Humic and Fulvic Acids as Free Radical Scavengers

Humic acid and fulvic acid’s unique properties observed in plant growth have been investigated and found to be equally beneficial in human and animal health. A prominent chemical reaction observed by the fulvic acid compound is its function as a free radical scavenger or as an antioxidant.

Molecules bond to one another using electrons (i.e. positive and negative charges) forming single, double or triple bonds (covalnet bonding). A single bond is stronger than a double bond and a double bond is stronger than a triple bond. When a molecular bond is broken the vacant electron seeks to attach to something. These molecules seeking attachment are called free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and do not discriminate in finding something to attach too. A common example of a free radical reaction is found when milk fat breaks down causing spoiled milk.

The important medical free radicals are the hydroxyl radical (-OH) and the super-oxide radical, which consist of two linked oxygen atoms (O2) with a single, unpaired electron. These oxygen free radicals, each with their single electron, can attack and damage most molecules or tissues within the body. Free radicals react in nanoseconds with any molecule and/or cell they come into contact with. When they react they either hand over their unpaired electron or capture an electron from some other molecule to make up the pair. In either event the radicals become stable but the attacked molecule is converted into a radical. This starts a chain reaction that can go on a destructive path through the body’s tissues and is called oxidative stress. Once free radical causes damage to cells it is called oxidation.

Some free radicals are used by the body’s immune system (e.g. white blood cells and lymphocytes). The immune system identifies bacteria, viruses or other unfamiliar foreign bodies (i.e. antigens) that invade body tissues and white blood cells and/or lymphocytes use free radicals as a toxin to destroy the foreign body.

Compounds used to neutralize free radicals, or stop free radical chain reaction are called antioxidants. Some of these antioxidants are found in the foods we eat but some are synthesized withing the body. Vitamins A, C, E and a large number of functional enzymes are used in the body as antioxidants. Supplemental vitamins and trace minerals are well recognized in human health as precursors of antioxidants. The use of fulvic acids which are derived from the same raw materials as humic acid, has been observed to increase vitamin and mineral uptake in the body, increasing availability to the immune system.

The most prolific medical research found for fulvic acid has been observed in China for the treatment of diseases related to immune suppression (e.g. immune system fails to react properly). The medical documented disease treated with fulvic acid includes bronchial asthma, Rheumatoid arthritis and some forms of cancer. The primary mode of action is observed through reduction of free radical reactions within the body that damage body tissues (i.e. from infection or uncontrolled release of free radicals in the body by malignant tissues – cancer).

Antioxidants are well recognized in lowering free radical damage to nutrients absorbed through digestion. This allows greater levels of vitamins and trace minerals to be absorbed and to be used in the body’s natural defense mechanisms, the immune system. Fulvic acid’s unique absorptive property allows the molecule to be absorbed through skin tissue and reduce free radicals within the body as well.


Senesi, N; Miano, TM – Humic substances in the global environment: implications for human health; Elsevier: Amsterdam; 1994.

Klocking, R – Humic substances as potential therapeutics; 1994; in Senesi, N; Miano, T.M; Humic substances in the global environment and implications on human health: proceedings of the 6th international meeting of the International Humic Substances Society, Monopoli, Italy; September 20-25, 1992; Elsevier: Amsterdam.

Yuan, Shenyuan – Fulvic Acid, 4 1988; in Application of Fulvic acid and its derivatives in the fields of agriculture and medicine; First Edition: June 1993