Note: This monograph reviews the therapeutic benefit of organic germanium compounds, specifically spirogermanium and carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide. Inorganic germanium compounds (germanium dioxide, germanium citrate lactate, and elemental germanium) are potentially toxic and should not be confused with organic germanium.
There are two general forms of germanium: organogermanium compounds, which are carbon-containing compounds (carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide, spirogermanium, propogermanium, Ge-132); and inorganic (non-carbon containing) germanium compounds (Ge, germanium citrate lactate, germanium dioxide). In this monograph, elemental germanium is classified as inorganic. Inorganic germanium is present in all living plant and animal matter in micro-trace quantities.
In recent years, inorganic germanium salts and novel organogermanium compounds have been sold as nutritional supplements in some countries for their purported immunomodulatory effects or as health-producing elixirs. Bis (2-carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide), simply called germanium sesquioxide, has been shown in animal studies to have anti-viral and immunological properties including the induction of gamma-interferon, macrophages, T-suppressor cells and augmentation of natural killer cell activity. Another organic germanium, spirogermanium (3-(8,8-diethyl-3-aza-8-germaspiro[4.5]dec-3-yl)-N,N-dimethyl-propan-1-amine), is a heavy metal compound in which germanium has been substituted in an azaspirane ring structure. The supposed therapeutic attributes of organogermaniums include: immunoenhancement, oxygen enrichment, free radical scavenging, analgesia and heavy metal detoxification. However, because of the possibility of contaminated organic germanium products on the market and several unclear and poor-quality scientific reviews, all types of germanium are currently thought of as unsafe.
The National Nutritional Foods Association continues to support a voluntary ban on the sale of germanium. Based on information accessed on February 2, 2007, the import alert against germanium products (see related terms) remains in effect. This import alert was created in 1988, and amended in 1995 to prevent the importation of germanium-containing products that are deemed as "poisonous and deleterious substances (PSNC)" or "unapproved new drugs (DRND)" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
There is early evidence for the use of propagermanium (an organogermanium) in the treatment of hepatitis B. Additional research is warranted in this area.
There is early evidence for the use of propagermanium (an organogermanium) in the treatment of multiple myeloma. Additional research is warranted in this area.