Silver is cherished for many things—notably for shiny jewelry, coins and tableware such as cutlery and tea services. Who knew that silver also has a centuries-old history as a medicine, dating back to Hippocrates (460 BC), especially for use in treating infections. In fact, colloidal silver was used topically as an antiseptic and disinfectant, as well as an internal antibiotic agent in treating a variety of infections until the mid-20th century when pharmaceutical antibiotics were introduced. There has been a recent surge of interest in using colloidal silver preparations for a variety of conditions by alternative health practitioners. Thus the question we ask is if silver was once an effective antibiotic, why would that not be true today? Are there other disorders that would benefit from treatment with colloidal silver?
First of all it should be noted that silver is a mineral that appears in minute amounts in many foods, but is not a nutrient that the body requires for normal functions. Silver products on the market used as medicinal supplements may be called ionic silver, colloidal silver, hydrosol, nano silver or mild silver protein, while in fact, these are all various forms of ionic silver products—that is, all of them release silver ions in the body when ingested. Silver ions are atoms that are missing an electron, thus making them highly bioactive. In silver supplements, carrier agents such as citrate, oxides or proteins are used to stabilize the ions.
Most noted treatment
In years past ionic silver's most noted treatment was as an antimicrobial, working against bacteria and germs in an age when the spread of disease was little understood. It is thought that during times of the plagues, aristocrats were spared death inadvertently because they used silver plates, utensils and drinking containers. With time, physicians became aware that colloidal silver was effective as an antiseptic, and thus began to use it to keep surfaces sterilized and to treat a variety of infections.
Research in the 1920s and '30s led to the discovery of effective antibiotics backed by science and colloidal silver's use as an antibiotic began to wane. Proponents of colloidal silver believe, however, that even though we have access to modern medicine doesn't mean silver has lost its benefits. It is true that colloidal silver is found in some medicines today, especially those used to combat fungus in the body.
These same proponents say that colloidal silver has a powerful potential when used against viruses and bacteria. That is, taking colloidal silver internally boosts the immune system's ability to fight disease-causing bacteria, fungi and viruses that bring on conditions such as the common cold. pneumonia and influenza. It is believed ionic silver works by blocking the respiratory metabolism of bacteria and renders them ineffective.
Treat sore throats
The same characteristic of ionic silver means it might be an effective way to treat sore throats, pink eye and ear infections. It should be noted that its effectiveness in treating these conditions has not been scientifically tested, but comes rather from testimonials. Other touted benefits of using ionic silver is to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, shingles, herpes, syphilis and even cancer, diabetes, bronchitis and AIDS. Again, more research is needed to verify these claims.
Are there precautions that should be noted before using colloidal or ionic silver? For topical purposes—for example, applying a cream or spray for wound healing—there are few concerns. Ingesting silver is a different story and it would be wise to consult your physician before doing so. Ionic silver may interfere with antibiotics or thyroid medications one is already taking, for example. Long term ingestion of colloidal silver may result in a skin condition called argyria which causes skin, nails and gums to have a bluish-gray pigmentation which is an irreversible condition. Pregnant women are discouraged from taking silver since there is a risk it may cause developmental problems in the fetus. Other side effects of ingesting colloidal silver include kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches and fatigue.
While one should be aware of potential side effects of ingesting colloidal silver, if taken as directed and for short periods of time, it is safe for most people.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.