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Colloidal Silver: Medical Miracle or Scam

Updated on June 6, 2012

Colloidal silver has been touted as a cure-all against countless conditions and diseases. There are testimonials galore praising its wonders. They say it’s an effective alternative medical treatment for, acne, sinusitis, congestion, eye ailments, herpes, and strengthens the immune system. Some even claim cancer, AIDS and diabetes. The list is seemingly endless.

While it is true silver has been used for generations in medicinal and preservative purposes by many cultures it still seems a gigantic leap of the imagination to believe such a simple mixture could cure so many ailments.

Early Greeks used silver containers to keep water and other liquids fresh. American Pioneers also placed silver coins in wooden water barrels and milk containers for the same reason. They found it helped prevent the growth of bacteria and algae. In the 18th century people used it as an antibiotic and disinfectant.

The question still persists, does it do all the manufacturers and users claim, or is it all hype? Unless our forefathers were just a bunch of simpletons, they found it worked at least in some cases. In centuries past, silver was commonly used for antimicrobial purposes. Today many hospitals use it to control local infections. Drops of it are put in the eyes of newborns to prevent blindness caused by sexually transmitted diseases. Ancient royalty would only eat with silver utensils. This daily intake of minute silver particles apparently kept them healthier than peasants, who ate off other materials such as iron, pewter, earthenware or copper.

Although history offers convincing evidence, modern examples provides even more. Before penicillin was discovered in 1928, colloidal silver was used for many ailments. It was even included in the Physician's Desk Reference at the time as a remedy for a variety of ailments. Silver nitrate was commonly used for treating stomach ulcers. Recent studies indicate ulcers are caused by bacteria and not so much by stress.

Between the years 1951-1965 experimentation with silver nitrate was conducted and found to not only be useful for sterilization but dramatically speeded up healing of burn patients. Silver water filtration systems are now used worldwide. They eliminate the need for chemicals and even kill chlorine resistant organisms. Today modern airlines use them to guard against water-borne diseases. Silver is also used by the military and commercial industries in clothing. By incorporating silver into the fabrics, it aids in eliminating disease and odor causing bacteria.

By now you may be wondering if it’s such a great boon to mankind why the medical community limits its use. With the introduction of penicillin silver took a back burner. They offered a much larger profit margin and were easily patented. Silver, being a natural element, couldn’t be patented, thus there was no monetary incentive. Besides, many early silver products contained toxic forms of silver salts or silver particles too large that could possibly cause harm.

So say those supposedly in the know. However, there are many naysayers who claim there’s little medical research to support its attributes. In fact, it’s said there are risks involved with using colloidal silver. Mainly, it can cause argyria, a medical condition caused by excessive exposure to chemical forms of silver, silver dust, or silver compounds. It can turn the skin blue or blue-grey in color. However, in developed nations, argyria is rare as long as silver containing supplements are not taken on a sustained basis.

There are two types, localized and universal. Topical applications like nasal sprays containing silver compounds cause localized argyria. Tattoo colors also have a silver base that can trigger it as well. Universal argyria can be caused by drugs and medications containing colloidal silver and can damage body organs if used over long periods. Other examples would include those working in silver manufacturing factories, silver sutures in surgery and silver dental fillings. Cases of argyria were most prevalent when silver medications were routinely used during the 1930s and 40s and have since become a rare occurrence. No cure for the condition has yet been found.

Another reason is, in 1938 the FDA ruled from then on only those "drugs" which met their standards could be marketed for medicinal purposes. Silver containing products are sold as "dietary supplements" in many health stores, but only if they make no health claims. However, many advertisers pay little if no attention to the ruling. Apparently, many felt it was a ruse propagated by pharmaceutical manufactures to peddle their pills.

The FDA issued a final rule establishing all over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver or silver salts for internal or external use because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective. It was deemed necessary as many OTC products containing these ingredients were being marketed for numerous serious conditions and lacking any substantial scientific evidence.

Proponents of colloidal silver believe more natural alternatives should be used since antibiotics are becoming increasingly resistant to infections. There are compelling arguments in both camps for and against using colloidal silver as an alternative to antibiotics. However, very little research has been done. Some even believe cases of argyria are on the rise.

Many opt for antibiotics since there is more information available on them, whereas not much scientific proof has been offered for colloidal silver, other than enthusiastic testimonials by advocates.

With more research it may be discovered colloidal silver is an effective alternative to antibiotics, but until then one might be advised to take any success claims with a grain of salt.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Interesting observation. Could be. But I found no supporting evidence for it.

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 5 years ago from South Florida

      Interesting article. I wonder if taking silver is where the aristocratic term “blue blood” comes from.

    • profile image

      aviannovice 5 years ago

      Voted awesome. It comes down to the old questions, "should we, or shouldn't we?" Any comments, anyone?