Iodine is a chemical element in the halogen family. In solid form, iodine is a heavy, gray-black material that develops as seawater evaporates. When heated, it does not change to a liquid, but instead becomes a purple-colored gas. Although only slightly soluble in water, iodine will dissolve in alcohol and produce a solution called tincture of iodine. Tincture of iodine has a number of practical uses.
People began using tincture of iodine as a wound disinfectant in the late 1800s. Although not as popular today, it is still in use as an antiseptic to prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. Tincture of iodine is suitable for topical use only and can be irritating to your skin. You should not use tincture of iodine on open wounds or if you are allergic to seafood.
Your thyroid gland requires iodine to function correctly. If you or your doctor suspect iodine deficiency is causing your thyroid to function incorrectly, you can use tincture of iodine to perform a diagnostic test. To perform this test, you apply tincture of iodine to your skin in a three-inch patch and monitor the spot for 24 hours. Watch to see how long it takes the brown iodine stain on your skin to disappear and when it does, reapply the tincture of iodine. If you have adequate iodine in your system, you will not need to reapply tincture of iodine at all. If the stain disappears and you must reapply within the 24-hour monitoring period, the more often you do, the more your body is iodine deficient.
Drinking Water Disinfectant
In a situation where your water source becomes contaminated, such as during a flood or other natural disaster, you may receive instructions to disinfect water before using it for cooking, drinking or for brushing your teeth. If boiling is not an option, you can use tincture of iodine as a disinfection method. For tincture of iodine to be effective, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends you first filter the water and allow it to settle. If the water appears clear, add five drops of 2 percent tincture of iodine per quart. If the water is still cloudy, add 10 drops of tincture of iodine and then let it sit a minimum of 30 minutes before using.