Colloidal Silver: Valuable Tool or Snake Oil?

Few products have evoked as much controversy as Colloidal Silver. Colloidal Silver has been vilified ever since the “Blue Man” appeared on national news shows and blamed Colloidal Silver for his blue skin. (Please note that argyria, or “Blue Man Syndrome,” can only occur in the presence of extreme negligence and ingestion of Colloidal Silver made using impure silver or protein synthesis.) This is the first article in a series of posts about Colloidal Silver.Scientific Beakers

Many myths exist about what Colloidal Silver is, how it works and how it can be used. My goal in this post is to address those topics and bust a few myths.

What is Colloidal Silver?

Colloidal Silver is a blend of microscopic and submicroscopic silver particles suspended in water. Silver is known to be antifungal and antibacterial. It is also known to kill and prevent the growth of algae. When colloidal silver is placed in a petri dish containing bacterial, fungal or viral cells, the cells die very quickly – often more quickly than they die in the presence of prescription antibiotics or antifungals. Silver has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is currently used in topical medical treatments, eye drops, bone prostheses, catheters and cardiac devices. Silver is also a prime ingredient in several prescription oral medications.

What many people do not realize is that silver is an essential electrolyte, or trace mineral, in the body. The cells in our bodies require silver for optimal health. The same is true of gold and other minerals/metals we don’t typically associate with internal use.

How is Colloidal Silver Made?

Colloidal Silver is made by passing an electrical charge through pure silver suspended in distilled water. As the charge passes through the silver, it causes submicroscopic silver particles to separate from the metal and move into the water. The resulting suspension is Colloidal Silver. The word “colloidal” means “suspended.” In other words, the silver particles are suspended in the water, not dissolved in it. The particles are suspended, yet are so small they cannot be filtered out. The particles can easily be seen and measured with a microscope or with a special measurement tool. It is interesting to note the particles of silver are so small they do not register on X-rays. The small size of the particles is part of the reason cells receive and respond to Colloidal Silver so readily.

Reputable Colloidal Silver is made and sold by a variety of companies in the US. I will share more about how to spot a good product and how people make their own in future posts.

What is the History of Colloidal Silver?

As I stated previously, many ancient cultures used silver as a method of purifying and protecting goods. Many civilizations stored water and other liquids in silver containers as a means of controlling bacterial and fungal growth and retarding spoilage. Multiple accounts exist of silver being used as a protective measure against bacteria and germs in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and other regions. Even early settlers in the US used to put silver dollars in their milk jugs to protect the milk from bacterial growth and spoilage. Colloidal Silver was commonly used in hospitals and by doctors until the advent of profitable antibiotics in the 1940s. Silver was commonly and successfully used in bandages, salves and stitches during World War I. In addition to being a strong antimicrobial agent, Colloidal Silver is also known to stimulate skin cells to heal more rapidly, making it perfect for application on wounds.

Silver is still a major component of many prescription wound creams, special dressings used on burns and other serious wounds, and in other prescription products. The primary reason Colloidal Silver ceased to be used in hospitals is because it was more difficult to manufacture than pharmaceutical antibiotics, not because it was less effective. 

What’s the Best Form of Colloidal Silver?

There are three basic types of silver solutions sold today. Each of these types may be labeled “colloidal,” but only one is truly a colloid:

  • Ionic: Ionic silver solutions are clear and are far weaker than a true colloidal silver. Ionic silver solutions contain individual atoms (ions) of silver instead of complete particles of microscopic silver. The clear color is a dead give-away that this form is not a true colloid. You can also test to see if a solution is truly a colloid by adding around half a teaspoon of table salt to 2-4 tablespoons of the colloidal silver in question. If the salt forms a “cloud” as it dissolves, it means the solution is ionic and is not truly colloidal silver. Benefits can be gained from using an ionic solution, but the effects are much weaker.
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  • Protein Synthesized: Protein synthesis silver solutions are typically made by blending a silver powder with water. A protein binder is used because the silver particles are too large to remain in solution without a binder of some sort. Protein silver solutions have the largest silver particles yet lowest surface area of silver particles, which makes this solution the least bioavailable or able to be absorbed. These products are known to be very dangerous and are known to cause Argyria, or Blue Man Syndrome. You can spot protein synthesized silver products because they foam heavily when shaken and the foam remains for quite a while. These products also typically have extremely high strengths, some as high as 20,000 parts per million (ppm). Please do not buy or use any product you suspect of being a protein synthesis.
  • Colloidal: True colloidal silver is produced using an electrolysis process that removes sub-microscopic particles from a pure silver wire and places them in solution. The silver particles are so tiny that nothing is required to keep them in solution. A true colloidal silver will NEVER be clear, but will have a brownish color. This color results because the silver particles in solution prevent light from passing through the solution, thereby causing a darker color. A true colloidal silver will also NEVER cause Argyria (Blue Man Syndrome) because the silver particles are so small they are very easily absorbed and metabolized and do not lodge in cells. Reputable Colloidal Silver solutions indicate how many parts per million (PPM) of silver are in the solution. True Colloidal Silver comes in strengths ranging from 10 PPM to 100 PPM. (Some come in higher strengths, but I rarely find such strengths to be necessary.)

In future articles, I will share information about how colloidal silver is typically used, what the appropriate dosages are, and which prescription medications may react with colloidal silver.

Have you used colloidal silver? What did you think?

References

Dai, T.; Huang, Y. Y.; Sharma, S. K.; Hashmi, J. T.; Kurup, D. B.; Hamblin, M. R. (2010). “Topical antimicrobials for burn wound infections”Recent patents on anti-infective drug discovery 5 (2): 124–151.doi:10.2174/157489110791233522PMC 2935806.PMID 20429870.

Alexander, J. Wesley (2009). “History of the Medical Use of Silver”. Surgical Infections 10 (3): 289–92.doi:10.1089/sur.2008.9941PMID 19566416.

Searle, A.B. (1920). “Chapter VIII: Germicides and Disinfectants”The Use of Colloids in Health and Disease. Gerstein – University of Toronto : Toronto Collection: London Constable & Co.

Purest Colloids Website: http://www.purestcolloids.com/history-silver.php

New Guidelines for the Safe Usage of Colloidal Silver, Dr. Joseph Mercola

Lansdown AB (2006). “Silver in health care: antimicrobial effects and safety in use”. Current Problems in Dermatology. Current Problems in Dermatology 33: 17–34.doi:10.1159/000093928ISBN 3-8055-8121-1.PMID 16766878

Frequency Rising website

Types of Colloidal Silver

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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