Colloidal Silver

Emma’s Take:

In “prepper” circles and among those who don’t trust conventional medical treatment there has been a lot written about the benefits of colloidal silver. While I’m not against the use of alternative medicines (our grandmothers used a lot of “weird” stuff that worked great) I do like to try to research the possible benefits and side effects of all recommendations.

If there were a disaster that prevented us from access to doctors, hospitals, and more traditional medicines I would definitely consider using some of the lesser known things to help treat my family. That said, I don’t want to harm them in trying to help them. And, keep in mind, I’ve never used colloidal silver so my opinion is based solely on the things I’ve read online and I still have more research to do!

I urge you to read the information I’ve gathered about colloidal silver then make up your own mind if you want to add it to your medicine chest.

The medical uses of silver include its incorporation into wound dressings, creams, and as an antibiotic coating on medical devices. While wound dressings containing silver sulfadiazine or silver nanomaterials may be used on external infections, there is little evidence to support such use. There is tentative evidence that silver coatings on endotracheal breathing tubes may reduce the incidence ventilator-associated pneumonia. The silver ion (Ag+) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro. Silver exhibits low toxicity in the human body, and minimal risk is expected due to clinical exposure by inhalation, ingestion, dermal application. Silver and silver nanoparticles are used as an antimicrobial in a variety of industrial, healthcare and domestic applications.

Colloidal silver (a colloid consisting of silver particles suspended in liquid) and formulations containing silver salts were used by physicians in the early 20th century, but their use was largely discontinued in the 1940s following the development of safer and effective modern antibiotics. Since the 1990s, colloidal silver has again been marketed as an alternative medicine, often with extensive “cure-all” claims. Colloidal silver products remain available in many countries as dietary supplements and homeopathic remedies, although they are not effective in treating any known condition and carry the risk of both permanent cosmetic side effects such as Argyria and more serious ones such as allergic reactions, as well as interactions with prescription medications.

In humans and other animals, silver accumulates in the body. Chronic intake of silver products can result in an accumulation of silver or silver sulfide particles in the skin. These particles in the skin darken with exposure to sunlight, resulting in a blue or gray discoloration of the skin known as Argyria. Localized Argyria can occur as a result of topical use of silver-containing solutions, while generalized Argyria results from the ingestion of such substances.

Argyria is generally irreversible with the only practical method of minimizing its cosmetic disfigurement being to avoid the sun. Preliminary reports of treatment with laser therapy have been reported. But these laser treatments are painful and general anesthesia is required. A similar laser treatment has been used to clear silver particles from the eye, a condition related to Argyria called Argyrosis.] The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes Argyria as a “cosmetic problem”.

While Argyria is usually limited to skin discoloration, there are isolated reports of more serious neurologic (nervous system), renal (kidney), or hepatic (liver) complications caused by ingesting colloidal silver.

Colloidal silver may interact with some prescription medications, reducing the absorption of some antibiotics and thyroxine among others. Thyroxine, also called 3,5,3′,5′-tetraiodothyronine, or T4,  one of the two major hormones secreted by the thyroid gland (the other is triiodothyronine). Thyroxine’s principal function is to stimulate the consumption of oxygen and thus the metabolism of all cells and tissues in the body. Thyroxine is formed by the molecular addition of iodine to the amino acid tyrosine while the latter is bound to the protein thyroglobulin. Excessive secretion of thyroxine in the body is known as hyperthyroidism, and the deficient secretion of it is called hypothyroidism. So you can see that there can be serious consequences.

Some people are allergic to silver, and the use of treatments and medical devices containing silver is contraindicated for such people. Although medical devices containing silver are widely used in hospitals, no thorough testing and standardization of these products has yet been undertaken.

Since about 1990, there has been a resurgence of the promotion of colloidal silver as a dietary supplement, or homeopathic remedy, marketed with claims of it being an essential mineral supplement, or that it can prevent or treat numerous diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, herpes, and tuberculosis No medical evidence supports the effectiveness of colloidal silver for any of these claimed indications. Silver is not an essential mineral in humans; there is no dietary requirement for silver, and no such thing as a silver “deficiency”. There is no evidence that colloidal silver treats or prevents any medical condition, and it can cause serious and potentially irreversible side effects such as Argyria In August 1999, the U.S. FDA banned colloidal silver sellers from claiming any therapeutic or preventive value for the product, although silver-containing products continue to be promoted as dietary supplements in the U.S. under the looser regulatory standards applied to supplements. The FDA has issued numerous Warning Letters to Internet sites that have continued to promote colloidal silver as an antibiotic or for other medical purposes. Despite the efforts of the FDA, silver products remain widely available on the market today. A review of websites promoting nasal sprays containing colloidal silver suggested that information about silver-containing nasal sprays on the internet is misleading and inaccurate.

In 2002, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) found there were no legitimate medical uses for colloidal silver and no evidence to support its marketing claims. The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) warns that marketing claims about colloidal silver are scientifically unsupported, that the silver content of marketed supplements varies widely, and that colloidal silver products can have serious side effects such as Argyria. In 2009, the USFDA issued a “Consumer Advisory” warning about the potential adverse effects of colloidal silver, and said that “…there are no legally marketed prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs containing silver that are taken by mouth.” Quackwatch states that colloidal silver dietary supplements have not been found safe or effective for the treatment of any condition. Consumer Reports lists colloidal silver as a “supplement to avoid”, describing it as “likely unsafe”. The Los Angeles Times stated that “colloidal silver as a cure-all is a fraud with a long history, with quacks claiming it could cure cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes and numerous other diseases.”

For water purification, electrolytically-dissolved silver has been used as a water disinfecting agent. The drinking water supplies of the Russian Mir orbital station and the International Space Station are examples of it being used in this way. Many modern hospitals filter hot water through copper-silver filters to defeat MRSA and legionella infections. The World Health Organization includes silver in a colloidal state produced by electrolysis of silver electrodes in water and colloidal silver in water filters as two of a number of water disinfection methods specified to provide safe drinking water in developing countries. Along these lines, a ceramic filtration system coated with silver particles has been created by Ron Rivera of Potters for Peace and used in developing countries for water disinfection (in this application the silver inhibits microbial growth on the filter substrate, to prevent clogging, and does not directly disinfect the filtered water).

Since colloidal silver can be quite expensive I strongly urge you to research it thoroughly before investing.

Kate’s Experience:

I was given colloidal silver waaay back before it was cool.  I was given a fairly large bottle of it, and would take a quick swig of it when I wasn’t feeling well.  Who knows if it actually worked at all….but I’ve found that it has worked wonders with pets.  I know it’s crazy.  I had a male outside cat who came home all beat up, eye swollen shut, paw so swelled up he couldn’t walk, and half his ear missing.  Well, I pretty much dumped a bunch of the silver on his ear, face, and paw, soaking the fur thoroughly.  I got him some canned cat food and dumped a bunch into the can and mixed it right into the food.  The next morning, every bit of the swelling was gone and he was pretty much back to normal minus a big hunk of his ear.

Also, my fiancé’s dog has chronic yeast infection in his ears. Between his ear cleanings and treatments I squirt colloidal silver in his ears.  It doesn’t cure the yeast infections (but then again, not even the prescriptions do!) but it does keep them from getting smelly and gross between treatments.

I can definitely say I like colloidal silver for our pets. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as we continue our investigation.