Pyroluria (or malvaria from the term mauve factor) is a controversial diagnosis in the branch of orthomolecular medicine, a branch of alternative medicine and is alleged to be caused by the presence of excessive levels of a pyrrole in the body.

Pyroluria was initially described by Abram Hoffer, a pioneer in alternative medicine such as orthomolecular medicine and orthomolecular psychiatry. Proponents claim that pyroluria is relatively common, but few, if any, mainstream medical experts regard the condition as genuine, with few or no articles on pyroluria found in modern medical literature, and the approach is described as "snake oil" by critics, such as the pediatrician and author Julian Haber.


According to proponents, one of the pyrroles (kryptopyrrole or mauve factor) is a by-product of improper hemoglobin synthesis. However, other pyrroles have been implicated, and what literature exists on this topic is unclear. These pyrroles are then said to bind to vitamin B6, and zinc and are eliminated through urine, potentially causing deficiencies of these compounds. Pyrolurics are also said to become deficient in omega-6 fatty acids (specifically arachidonic acid). However, other studies have either failed to detect hemopyrrole and kryptopyrrole in the urine of either normal controls or schizophrenics, or found no correlation between these chemicals and mental illness.

The pyroluria hypothesis was advocated by Carl Pfeiffer of Emory University, the Princeton Brain-Bio Center, a precursor of the Pfeiffer Treatment Center. According to Pfeiffer, pyroluria is a form of schizophrenic porphyria, similar to acute intermittent porphyria where both pyrroles and porphyrins are excreted in the human urine to an excessive degree. Pfeiffer described the histories of patients of his who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, whose urine contained extraordinarily high levels of kryptopyroles, who returned to health within a week after he prescribed the appropriate amounts of vitamin B6 and zinc.

The Center claims an 85% success rate for treating ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia, but other scientists say their methods have not been rigorously tested.

Pyroluria is sometimes claimed to affect people with ADHD, alcoholism, autism, depression, down syndrome, manic-depression, and schizophrenia. However, pyroluria is not considered related to schizophrenia in conventional medicine.

Individuals who are assessed as having pyroluria may be diagnosed with coeliac disease, epilepsy, or psychosis; proponents say these may be mis-diagnoses, actually representing symptoms of the underlying pyroluria. Pyroluria is sometimes claimed to have a genetic origin, with proponents saying the condition runs in families. The elevated kryptopyrroles that are said to be found in pyrolurics are claimed to increase dramatically when these people experience stress.



  • Braverman, Eric; Pfeiffer, C., Blum, K. & Smayda, R. The Healing Nutrients Within: Facts, Findings, and New Research on Amino Acids. 3rd, Basic Health Publications.
  • Edelman, Eva Natural Healing for Schizophrenia: And Other Common Mental Disorders. Borage Books.
  • Hoffer, Abram Healing Schizophrenia: Complementary Vitamin & Drug Treatments. CCNM Press.
  • Hoffer, Abram Orthomolecular Treatment for Schizophrenia: Megavitamin supplements and nutritional strategies for healing and recovery. Keats Publishing.
  • Pfeiffer, Carl C. Nutrition and Mental Illness : An Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body Chemistry. Healing Arts Press.
  • Reading, Chris M.; Meillon, R.S. Trace Your Genes to Health: Use Your Family Tree to Guide Your Diet, Enhance Your Immune System and Overcome Chronic Disease. Vital Health Publishing.

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