The mention of colloidal silver as being an effective substitute for or in addition to faltering-antibiotics tends to cause various reactions. Many have read that colloidal silver is not effective and downright dangerous; however, others who have personally experienced what an effective colloidal silver can do sing its praises. So which is it? Is colloidal silver dangerous, non-effective, snake-oil or it is something that deserves our attention because of its potential health benefits?
History of Colloidal Silver
Silver has long been recognized in recorded history as having germicidal properties. In 69 B.C. silver nitrate was described in the contemporary pharmacopoeia. In ancient Greece, Rome, Phoenecia and Macedonia, silver was used extensively to manage many immune challenges. From the time man first learned to work with silver, he has known that it delayed the spoilage of foods and that it reduced the symptoms of illness. Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” used silver and instructed that it promoted tissue repair and was a notable topical aid. In the days before refrigeration, people tossed a silver coin in a bucket of milk to keep it from spoiling. Chemists put silver dimes in Petri dishes to sterilize them.
Dr. Carl Credé (1819-1892), a French surgeon, was the first to talk about the benefits of using silver nitrate to reduce newborn’s eye infections. He was also among the first surgeons to use silver nitrate in the prevention of wound 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. More than 96 different silver medicinals (many used intravenously) were in use prior to 1939, as documented by The Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the American Medical Association. Physicians mixed their own silver preparations in their offices which were given orally or injected. However, the shelf life was poor, as they had no way to keep the silver particles in suspension for longer than fifteen minutes.
The use of silver as an antibiotic gave way to the convenience of sulfa drugs and then eventually to the use of penicillin. These drugs, at that time, seemed more effective and were, of course, easier to use. However, with this convenience there would be an eventual price to pay. We are now experiencing antibiotic-resistant strains from overuse of these convenient drugs. And we now must often use highly toxic doses of antibiotics to get a result in the bacteria that can still be killed by antibiotics, a deep concern of antibiotic-related toxicity to the humans consuming them. It is important to note that bacteria do not generally develop resistance to silver unless the bacteria has a very thick wall that does not absorb it. Colloidal silver is effective against most gram positive and gram negative bacteria.
How Colloidal Silver Works
Silver ions bind to cell walls and are then absorbed into the single-cell bacteria or fungus where they interfere with the 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 shows that silver is not toxic to human cells.
“We’ve reached the end of antibiotics, period… We’re here. We’re in the
post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy,
and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has
an infection, something that five years ago even we could
have treated, but now we can’t.”
Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director,
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Reasons to Use Colloidal Silver
- New research shows that low doses of silver can massively boost the effect of antibiotics on bacteria, making them up to 1,000 times more sensitive to the drugs. The researchers hope their discovery will give new life to old antibiotics, including those to which microbes have become resistant.
- Drug-resistant super-bug infections have reached near-epidemic levels across U.S. hospitals, with an alarming 500% increase now documented in a study just published in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology (the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America).
- Silver has been used for centuries to boost the immune system.
- Many consider colloidal silver an antiseptic more than an antibiotic since it kills more than bacteria; it can destroy viruses and eliminate fungal infections.
- Bacteria that are resistant to silver haven’t developed, while colloidal silver can destroy antibiotic-resistant pathogens, even MRSA.
- Conventional medicine suggests adding colloidal silver to antibiotics to stop the super-bug strains that have developed immunity to those antibiotics.
- Unlike prescription antibiotic drugs, silver does not create resistance or immunity in pathogens killed by it.
“Taken internally, colloidal silver can be used to fight infection. It has
been shown to be effective against more than 650 disease-causing
organisms, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria and the
fungus Candida albicans.”
Dr. James F. Balch & Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Side Effects of Colloidal Silver
Even though the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health reports that colloidal silver may cause poor absorption of some drugs, there is very limited research proving that side effects to colloidal silver use even exist.
Warnings about colloidal silver causing an irreversible condition called argyria (when people turn blue) are rampant on the Internet. However, it is important to understand that this argyria is caused by misuse not of true colloidal silver, but by cheaper products marketed as colloidal silver. Colloidal silver produced with high voltage technology does not cause the side effects that can occur with the ingestion of large silver salts or silver particles. A good colloidal silver product will also have third-party product research backing up any claims. Make sure the colloidal silver that you use does not contain any additional ingredients such as salts or proteins. These ingredients provide an unstable solution. Because there are so many different types of colloidal silver on the market, I definitely recommend that you do your own research about any colloidal silver product you are considering to purchase.
Because colloidal silver is such a potent antibacterial agent, it is advisable to supplement with probiotics during use even though there is no current proof that a properly made colloidal silver will harm gut flora.
Recent Research on Colloidal Silver
Over the past few years, several new studies have demonstrated the fact that silver is one of the most effective agents in the battle against MRSA and other deadly antibiotic-resistant super pathogens, including the:
- Brigham-Young Clinical Study – This study, published in the journal Current Science in 2006, found that a number of the antibiotic drugs which had previously been able to kill MDR (multiple drug-resistant) pathogens, such as MRSA, could be restored to full efficacy against the deadly pathogens, but only if a liquid silver solution similar to colloidal silver was used in conjunction with the drug.
- Iranian Clinical Study – This study also found that silver increases the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs against staph infections. The researchers concluded:
“The antibacterial activities of penicillin G, amoxicillin, erythromycin, clindamycin, and vancomycin were increased in the presence of silver nano-particles (Ag-NPs) against both test strains. The highest enhancing effects were observed for vancomycin, amoxicillin, and penicillin G against S. aureus.”
- Taiwanese Clinical Study – Published in the journal Colloids Surface B Biointerfaces7 in 2007, this study demonstrated that colloidal silver, by itself, eradicates both MRSA and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, another deadly and extremely opportunistic superbug.
- Czech Clinical Study – Likewise, this Czech study published in the prestigious Journal of Physical Chemistry B in 2006, also demonstrated that colloidal silver was a highly effective agent against MRSA:
“…silver particles with a narrow size distribution with an average size of 25 nm, which showed high antimicrobial and bactericidal activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including highly multi-resistant strains such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The study further demonstrated that very low concentrations of silver could be utilized to destroy MRSA, as long as the silver particles were very small, averaging 25 nm.”
References & Resources
Bacteria Do Not Develop Resistance to Silver. J Wound Care. Lansdown AB.
Lansdown AB. Silver in health care: antimicrobial effects and safety in use. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2006 October 33:17-34. Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK
Kim Y, Suh HS, Cha HJ, Kim SH, Jeong KS, Kim DH. Argyria from Excessive Colloidal Silver Intake. Am J Ind Med.
Brandt D, Park B, Hoang M, Jacobe HT. Argyria Caused by Homemade Silver Solution. J Am Acad Dermatol.
How Silver Kills Bacteria. Br J Nurs. Lansdown AB.
Colloidal Silver Inhibts Smallpox Virus. Pharmaceutical Chemistry Journal N. E. Bogdanchikova, A. V. Kurbatov, V. V. Tretyakov, and P. P. Rodionov.
Cases of Drug Resistant Super Bug Significantly Rise in South Eastern U.S. Science Daily, 2014.
J. Wesley Alexander. History of the Medical Use of Silver. Surgical Infections. June 2009, 10(3): 289-292. doi:10.1089/sur.2008.9941
S.M. Foran, Therapeutic Properties of Silver: A Historical and Technical Review. Quanta January, 2009.
Natural Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. Colloidal Silver: What You Need to Know.
Coburn, Dhyana L., Dignan, Patrick D. The Wonders of Colloidal Silver. 1997.
Lansdown AB. A review of the use of silver in wound care: facts and fallacies. Br J Nurs. 2004 Mar;13(6 Suppl):S6-19.
Coburn, Dhyana L., Dignan, Patrick D. The Wonders of Colloidal Silver. 1997.
Pokrowiecki R1, Zareba T2, Mielczarek A3, Opaliska A4, Wojnarowicz J4, Majkowski M5, Lojkowski W4, Tyski S2. Evaluation of biocidal properties of silver nanoparticles against cariogenic bacteria. Med Dosw Mikrobiol. 2013;65(3):197-206.
Felipe Solsona, Juan Pablo Mendez. Water Disinfection. Pan American Center for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences. 2003.
Abbaszadegan A1, Nabavizadeh M, Gholami A, et al. Positively charged imidazolium-based ionic liquid-protected silver nanoparticles: a promising disinfectant in root canal treatment. Int Endod J. 2014 Sep 2. doi: 10.1111/iej.12377.
Disaanayake DM1, Faoagali J, Laroo H, Hancock G, Whitehouse M.. Efficacy of some colloidal silver preparations and silver salts against Proteus bacteria, one possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammopharmacology. 2014 Apr;22(2):73-7. doi: 10.1007/s10787-013-0198-0.
Morrill K, May K, Leek D, et al. Spectrum of antimicrobial activity associated with ionic colloidal silver. J ALtern Complement Med. 2013 Mar;19(3):224-31. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0681.
Lansdown AB. A pharmacological and toxicological profile of silver as an antimicrobial agent in medical devices. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2010;2010:910686. doi: 10.1155/2010/910686.