential to cause possible reduction of body weight, food intake, serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins. This shows the possible anti-obesity effect.3  However, more studies on humans are required to prove such effects.

Potential use of alum for stomatitis (inflamed mouth):

Recurrent stomatitis is caused by antibiotics, painkillers, and other drugs. A topical application of alum can be helpful for this condition.1 It may help stomatitis and may be administered along with honey.2 However, more research is required to prove the potential use of alum for stomatitis. Kindly consult a doctor and do not self-medicate.

Potential use of alum for post-operative wounds:

Alum might show some effect on post-operative wounds.Alum may be dissolvedin water and used for helping with the post-operative wounds.1 There is a need for more studies to prove its effectiveness for post-operative wounds. Kindly do not self-medicate as healing of post-operative wounds is crucial.

Potential use of alum for tumour:

Animal studies have shown the possible anti-tumour effect of alum. An animal model was injected with alum. The results of the study indicated potential in tumour growth reduction in the animal model.3 However, more research is required to prove such claims. Moreover, tumours should be diagnosed and treated by doctors. Therefore, kindly consult a doctor.

Though there are studies that show the potential use of apricot in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need of further studies to establish the true extent of benefits of apricot on human health.  

I’ve got a fascinating fun fact for you! Trotula, a famous gynaecologist from the 12th century, wrote a book about women’s health. According to her alum might be able to lighten blemishes on the skin and even dye those beautiful hair strands of yours.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Kalijiri: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!

How to Use Alum?

Alum can be used as alum powder or solution.2 Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the dose and form as per your need.

 You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.  

Let me tell you a secret about using a surma (collyrium) made from alum. This special mixture might help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and soften hardened eyelids. Not only that, but it may also act as a cleanser for the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the front of your eye. And the best part? It may even improve your vision!

Dr. Smita barode, B.A.M.S, M.S.

Also Read: Balancing Your Diet: High Potassium Foods to Avoid for Healthy Living

Side Effects of Alum:

Several side effects associated with alum use are listed below.   

  • Dry skin
  • Skin irritation
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of throat tightness
  • Fluid accumulation around the eye
  • Hives (red and itchy skin)
  • Hypersensitivity reaction
  • Life-threatening allergic reaction
  • Puffy face from water retention
  • Skin ulcer
  • Throat swelling
  • Troubled breathing1

Therefore, it is advised that you do not self-medicate and take advice from a doctor before using alum.

Also Read: How to Get Rid of a Canker Sore: Evidence-Based Remedies and Tips

Precautions to Take With Alum:

The safety studies of alum on pregnant and breastfeeding women have not been carried out. Therefore, it should only be taken under the supervision and advice of a doctor. No research has been done on the safe use of alum in children and elderly.

Also Read: What Are Symptoms of Low Potassium: Understanding and Managing Hypokalemia

Interactions With Other Drugs:

There is not much information available on how alum interacts with other medications. Hence, you should consult a doctor before taking alum and disclose to your doctor if you take any other medicine or supplement.

Also Read: Nirgundi: Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is alum?

Alum is a mineral found in nature in both pure and impure forms, derived from alumen ore.1 It is a colourless, clear, odourless, crystalline mass or granular powder with a sweetish astringent flavour.2

What are the uses of alum?

Alum might be helpful for bleeding gums, gingivitis, pyorrhoea, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, piles, vaginal inflammation, leucorrhoea (whitish or yellowish coloured discharge from the vagina), gonorrhoea, kidney and bladder abscess (swelling with pus), renal and bladder stones, conjunctivitis, ear abscess, dandruff, burns, breast hypertrophy (increase in size), stomatitis, dementia (memory loss), asthma and bleeding.3 However, more research is required to prove the effectiveness of alum for the above-mentioned conditions. Therefore, kindly consult a doctor. Do not self-medicate.

How is alum made suitable for therapeutic use?

It can be made suitable for potential use by humans by dissolving it in boiling water, filtering the solution, and evaporating it to produce crystals, which should be preserved for future use.2

Is alum soluble in water?

Yes, alum is soluble in water. As the molecular formula of alum contains water molecule, it is water-soluble.1,2

Can we drink alum water?

Yes, we can drink alum water as alum is used for water purification.1 There may be some reactions and side effects of alum, thus take advice from your doctor

Is alum edible?

Yes, alum is edible. Potassium alum is an active ingredient in baking powder.1

What is the chemical formula of alum?

The chemical formula of potassium alum is K2SO4Al2(SO4)3.24 H2O.2

How to use alum for hair removal?

Alum is used in depilatory waxes that are used for the removal of body hair or applied to freshly waxed skin as a demulcent (relieves inflammation or skin irritation).1 However, a doctor/specialist should be consulted before using it for the above-mentioned purpose.

How to purify water with alum?

It has been used to purify turbid liquids since antiquity. Alum is used to purify domestic wastewater. It is added to water to cause aggregation of particles and form flocs.1

What is the taste of alum?

Alum has a sweetish astringent taste.3

What are the other names of alum?

It is known as phitkari, phatkiri, phatphadi, sambe-mani, aluminous sulphate, sulphate of alumina and potash, sulphate of aluminium and ammonium, phatkari, phitikhari, phitkiri, patikar, turati, phitki, phatki, fatkari, sphatikari, surashtraja, kamakshi, tuvari, pitki, pati-karam, padikharam, and shinacarum.2

Where is alum found?

It is found in Egypt, Italy, England, Germany, and India. In India, it is primarily found in Assam, Punjab, and Bihar.2

What are the side effects of alum?

Dry skin, skin irritation, burn, dizziness, throat tightness, fluid accumulation around the eye, hives, hypersensitivity reaction, allergic reaction, puffy face from water retention, skin ulcer and throat swelling are the side effects of alum.1 Therefore, it should not be used without a doctor’s advice.

Is alum good for obesity?

Yes, alum is good for obesity. The oral intake of potash alum might help in reduction of body weight, food intake, serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins in an obese animal model.3 However, more research is required to prove such claims. Therefore, do not self-medicate. Kindly consult a doctor before using it.

Is alum good for ulcers?

Alum might be helpful for ulcers. Topical application of alum might be helpful for ulcers caused by recurrent usage of several medications like antibiotics, painkillers, etc.1 However, more research is required to prove such claims.

Can we use an alum after shaving?

Yes, alum can be used after shaving due to its astringent properties.3

Is alum good for bleeding gums?

Alum might be helpful for bleeding gums and gum inflammation.3 However, more research is required to prove the effectiveness of alum for bleeding gums. Kindly visit a dentist.

Also Read: Lodhra: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More!


  1. Vignesh K, Niresh SJ, Saravanasingh K, Uma AP. Padikaram (alum)–a unique drug and its utilization in Siddha medicine: a pharmacological review. Siddha Papers. 2019;14(2):1-2. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335690273_Padikaram_Alum-_A_Unique_drug_and_its_Utilization_in_Siddha_Medicine_A_Pharmacological_review
  2. Zeenat F, Ahmad W, Mustafa S, Naaz SA, Ahmad A. An Appraisal of Medicinal Properties of Shibb-e-Yamani (Alum): A Review. Unimed – Kulliyat 2018; X (2): 78-87. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330557019_An_Appraisal_of_Medicinal_Properties_of_Shibb-e-Yamani_Alum_A_Review
  3. Masuma Zaki, Lubna Fatima, Wajeeha Begum. Shibe Yamani (Alum) And Its Therapeutic Effects In Unani System of Medicine:A Review. Global J Res Analysis. 2020; 9 (2): 1-3. Available from: https://www.worldwidejournals.com/global-journal-for-research-analysis-GJRA/article/shibe-yamani-alum-and-its-therapeutic-effects-in-unani-system-of-medicine-a-review/MTQyNzI=/?is=1
  4. Wen Y, Shi Y. Alum: an old dog with new tricks. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2016; 5(1): 1-5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4820675/

Also Read: Parijat: Uses, Benefits, Side effects and More!


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