There are distinct differences between humic and fulvic acids, but these terms are often used simultaneously or interchangeably. As a result, trying to choose the right supplement for your needs can be a challenge. It can get even more confusing when people refer to them as humic substances.
In this article, we are going to break down the differences and what potential health benefits these unique substances offer.
Beneficial soil bacteria produce humic and fulvic acids during the decomposition of organic plant matter. As this plant matter is broken down, its fundamental nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients) are released into the soil. Finally, these nutrients combine with humic and fulvic to create a humic substance.
In healthy soil, humic substances support plant growth and are essential to creating an optimal environment for growing nutritious crops.
Humic acid is made of complex, heavyweight molecules that generally account for the bulk of humic substances and are dark brown in color. Due to its large molecular size, humic acid is unable to penetrate the walls of our digestive tract when consumed with produce or as a dietary supplement. As a result, it is here that humic acid helps support human and animal health.
The importance of our gut microbiome is all over the place in the natural health world. Recent research is continuously exploring its importance in nearly every area of health including digestion, immune function, brain function, mental health, hormone balance, and metabolism.
Humic acid helps support our gut microbiome by acting as a prebiotic fiber. The good bacteria in our GI tracts feed exclusively on these fibers, the standard American diet typically doesn’t provide enough. Instead, it supplies far too much sugar which is the preferred food of bad bacteria and yeast. Humic acid consumption may help tip the balance to support good bacteria growth and restore balance.
Leaky Gut is the common description for a damaged intestinal lining. This lining acts as a barrier to prevent unwanted bacteria, toxins, and food particles from entering the body. Things such as high sugar and alcohol consumption, antibiotic use, pesticide residue exposure, and stress can all contribute to weakening this barrier. As a result, inflammation ensues.
In addition to supporting gut microbiome balance, humic acids have also been studied for their ability to bind with pesticides, specifically glyphosate. Thus helping to reduce the amount of damage glyphosate can do to the intestinal lining.
Further, humic acids have been studied for their ability to help reduce inflammation. It is thought that humic acids may decrease the production of the inflammatory cytokines (TNFɑ and IL-6) that are directly related to increased intestinal permeability. Production of these inflammatory cytokines increases as a response to illness, injury, and stress.
Humic acid has an uncanny ability to bind with harmful elements and toxins. Specifically, multiple studies have suggested that humic acids may bind with heavy metals, mycotoxins, and glyphosate thereby reducing their ability to enter the body and cause damage.
Humic acid’s ability to naturally support both GI health and detox helps strengthen the foundation of our immune system. Our gut microbiome acts as our first line of defense against invading pathogens, so humic acid’s ability to support bacterial balance subsequently strengthens this defense.
Additionally, humic acid has shown a remarkable ability to bind with viruses. According to chemist Richard J Laub, humic acid can bind with a virus and inhibit the virus’s ability to attach to a host cell. Moreover, humic acid can bind so strongly to a virus that it can displace a virus already attached to a cell’s surface.(1)
Fulvic acid is a much smaller, lighter-weight molecule with a golden yellow color. It’s important to note the two forms of fulvic acid as this makes a difference in the benefits they provide. Nevertheless, both forms can offer profound benefits to whole body wellness.
- Fulvates – These fulvic molecules are bound to minerals and act as transporters to help deliver minerals to cells.
- Free-Form Fulvic Acid – These molecules are not bound to any minerals, amino acids, or other elements. Essentially, they are the purist form of fulvic acid.
Due to fulvic acid’s small size, it easily passes through intestinal walls where it then enters the bloodstream. This is where fulvic acid really shines!
Regardless of the type of fulvic acid used, these molecules can bind with the nutrients in our food and other supplements. Once bound, fulvic then transports these nutrients to cells throughout our bodies where they can be used in countless biological processes.
Ionic Mineral Supplementation
Minerals are essential for good health, but our crops are losing their nutritional value and fortified foods provide too few minerals in forms that our bodies don’t use well. As a result, getting all the minerals we need these days is becoming a challenge.
Our bodies need a vast variety of minerals in ionic form to perform the countless biochemical reactions that give us life. Fortunately, when fulvic acid (fulvates) is extracted from a high-quality source like the raw humate deposits of the Fruitland Formation, it comes loaded with broad-spectrum ionic minerals. (Read more about why source location matters here.)
Our cells have a protective skin, called membranes, that work to keep bad stuff out and good stuff in. Healthy, energetic cells effectively receive nutrients while also releasing natural toxic byproducts into the bloodstream making it easier for our bodies to remove them. Unfortunately, cells can become damaged and resulting electrical imbalances in the membranes prevent this process from happening effectively.
Highly-charged fulvic molecules can donate energy (electrons) to cellular membranes, as needed, to help restore the electrical balance. Thus, fulvic acid helps increase permeability and cellular function.
Fulvic acid acts as an antioxidant due to its highly energetic nature. Antioxidants are capable of donating electrons to unstable molecules (free radicals) which, in turn, helps prevent or reduce oxidative stress.
Fulvic acid takes detoxification down to the cellular level unlike humic acid which works in the digestive tract. As previously mentioned, fulvic acid helps increase cell membrane permeability to support the release of toxins trapped inside cells. Once this happens, free-form fulvic acid molecules can easily bind with these toxins and help shuttle them through the body’s natural detox pathways.
Our brains are under constant attack by free radicals. As previously described, fulvic acid helps limit the number of active free radicals in the body through its antioxidant potential. This may help protect our brain tissue from excessive cellular damage.
Additionally, our brains can experience a build up of abnormal tau proteins. Tau proteins are essential in the proper functioning of our neurons, but when they mutate, our bodies are not able to effectively remove them. Thus, they build up and become a contributing factor to various degenerative cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Fulvic acid has shown in test tube studies to effectively reduce the accumulation of abnormal tau proteins and may help slow the development and progression of these diseases.(2)
Choosing the Right Product
Now that you know the differences between humic and fulvic acids, it should be easier to navigate your choices. A product featuring both Humic and Fulvic can offer a much wider range of support for the entire body, while isolated fulvic products such as Fulvic 400X (fulvates) and Fulvic Detox (free-form fulvic) help you target specific areas of health.