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So, what is a mineral anyway?

A mineral is an inorganic substance that is obtained from the earth, and is needed to maintain normal human health.  As opposed to organic, inorganic refers to that which is not living, not produced through living processes, or not containing the element carbon.

A macromineral is a mineral required in large dietary quantities such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Amino acids are a group of 22 different organic compounds that link together in different ways to form proteins.  They contain unique combinations of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and fluorine.  Eight are ‘essential’ amino acids – we do not produce them in our bodies, and need to obtain them in our diet.

Alkaline earth metals are located within Group 2 of the Periodic Table.  They are basic (as opposed to acidic) when combined with water, and act as reducing agents (chemical reaction following oxidation).

Halogens are elements found in Group 7 of the Periodic Table. The term “halogen” means “salt-former.”  At room temperature, halogens exist as gases such as fluorine and chlorine, liquid as in Bromine, and solids such as solids such as iodine and astatine.

A trace element is a mineral needed in very small amounts; but nonetheless very important for daily body function and physiology.

Transition metals are elements that conduct electricity, and are usually very dense and often colorful.  They are in groups 3 through 11 in the Periodic Table.

As opposed to metals, non-metals, are brittle, lackluster, and do not conduct heat or electricity very well.  They include carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, selenium, and sulfur.

Alkali metals form Group 1 of the Periodic Table.  They are so highly reactive, that they are not found in pure elemental form in nature.  They are usually silvery in color.  They all react vigorously with water, and produce hydrogen gas.

Malabsorption is altered digestion that prevents enough intake of vitamins, minerals, or “the good things” in food.


Calcium is a macromineral needed to maintain strong and healthy bones and teeth. It is necessary for normal blood clotting, muscle and nerve function, maintaining good blood pressure, and is even thought to prevent colon cancer (and possibly others).

We obtain calcium from dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, kelp, broccoli, almonds, and sesame seeds.

Symptoms of deficiency: Muscle weakness, spasms and cramping, softening of the bones (which could lead to osteoporosis, back pain, and fractures).

The word calcium originates from the Latin word ‘calcis’ meaning, “lime.”

Sir Humphrey Davy discovered calcium in 1808.

The Element Calcium is an alkaline earth metal. It is silvery in color, and a moderately hard metallic element that constitutes approximately 3.5% of the earth’s crust.

It is necessary for the proper biochemical function of most animals and plants.

It occurs naturally in limestone, gypsum, and fluorite, and its compounds are used to make plaster, quicklime, Portland cement, and metallurgic and electronic materials.

It is a reducing agent, and is used in the production of metal alloys.

Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium within our intestines.

Symbol: Ca

Atomic Number: 20

Atomic Mass: 40.078 amu

Melting Point: 839.0 °C – 1112.15 °K

Boiling Point: 1484.0 °C – 1757.15 °K

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 1.55 g/cm3

Color: silvery metal


Chloride is needed for the formation of stomach acid, and for regulating fluid shifts in our cells and blood vessels.

We obtain chloride from table salt (sodium chloride).

Symptoms of deficiency: VERY uncommon, but may cause low blood pressure and low potassium levels in the blood.

The word chlorine originates from the Greek word ‘khloros’ meaning “green.”

Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered chlorine in 1774.  It was given its name by Humphrey Davy in 1810.

The element chlorine is a highly irritating, greenish-yellow gaseous halogen (“salt-former”), capable of combining with nearly all other elements.  It is obtained from ocean salt, and accounts for 1.9% of the mass of our seawater.

It is produced by electrolysis of sodium chloride, and used widely to purify water, as a disinfectant and bleaching agent, and to manufacture compounds including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.

Chloride is the ion (charged particle, negative in this case) of chlorine.  The most common uses of chlorine are in bleaches, mustard gas, water purification, and production of antiseptic, insecticides, paint, plastics paper, and many medications.

Symbol: Cl

Atomic Number: 17

Atomic Mass: 35.4527 amu

Melting Point: -100.98 °C – 172.17 °K

Boiling Point: -34.6 °C – 238.55 °K

Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic

Density @ 293 K: 3.214 g/cm3

Color: greenish-yellow gas


Chromium is a transition metal that helps insulin to function properly, thus stabilizing blood sugar levels.  It also helps to digest fats in the intestine, and to increase the good cholesterol in your blood while lowering the bad cholesterol.

Dietary sources include shellfish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, cheese, molasses, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms and whole wheat bread.

Deficiency in itself is uncommon, but could potentially manifest as diabetes, or raise blood cholesterol levels and lead to an increased risk for heart disease.

The element chromium is defined as a lustrous, hard, steel-gray metallic element.

It is found primarily in chromite, and is resistant to tarnish and corrosion.

It is used to harden steel alloys, and in the production of stainless steels, corrosion-resistant decorative plating, and as a pigment in glass.  The most common uses of chromium are in dyes and paints, stainless steel, metallurgy, chrome plating, green rouge metal polish and magnetic tape.

The word chromium originates from the Greek word ‘chroma’ meaning “color.”

Louis Vauquelin discovered chromium in 1797.

It is obtained from chromite, and trace amounts have been found in precious metals such as rubies and emeralds.

Symbol: Cr

Atomic Number: 24

Atomic Mass: 51.9961 amu

Melting Point: 1857.0 °C – 2130.15 °K

Boiling Point: 2672.0 °C – 2945.15 °K

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 7.19 g/cm3

Color: steel-gray


Copper helps to form collagen, which is essential for healthy bones and connective tissue. It is important for the production of red blood cells, and is needed to absorb iron as well.

Dietary sources include oysters, shellfish, whole grains, nuts, seeds, avocados, potatoes, garlic, bananas, mushrooms, cocoa, tomatoes, prunes and soy products.

Deficiency is rare, but may lead to difficulty with balance, weakness, and skin problems.

The element copper is a transition metal and trace element.  It is a ductile (able to be pulled into a thin wire), malleable, reddish-brown metallic element, and it conducts heat and electricity quite well.  It is used for electrical wiring, water piping, musical instruments, coins, cookware, and cutlery.

The name copper originates from the Latin word ‘cyprium,’ referring to the island of Cyprus (sacred to Aphrodite/Venus in Greek/Roman mythology).

We obtain copper from chalcopyrite, coveline, and chalcosine.

Brass is mostly copper, with some zinc; Bronze is mostly copper with a bit less tin.

Symbol: Cu

Atomic Number of Copper: 29

Atomic Mass: 63.546 amu

Melting Point: 1083.0 °C – 1356.15 °K

Boiling Point: 2567.0 °C – 2840.15 °K

Number of Protons/Electrons in Copper: 29
Number of Neutrons in Copper: 35

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 8.96 g/cm3

Color:  reddish-brown


Fluoride is important for healthy bones, and protection from tooth decay.

Sources: Toothpaste, tap water (almost all is fortified) and tea.

The element fluorine is a pale-yellow, highly corrosive, poisonous gas.  It is the most reactive of all the elements.

Fluorine is used in air conditioning, refrigeration, insecticides, and the production of Teflon and uranium.

The word fluorine originates from the Latin word ‘fluo’ meaning, “flow.”

The element fluorine is a halogen, and is obtained from the mineral fluorite.

Georigius Agricola first described fluorine in 1529 as a flux (solid substance added to another in order to lower its melting point).  Joseph Henri Moissan finally isolated it in 1886.

It is obtained from the mineral fluorite.

Symbol: F

Atomic Number: 9

Atomic Mass: 18.998404 amu

Melting Point: -219.62 °C – 53.530006 °K

Boiling Point: -188.14 °C – 85.01 °K

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 1.696 g/cm3

Color: pale yellow


Iodine is vital for thyroid hormone production.  It also helps with metabolism, and with the regulation of cholesterol levels in the blood.

Dietary sources include fortified table salt, seafood, salt-water fish, and seaweed.

Deficiency is extremely rare, but leads to goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland), dry skin, and fatigue.

Bernard Courtois first discovered iodine in 1811.  Interestingly, he discovered it while making saltpeter (an important component of gunpowder) for Napoleon’s army during the Peninsular War.

Iodine is a halogen.

It is derived from the Greek “iodes” meaning violet.

Symbol: I

Atomic Number: 53

Atomic Mass: 126.90447 amu

Melting Point: 113.5 °C (386.65 K, 236.3 °F)

Boiling Point: 184.0 °C (457.15 K, 363.2 °F)

Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic

Density @ 293 K: 4.93 g/cm3

Color: blackish purple


Iron is a transition metal that stabilizes our hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that transports oxygen to our tissues.  With oxygen, its refractive (light deflection) property is responsible for giving our blood its red color.  (Octopi have copper-based oxygen transport; this makes their blood look blue, even when oxygenated)

Dietary sources for iron include liver, lamb, beef, oysters, shellfish, clams, mussels, beans, peas, yeast, dried fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, molasses, wheat bran, and green leafy vegetables.

Iron deficiency is seen most commonly in women with heavy periods, vegetarians, athletes, and patients with malabsorption.

Symptoms of iron deficiency usually arise from anemia (inappropriately low red blood cell count) and include fatigue, poor concentration, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

Iron constitutes nearly 6% of the earth’s crust.

The first evidence for human use of iron dates 4000 years B.C.  The Sumerians and Egyptians used iron to make small objects such as spear points and jewelry.

The ‘Iron Age’ began around the 12th century B.C. in the Mediterranean world; and between the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. in northern Europe.  Iron was used mainly for the production of tools and weapons.

Iron is extracted from hematite, magnetite, lemonade, and taconite.

We use iron to produce steel, permanent magnets, abrasives, and in the manufacture of many different types of dyes.

Symbol: Fe

Atomic Number: 26

Atomic Mass: 55.845 amu

Melting Point: 1535.0 °C (1808.15 K, 2795.0 °F)

Boiling Point: 2750.0 °C (3023.15 K, 4982.0 °F)

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 7.86 g/cm3

Color: Silvery


Magnesium is a very important macromineral stored mostly (99%) in our bones.  We need magnesium for proper metabolism, calcium balance, gastrointestinal function, energy production, bone mineralization, muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, and blood clotting.

We obtain dietary sources from whole grains, peas, beans, green leafy vegetables, shellfish, nuts and bananas.

Deficiency may present with muscle cramps, confusion, and arrhythmias.  Magnesium is vital to calcium balance, so deficiencies may occur together.

Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal.  We have discovered that stable forms of magnesium are produced in stars by an alpha process (a form of nuclear fusion) by fusing helium and neon.

Joseph Black discovered magnesium in 1755, and Sir Humphrey Davy isolated it in 1808.

The word magnesium originates from a district in the Greek region of Thessaly called ‘Magnesia.

We use magnesium in pyrotechnics, flashlight photography, flares and incendiary devices.  Following iron and aluminum, magnesium is the third most commonly used structural metal.

Symbol: Mg

Atomic Number: 12

Atomic Mass: 24.305 amu

Melting Point: 650.0 °C (923.15 K, 1202.0 °F)

Boiling Point: 1107.0 °C (1380.15 K, 2024.6 °F)

Crystal Structure: Hexagonal

Density @ 293 K: 1.738 g/cm3

Color: gray


Manganese is a transition metal and an antioxidant.  It is vital to human growth and development, and for proper metabolism and digestion.

Dietary sources of manganese include wheat germ, soybeans, nuts, brown rice, cereals, and whole grains.

Manganese deficiency may lead to digestive problems, difficulty with balance, dizziness, and loss of hearing.

Manganese was discovered by Johan Gottlieb Gahn in 1774, and proposed as a unique element that same year by Carl Wilhem Scheele.

The name manganese is derived from the Latin ‘magnes’ meaning “magnet.”

We obtain it from pyrolusite.

Manganese is used most commonly in the production of steel.

Symbol: Mn

Atomic Number: 25

Atomic Mass: 54.93805 amu

Melting Point: 1245.0 °C (1518.15 K, 2273.0 °F)

Boiling Point: 1962.0 °C (2235.15 K, 3563.6 °F)

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 7.43 g/cm3

Color: silver/gray


Molybdenum is a transition metal and antioxidant that we use in the production of our DNA, and in the metabolism of nitrogen, sulfur, and urates.  It will also help to prevent tooth decay.

Dietary sources include liver, whole grains, yeast, and leafy green vegetables.

Molybdenum deficiency is quite rare in the United States due to its abundance in our soil, but may lead to jaundice, fatigue, headache, and seizures.

Molybdenum was discovered in 1778 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, and isolated in 1781 by Peter Jacob Hjelm.

Symbol: Mo

Atomic Number: 42

Atomic Mass: 95.94 amu

Melting Point: 2617.0 °C (2890.15 K, 4742.6 °F)

Boiling Point: 4612.0 °C (4885.15 K, 8333.6 °F)

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 10.22 g/cm3

Color: silvery


Phosphorous is a non-metal vital to the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It is intimately involve with calcium metabolism, vitamin digestion, and overall energy supply to our bodies.  Phosphorous is an important part of our DNA, and it lines all of our cell membranes.

Dietary sources include meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Deficiency is rare, but may lead to painful bones and teeth, stiff joints, fatigue, and low calcium stores.  Low calcium levels may lead to weakness and cramping.

Hennig Brand discovered phosphorus in 1669.

While Hennig Brand was trying to create the “philosopher’s stone” (a fabled elixir of life), he produced a white powder that glowed and burned brilliantly.  The name phosphorus is the Ancient Greek word for the planet Venus, which translates into “light-bearer.”

We use phosphorus in safety matches, pyrotechnics, explosives, fertilizers, steel production and pesticides.

Symbol: P

Atomic Number: 15

Atomic Mass: 30.97376 amu

Melting Point: 44.1 °C (317.25 K, 111.38 °F)

Boiling Point: 280.0 °C (553.15 K, 536.0 °F)

Crystal Structure: Monoclinic

Density @ 293 K: 1.82 g/cm3

Color: white, black, or reddish


While working closely with sodium, potassium plays a crucial role in the regulation of our bodies’ water and fluids.  It is necessary for proper heart and blood vessel function, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction.

Dietary sources include fresh fruit and vegetables (especially tomatoes, bananas, and beet greens), potatoes and sweet potatoes, yogurt, spinach, white beans, and halibut.

Potassium deficiency is rare from simple dietary insufficiency.  Usually, the deficiency is from severe diarrhea or medications (most commonly diuretics, or “water-pills”).  Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness and cramping, nausea, confusion, fatigue and profound thirst.

Potassium is an extremely soft and light alkali metal.  It is a soft enough solid that it may be cut with a knife, and it is actually less dense than water!

The name potassium stems from “potash” to signify from what it was isolated.  Sir Humphrey Davy is credited with discovering potassium in 1807.  When he threw potassium particles in water, he described how they, “skimmed about excitedly with a hissing sound, and soon burned with a lovely lavender light.”

We use potassium nitrate in fireworks and explosives, potassium hydroxide in detergents and dish soaps, and potassium bromide for the production of many medications.  We also use potassium to produce fertilizers.

Symbol: K

Atomic Number: 19

Atomic Mass: 39.0983 amu

Melting Point: 63.65 °C (336.8 K, 146.57 °F)

Boiling Point: 774.0 °C (1047.15 K, 1425.2 °F)

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 0.862 g/cm3

Color: silvery


The main function of selenium in our bodies is as an antioxidant.

Dietary sources of selenium include seafood, eggs, dairy products, citrus fruits, Brazil nuts, avocados and lentils.

Selenium deficiency is rare without malabsorption.  It may present with Keshan disease (heart failure, usually in children or women of child-bearing age).

Jons Jakob Berzelius discovered selenium in 1817 while attempting to produce sulfuric acid.

Selenium is as non-metal that we use in the manufacture and tinting of glass and ceramics.

Symbol: Se

Atomic Number: 34

Atomic Mass: 78.96 amu

Melting Point: 217.0 °C (490.15 K, 422.6 °F)

Boiling Point: 684.9 °C (958.05005 K, 1264.8201 °F)

Crystal Structure: Hexagonal

Density @ 293 K: 4.79 g/cm3

Color: gray


Sodium exists in all of our body fluids.  It is an alkali metal and macromineral crucial for proper fluid balance throughout the body, especially in blood and lymph.  Sodium works with potassium in order to maintain the electrical balance needed for proper nerve conduction and muscle function.

Most of the food we eat contains some sodium.  We obtain the rest from table salt (sodium chloride).  True dietary deficiency is almost unheard of in the United States today, but symptoms of hyponatremia (sodium deficiency in the blood) may occur with dilution (excessive water intake without electrolytes), medications (diuretics most commonly), and disease (heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney disease, profound vomiting, and others).

Symptoms of sodium deficiency include sluggishness, nausea, confusion, seizures, and even coma.

Sir Humphry Davy discovered elemental sodium in 1807 by passing an electric current through molten sodium hydoxide.

Sodium received its chemical symbol, Na, from the Greek ‘nitron’ which translates, “naturally occurring salt.”

Symbol: Na

Atomic Number: 11

Atomic Mass: 22.98977 amu

Melting Point: 97.72 °C (370.87 K, 207.9 °F)

Boiling Point: 883 °C (1156 K, 1621 °F)

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 0.971 g/cm3

Color: silvery


Sulfur is an important component of several amino acids.  It is present in the connective tissue in our bodies, and as an important part of keratin, helps give strength to our hair, nails, and skin.

Both sulfur deficiency and sulfur toxicity are exceedingly rare.

Sulfur is a non-metal used as a component for fertilizers, and is an important component of cellophane and rayon.  Sulfur is used for vulcanization, a chemical process for making rubber more stable.

Symbol: S

Atomic Number: 16

Atomic Mass: 32.066 amu

Melting Point: 112.8 °C (385.95 K, 235.04001 °F)

Boiling Point: 444.6 °C (717.75 K, 832.28 °F)

Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic

Density @ 293 K: 2.07 g/cm3

Color: yellow


Zinc is a transition metal, and an essential mineral to our bodies.  It acts as an antioxidant, augments our immune system, aids in sexual organ function, assists in healing, and protects our skin from ultraviolet damage and diaper rash.  Its effectiveness for treating the “common cold” is controversial.

We obtain zinc from oysters, crab and other shellfish, beef, cashews, dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Zinc is vital to many of our bodies’ enzyme functions.  Enzymes are complex proteins that allow chemical reactions to function timely and properly.

Zinc deficiency is usually due to dietary insufficiency, but may be result of digestive, liver, kidney, skin, and other diseases.  Older people and vegetarians are also at higher risk.  Symptoms may include delayed growth and sexual maturation in children, severe diarrhea, and increased susceptibility to infection.  Worldwide deficiency is of enormous public health importance as nearly 2 billion people are affected.  The resultant profound infection and diarrhea contribute to approximately 800,000 deaths of children per year.

Though essential to human health, excess zinc may be harmful.  It may block the digestion of copper and iron, also essential to our bodies’ chemistry.  Excess supplements or the rare ingestion of zinc-rich coins may lead to sluggishness and ataxia (poor coordination of muscle movements).

Zinc is sometimes referred to as spelter, a shiny, blue-white metal.

Brass is mostly copper, with some zinc; Bronze is mostly copper with a bit less tin.  Brass was first used as early as the 10th century BC when zinc was likely named by Paracelsus.  The name is derived from the German, ‘zenke’ which translates into “pointed, jagged, or tooth-like.”  Andreas Sigismund Marograf is credited with its pure metallic isolation in 1746.

We use zinc in galvanizing and die-casting.  Galvanization is the process by which a thin layer of metal is coated to steel in order to prevent rusting.  Die-casting is a process by which molten metal is forced into a mold cavity in order to produce a desired shape.

Interestingly, Zinc is too large an element to form in stars the size of our Sun.  The mass of our Sun is referred to as a solar mass (1.99 x 10Ù30 kg).  In stars of five solar masses or larger, radiation pressure rather than gas pressure becomes the dominant force against massive gravity trying to collapse the star.  The mass is large enough to support heat and gravitational fusion of carbon with helium to produce oxygen.  Supernovas and stars with solar masses of eight or larger can synthesize heavier elements in their core, such as zinc.

Name: Zinc

Symbol: Zn

Atomic Number: 30

Atomic Mass: 65.39 amu

Melting Point: 419.58 °C (692.73 K, 787.24396 °F)

Boiling Point: 907.0 °C (1180.15 K, 1664.6 °F)

Crystal Structure: Hexagonal

Density @ 293 K: 7.133 g/cm3

Color: bluish