Potassium (Chemical Elements)
Potassium is one of the alkali metals. The alkali metals are the elements that make up Group 1 (IA) of the periodic table. The periodic table is a chart that shows how chemical elements are related to one another. The alkali metals also include lithium, sodium, rubidium, cesium, and francium. They are among the most active metals.
Potassium is so active that it never occurs free in nature. It always occurs in compounds, combined with other elements. It was first prepared in pure form in 1807 by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829). Davy used a new method of isolating elements that he had invented, electrolysis. In electrolysis, an electric current is passed through a molten (melted) compound. The electrical current breaks the compound into its elements. (See sidebar on Davy in the calcium entry in Volume 1.)
There are very few uses for potassium as a pure element. However, compounds of potassium have many important applications, the most important of which is as a fertilizer.
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Potassium (Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine)
Potassium is one of the electrolytes essential to the smooth running of the human body; in fact just about all bodily functions depend on it to some extent. It is also one of the most abundant minerals in the body, constituting 70% of the positive ions inside cells; the rest are a mixture of sodium, magnesium, calcium, arginine, and others. Potassium is distributed to the cells by a process of passive diffusion and is regulated by an enzyme called adenosinetriphosphatase together with the level of sodium concentration inside the cell. Potassium and sodium are antagonistic, which means that an imbalance of one will automatically cause an imbalance of the other; normally potassium should predominate inside the cell.
Potassium is necessary for normal cell respiration; a deficiency can cause decreased levels of oxygen, which will reduce the efficiency of cell function. Adequate supplies of potassium are also required to regulate heartbeat, facilitate normal muscle contraction, regulate the transfer of nutrients to cells, and regulate kidney function and stomach juice secretion, among other things. One of the most important uses of potassium in the body is in the process of nerve transmission, as it is a cofactor catalyst for the activation of several enzyme systems, but since only minute amounts are...
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