The Colorful History of Colloidal Silver & Other Silver Compounds
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Colloidal silver is the product the FDA and many mainstream medical people love to hate. Listening to them you would think every person taking colloidal silver is going to turn gray with silver accumulation in their skin (argyria). Their worst nightmare is people taking colloidal silver to combat the H1N1 swine flu – the nightmare for them is that it might actually work. Since I am a health professional who has utilized colloidal silver in practice for more than 15 years with thousands of people, I’m more than happy to share some insights on the subject.
It is really not possible to understand the colloidal silver issue without some background on the use of silver in the medical profession.
For many centuries royal families ate and drank from silver utensils and were rarely sick. They were called “blue bloods” because their blood had greater levels of silver in it. The Greeks and Romans used to store all of their perishable liquids in silver containers. And prior to the invention of refrigeration, it was common practice to drop a silver coin into a container of milk to retard spoilage.
French surgeon Dr. Carl Credé (1819-1892) was the first to proclaim the benefits for using silver nitrate to reduce neonatal eye infections. He was amongst the first surgeons to use silver nitrate to prevent wound infections.
Dr. William Halsted (1852–1922) is considered the most influential and innovative surgeon of past times, helping to usher in the modern era of surgery. He was the first Chief Surgeon of the John Hopkins Medical School. He pioneered the use of silver wire for hernia operations and silver foil to prevent wound-related infections.
By the late 1800s the recognition that silver was lethal to bacteria in relatively low concentrations was common medical knowledge. Between 1900 and 1940 silver was the primary antibiotic used in medical practice. Numerous studies on the antibiotic properties of silver were conducted from 1920 – 1940. Physicians mixed silver preparations in their offices and they were either taken orally or injected. The shelf life was poor, as they had no way to keep the silver particles in suspension for longer than fifteen minutes.
The unwieldy use of silver antibiotics gave way to the far easier to use sulfa drugs and eventually penicillin. At the time these compounds seemed more effective and were certainly easier to use. Now we have antibiotic-resistant strains from overuse of these drugs. And we have to use highly toxic doses of antibiotics to get a result in the bacteria that can still be killed by antibiotics, a problem of antibiotic-related toxicity to the humans consuming them. Bacteria do not generally develop resistance to silver1 unless they have a very thick wall that does not absorb it (it is effective against most gram positive and gram negative bacteria).
Silver ions bind to cell walls2 and are then absorbed into the single-cell bacteria or fungus wherein they interfere with cellular energy production and kill the organism. The fermentation system of energy production used by these single cell organisms is different than the aerobic energy producing system of human cells, which are not so affected by silver. This means silver is not toxic to human cells.
A leading authority on the use of medicinal silver (A.B.G. Lansdown3, PHF, FRCPath, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK) stated after reviewing all available silver literature of the past 200 years, “Metallic silver and silver compounds are used widely in medical devices and health care products to provide antibacterial and antifungal action. Experience has shown that they are generally safe in use and effective in controlling pathogenic organisms.”
Silver in today’s medicine is undergoing a renaissance, with innovative new products that are able to sustain the release of silver ions enabling better surgical and wound-related uses. Silver nanoparticles are even being incorporated into clothes, like socks and stockings. You can buy a washing machine that uses silver ions to kill germs in clothes.
The high efficacy in the use of silver to kill bacteria and fungus is not in question by anyone. This does not mean it kills every type of bacteria or fungus. And in the ones it does kill it does not mean it kills all of them. It simply means that the antibiotic properties of silver are quite potent – and the risk to human health in terms of toxicity is negligible. This is a far better risk/benefit profile than commonly used antibiotics.
The Coming of Colloidal Silver
In the early 1990s researchers figured out how to attach small particles of silver to protein, thereby allowing the formation of a true colloidal silver with an indefinite shelf life. In my opinion this invention was as profound as the original discovery of penicillin.
For the very first time an easy, convenient, stable, and effective form of silver had been prepared. One can only imagine if the doctors a century ago had this tool at their disposal. I was one of the first to extensively use this preparation in clinical practice.
In the rather bizarre and twisted world of the FDA a manufacturer or seller of any colloidal silver product cannot explain to their customers that the product has antibiotic properties or the FDA will consider the product an unapproved new drug. Colloidal silver may be marketed as a dietary mineral supplement.
The law of the land has not stopped numerous sellers of colloidal silver from making wild claims that colloidal silver can cure HIV infection and wipe out any flu, etc. Much of the “science” used to support such claims comes from unpublished works in small labs or small pilot tests never published in any reputable journal, and so is not worthy of repeating. Many alternative health doctors have conducted their own small group studies, again unpublished, and these case stories, anecdotal in nature, have been used to attribute all manner of benefit to colloidal silver. Such information neither proves nor disproves the value of colloidal silver. Anecdotal doctor stories forwarding the sales of a compound are no different than how mainstream medicine markets and uses most of its drugs (off-label uses). However, general health claims for colloidal silver based on such data are not reliable and should be taken with a grain of salt.
The issue is complicated by the fact that not all colloidal silver products are of the same quality. Products made at home or by the use of electrical charges to ionize and suspend the silver are products not worth taking. They are typically clear in color, are lucky to have any potency after two weeks, and run a much higher risk for silver depositing in the skin (argyria).
True silver colloids are very difficult to make. They are brownish in color as the silver particles block light. The chances of them causing argyria, even with long-term use, are remote.
I find it rather fascinating that the alarm bells of regulatory authorities scare consumers into believing that if they take colloidal silver it is dangerous and their skin will turn gray. There are a few case reports in the literature of argyria occurring from colloidal silver use. In one case a lady consumed 1 liter a day for over a year4 and then had a problem. In another case, it was use of the cheap home-made electrically-produced5 colloidal silver that was the problem. And in another case it was regular consumption of colloidal silver for over a year6. Problems are rare considering all the people using colloidal silver. The common thread is cheap silver products used in high amounts for extended periods of time.
It is obvious from all the silver literature that if there is prolonged exposure in high amounts of silver then there could be a problem. The solution to this problem is rather simple. Use a quality product from a reputable company and do not use colloidal silver on a daily basis for an extended period of time. I have never seen a single case of argyria in 15 years working with thousands of people of all ages (including infants).
This gets me to the final chapter in this story, which is how to use colloidal silver.
Using Colloidal Silver as an Immune Support Nutrient
The amount of colloidal silver required to kill any bug is unknown. Modern research suggests7 that most pathogenic organisms are killed in the test tube at concentrations of 10–40 ppm, with some requiring up to 60 ppm.
Whether or not a specific colloidal silver product will kill any virus is also unknown. There are a few published studies showing that silver does have probable anti-viral properties. These studies show that silver interferes with the replication of viral hepatitis B8, directly binds to HIV-1 and inhibits the HIV-1 virus9 from binding to cells, can inhibit the replication of monkeypox virus10, renders herpes simplex virus11 harmless, and can reduce the numbers of smallpox virus12. This is all preliminary evidence. The working hypothesis is that colloidal silver can bind directly to viral particles and interfere with either the function of the virus or the binding of the virus to human cells. It is a shame that our government doesn’t pay for further research, especially relating to seasonal flu, which could be of profound benefit to the public health.
I never suggest using colloidal silver as a daily preventive product and I never suggest using it on an ongoing basis for anything. Colloidal silver taken daily will disturb the friendly balance of flora in your gut – albeit not anywhere near as badly as antibiotics will (because colloidal silver also kills yeast). If you find that you want to take it daily for a while then be sure to take some acidophilus at a different time and other GI support as needed.
When you understand that nothing is guaranteed and you understand that the product is non-toxic when used as directed (and not longer than two weeks), then in my opinion the best time to try it is at the onset of any bug. 1-2 tsp is generally used as the first dose, repeated in a few hours and every few hours if needed (up to four times per day). You can also use a nasal spray bottle to spray it up into your sinuses, if needed. Some have used it as ear drops or eye drops quite successfully. If doing eye drops I would recommend a fresh bottle.
The typical response based on clinical experience is that well over half the time, and more likely greater than 70% of the time, whatever bug seemed to have a toehold in you is completely gone. If you don’t get that benefit, well, it didn’t work that way for you. It is somewhat hard to believe that anything can potentially work so well, yet it often does.
Based on my clinical experience the ability of colloidal silver to knock out an established bug is not as high. It is closer to 50/50 in terms of whether it will be significantly helpful or not (taking 1 tsp up to four times a day, up to two weeks). I have seen many cases of dramatic improvement and many cases of no improvement – and there is no way to know without trying. Other than transient digestive disturbance, I have never seen any downside.
Think of colloidal silver as a tool in your immune support toolbox. In actual practice, it is one of many things you may consider taking if you are fighting a bug. It certainly does not replace appropriate medical care, nor does any immune support nutrient. Always see you doctor, as appropriate, for your situation. Most people aren’t going to go running off to their doctor at the first sign of a bug. Consider this time a window of opportunity to see if you can get the upper hand. You have many options, and colloidal silver is one of them.
It is my opinion and experience that colloidal silver is so good at what it does that it is worthwhile for everyone to have a bottle on hand for a time of need. You won’t know if you are knocking out a virus or bacteria, but do you really care? Most people just want that feeling of their body being invaded to be over – fast. It is also my anecdotal observation that colloidal silver does work on many viral infections, and has helped many people with the flu of years gone by. How effective it may be against the H1N1 swine flu is anyone’s best guess. Time will tell. I for one will be ready and waiting.
Read More: Immune Health News
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