by Dr. Andrew Dickens,  NMD

Ever wonder why the fork and spoon we eat with is called “silverware”? Because Europeans knew that utensils made of silver would better protect them from disease. During the mid-fourteenth century plague in Europe, children from wealthy families were even given silver spoons to suck on and that gave rise to the saying, “born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” Ancient Egyptians used silver to keep mold and fungus out of their food stores. American pioneers on the wagon trails put silver coins in their water barrels to keep the water safe. In 1884, a German obstetrician discovered that a silver nitrate solution dropped into infants’ eyes right after birth would kill the microbes that had caused blindness in generations of babies. Prior to the invention of the modern refrigerator, people commonly dropped a silver coin into a container of milk to retard spoilage.

In 1920, the founder of Searle Pharmaceuticals, Alfred B. Searle, published a book called Use of Colloids in Health and Disease. Searle himself was a big proponent of the use of silver in medicine.

Today, silver is commonly used in bandages, wound dressings, and bone implants. Many medical devices such as intravenous catheters are coated with silver to prevent bacterial biofilms. Socks and active wear clothing use antimicrobial silver fibers. Silver nanoparticles are used in cosmetics, food containers, detergents, cutting boards, and a wide range of other consumer products to stop the spread of germs.

Silver has been used as a natural, non-toxic antibiotic for centuries. Medically, it is very attractive because pathogens don’t develop resistance to it as they do to pharmaceutical antibiotics, and silver does not harm to the gut flora so no damage is done to the immune system.

Colloidal silver used therapeutically is a suspension of extremely tiny metallic silver particles of about 0.001 microns in size in pure, distilled water. The term “colloid” merely refers to particles suspended in solution. Today’s  “colloidal” silver, also called silver hydrosol, is made of nanoparticles – a much smaller particle size than the colloidal silver of decades ago. Silver nanoparticles display a high level of safety because of their large surface area to volume ratio.

Silver has been proven to be useful against many infectious conditions. A 2006 study demonstrated colloidal silver has “high antimicrobial and bactericidal activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including highly multi-resistant strains such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).”[1]

A 2014 study found that depending on the surface charge of the silver nanoparticles and the type of bacteria, bacteria can be killed by the formation of free radicals, accumulation of nanoparticles in bacterial cell walls, or depletion of cell membrane components.[2]

A 2010 study found colloidal silver to have anti-tumor properties against MCF-7 human breast cancer cells:[3]

“Our in vitro studies showed that colloidal silver induced a dose-dependent cell death in MCF-7 breast cancer cell line through apoptosis, without affecting the viability of normal PBMC control cells … The present results showed that colloidal silver might be a potential alternative agent for human breast cancer therapy.”

The Blue Man

In 2008, Paul Karason went on NBC’s “Today” show to talk about how his skin turned a shade of blue-gray after using home-made silver. This skin discoloration is known as argyria.

Some have claimed this was a media disinformation event produced by a public relations firm and paid for by a pharmaceutical interest to scare the public away from using non-prescription silver products.

Whatever the truth of that may be, what is known is that Karason used several ingredients in his home-made brew, plus he used a tanning bed. In products contaminated with salts, proteins, stabilizers, and oxidation, silver particles tend to cluster rather than disperse evenly. When silver particles cluster together, the body tries to eliminate them by excreting them through the skin and that leads to benign cosmetic discoloration. These types of silver have little if any therapeutic effect.

The effectiveness of silver lies in the small size of the silver particle and the purity of the silver and water with which it is made – the only two ingredients with which medical-grade products are made. The smaller the particle size, the more effective it will be as it can enter a germ and kill it. Quality therapeutic colloidal/hydrosol silver will always be professionally made.

[1] Panacek A,  Kvítek l et al. Silver colloid nanoparticles: synthesis, characterization, and their antibacterial activity. J Phys Chem B. 2006 Aug 24;110(33):16248-53

[2] Kim JS, Kuk E et al. Antimicrobial effects of silver nanoparticles. Nanomedicine. 2007 Mar;3(1):95-101

[3] Franco-Molina MA, Mendoza-Gamboa E et al. Antitumor activity of colloidal silver on MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Nov 16;29:148.

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