The Top 5 Uses for Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver has been used throughout history to treat infections and promote various health care benefits like other supplements. But what’s the evidence that it actually works? With the FDA refusing to recognize the medical benefits of products containing colloidal silver we uncover the scientific evidence behind its use.

What is Colloidal Silver?
Colloidal silver is a chemically unreactive metal but it makes an excellent conductor of electricity. Its conductivity combined with appealing appearance led to it being used extensively to coat productss containing cheaper metals in a process known as electroplating.

Producing colloidal silver also relies on conductivity and uses electricity and water to ‘break’ solid silver down into tiny particles. The resulting solution is called a colloid as it is not actually dissolved but suspended silver particles spread evenly throughout the liquid.

Historical Use
Ancient Greeks and Romans were aware of colloidal silver products’ abilities to heal wounds and prevent disease. Medicinal silver was also used throughout the Middle East to purify blood, prevent heart disease, treat bad breath and other medical needs. However, it was not without side effects. When too much silver is taken in by the body it leads to discoloration of the skin, called Argyria, which became common in upper class Europe during the Middle Ages as the silver plating on their cutlery gradually toxified them. This ‘bluish’ skin discoloration is thought to have given them protection against epidemics of infection and also coined the phrases ‘blue bloods’ and ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ highlighting that wealth was equated to health.

Effective Use
While historical use gives us an idea of the power of this versatile metal, it is only recent clinical work that has refined the most effective uses and demonstrated this supplement’s clear therapeutic potential.

#1 Antimicrobial
Known for its medical abilities to treat wounds and prevent infections, colloidal silver products are still used by hospitals in dressings and as silver nitrate drops to prevent eye infections in newborn babies. Despite some controversy around its cost-effectiveness there is much evidence to support its use alongside other drugs.
Silver in Hospitals

Before the introduction of antibiotic drugs, products containing silver ingredients were used to prevent infection at the site of injury. Silver is an antiseptic, meaning it slows the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, rather than killing them directly. This makes it good as a broad spectrum agent, especially when the types of bacteria present are not known.

A study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that colloidal silver caused “significant growth inhibition” for bacteria when multiple treatments were applied. The results for fungi were variable and no growth inhibition was seen for bacteria. They concluded that “the study data support ionic colloidal silver as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent.”

#2 Antioxidant
Colloidal silver has been shown to have several antioxidant effects, specifically reducing oxidative cellular stress. When cells make energy they produce free oxygen radicals which can damage proteins and cells. Free radicals make the body age and reducing their impact is a key focus for research in many disease therapies and preventative measures.

The Journal of Advanced Biomedical Research published a study using silver nanoparticles which highlights their antioxidant effects. Using mice models they found “significant increases” in antioxidant activities and “significant decreases” in cellular oxidative stress. They also tested gold and zinc but found only silver had this healing effect. In fact both gold and zinc seemed to make the oxidative damage worse, not better.
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The exact therapeutic potential is not yet fully understood but it supports alternative medicinal opinion that colloidal silver does in fact support the immune system and protect protein cells from damage.

#3 Respiratory Support
The ability of colloidal silver to successfully treat bacterial nasal infections was recently documented in the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology. The studies were looking for methods to treat antibiotic resistant infections and while this was using an animal model the study successfully demonstrated that topical application of silver reduced the impact of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Given the significant problems associated with bacterial resistance to antibiotics we could soon be seeing a return to more simple methods like nasal irrigation with colloidal silver to prevent or treat persistent infections.

Linked to both its antiseptic and antioxidant effects colloidal silver has been used successfully, albeit anecdotally, to treat respiratory infections including lung disease. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine published a report on a patient successfully using colloidal silver to treat his lung infections associated with cystic fibrosis. Doctors were astounded by his improved condition, which deteriorated when access to colloidal silver was interrupted.

This is one of many reports identifying a significant positive impact which requires further investigation with a larger sample size. Unfortunately clinical trials can only typically be afforded by pharmaceutical companies (trying to prove their own drugs), therefore the chances of investment in this area are low.

#4 Burns treatment
When skin is damaged by burning, especially over large surface areas, there is a very high chance of serious infection which can be fatal. The loss of blood supply reduces the immune system’s ability to fight off infection in the damaged area, while the nutrients from destroyed skin cells feed bacterial growth. Skin grafting is a highly successful method to treat significant burns without preventing bacterial infection where there is a high chance of sepsis which can spread to the rest of the body. Burns can become infected with a wide range of bacteria with differing strengths: speed of colonization, ability to digest the skin, and success in fighting off the immune system.

With the ever increasing problem of antibiotic resistance many preparations of colloidal silver and other topical applications, including: iodine, honey, papaya and essential oils are receiving attention. The wide variety of treatments containing silver and silver salts marketed for burns is a testament to its ability. Silver can be found in creams, ointments (including emuaid) and solutions which rely on the positive charged silver ions to bind to proteins in the wound fluid. The silver ions are then delivered directly to the wound bed where they disrupt bacterial growth and prevent colonization and infection.

Studies on the use of colloidal silver specifically to treat wound infections using bacterial samples from burn wounds found “killing rate studies revealed that the colloidal silver is highly bactericidal against the test isolates.” They also showed that colloidal silver could effectively be used in conjunction with other antibiotics to give an even broader spectrum of protection.

#5 Water Purification
For several centuries, Russian soldiers have been using colloidal silver to purify water. Drinking flasks lined with silver or, more recently, a silver coated mesh have been used to effectively clean water from rivers and lakes. These antimicrobial effects have been thoroughly tested under combat conditions and have saved many lives.

More recently, in efforts to improve drinking water in the poorest regions of the world, the properties of colloidal silver are once again being put to the test. Studies published in both The Journal of Environmental Science and Technology and the International Journal of Environmental Research into Public Health have performed trials manufacturing very cheap, but effective, water filters with compressed clay and colloidal silver. The results were very positive with authors stating that “This technology can offer complete antimicrobial solutions to rural communities.”

Commercially available water filters also use this technology to remove the dangers bacteria present in chemically untreated drinking water. Cleaning water without the use of bleaches and other chemicals would in the long run be far healthier for human consumption.
Cleaning Water without Bleach

Use Safely
Colloidal silver has a relatively low toxicity in the body; however, long term ingestion can lead to the formation of silver deposits in the eyes and skin. Although not life threatening, this should be avoided. If you wish to take colloidal silver internally, ensure adequate hydration and a diet high in antioxidants which help cells naturally remove substances including silver deposits. Also, be sure to take breaks in treatment to allow the body a respite from the effects. Ideally, consult with an alternative healthcare practitioner to determine a safe dose.

There are potential side effects when ingesting silver, specifically developing Argyria, but data indicates that external or target application are highly successful and compete with more modern methods to treat both infection and cancer.

Future Use
Certainly more clinical trials would better substantiate claims but at the moment the bulk of investment is going into colloidal silver nanotechnology, including developing bacterially resistant paper. Scientists are still uncovering the truth behind many years of successful use as a versatile health promoting agent. In the meantime colloidal silver shows many positive effects that have certainly withstood the test of time.