There are many natural treatments for various conditions touted on the Internet—treatments based on folklore, urban myth, and even some valid clinical studies. Common everyday treatments include apple cider vinegar, honey, aloe vera, and others.
Over time, these folk treatments have proven themselves and are viable and reasonable treatments for common conditions and afflictions. All of them have been the focus of credible, clinical studies that support their health benefits and relative safety. And then colloidal silver inserted itself into the mix.
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While the remedies promised by apple cider vinegar and aloe are fairly simple and straightforward, the promises surrounding colloidal silver range from the suspect to the outrageous. Some claims promise treatment for cancer and HIV/AIDS with a homebrewed concoction of colloidal silver you can make in your kitchen.
Any rational person would think twice about that claim and wonder why it wasn’t a front-page headline on every newspaper in the country. The unfortunate part of that over-promise is that it compromises some evidence that silver has certain anti-bacterial properties that are actually used in various ways for medical treatments and procedures.
It’s a fact that colloidal silver is used in a narrow range of topical, medical treatments and that silver is used for coating certain surgical instruments and implants, but nowhere does credible medical science support ingesting it or injecting it as a cure for anything.
It all started in 1915 when Dr. G.L Rohdenburg published an article claiming benefits for colloidal silver in the treatment of tumors. His claims were unsupported by any studies, but people began to see it as an elixir and tonic for a range of conditions that made little medical sense.
Medical Use as a Bacterial Inhibitor
It’s a proven fact that silver inhibits the growth of bacteria. Many surgical instruments are silver coated for this reason. Surgical implants for artificial knees, hips, and shoulders are also silver coated for the same purpose. One of the reasons fillings for teeth are made out of silver is to prevent and discourage the spread of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Even catheters inserted into any part of the body are often plated with silver to prevent bacterial growth. But the keyword that continually shows up in those usages is “preventative.” There is no evidence that silver in any form actually kills bacteria, it only prevents or impedes further growth or spread.
Medical Use as a Topical Treatment
This ability to inhibit bacterial growth has been extended to the use of colloidal silver as an external, topical treatment in bandages and dressings for burns, skin wounds, and skin infections. It has also been used to treat an eye condition in newborns called “conjunctivitis.”
Here again, it’s not used to kill bacteria but to inhibit its spread. In spite of those benefits, it is still rarely used by U.S. hospitals or doctors and is typically found as a topical treatment in other countries. But only as a topical treatment used externally on the skin.
And Now the Bad News
There are absolutely no clinical studies done by credible research organizations that support the ingestion or injection of colloidal silver or any of the health claims surrounding its use. A website that serves as an archive for clinical studies is Pubmed.com.
It’s the official library resource for the National Institute of Health (NIH). A search on this site won’t produce a single clinical study supporting many of the claims surrounding colloidal silver.
What Are the Claims?
- Cures Cancer
- Cures HIV/AIDS
- Prevents and cures Shingles
- Cures Herpes
- Cures Prostatitis
- Effective in fighting and curing Viruses
- Boosting the Immune system
According to the Mayo Clinic, all of those claims are false. In fact, both the FDA and the CDC have said that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. That statement also calls into question some of the topical uses on wounds to say nothing of its use in an infant’s eyes for conjunctivitis.
The Desperation of the Past
In a time before penicillin, many people were at the mercy of conditions we take for granted today. Even the simplest bacterial infection could be deadly, and those times made any possible treatment worth considering. The unfortunate result was the emergence of the snake-oil salesman peddling any variation of concoctions to “cure all that ails you.”
Fortunately, many medical options exist today that genuinely cure or treat conditions with the clinical studies to prove it. But even some prescription pharmaceuticals bring a host of side-effects. If you’ve ever read the side-effect pamphlets that accompany many prescriptions it’s like reading a script from a horror movie.
The side-effect disclaimers on many pharmaceutical commercials almost make them laughable. But that doesn’t mean something like colloidal silver is benign, or a good or natural alternative to manufactured pharmaceuticals. It too has its share of side effects.
Colloidal Silver Side-Effects
Side-effects related to colloidal silver are proportional to the amount ingested or injected, the duration and frequency of use, and the type of silver product. We’ll explore the three silver products and only one of them is a true colloidal silver, but the other two call themselves by the same name.
Here are the possible side effects:
- Kidney damage
- Neurological problems
- Argyria (A blue-gray discoloration of the skin, eyes, nails, and gums)
- Drug interactions with Penicillamine, Cuprimine, Depen, Quinolone antibiotics, tetracycline, Levothroid (a thyroid gland treatment), Levoxyl and Synthroid.
As alarming as pharmaceutical side-effects may appear to be, at least many of them work as prescribed. Given that colloidal silver when ingested or injected has no substantiation as a cure for anything, that’s a heavy risk for nothing.
Recently, the FTC has taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products.
What is Colloidal Silver… Really?
Colloidal silver consists of tiny silver particles in a liquid. That’s it. However, some colloidal silver products also have a percentage of silver ions in addition to the silver particles, but the proportion of silver particles exceeds 50% in the solution.
Nothing else is added either to the product or during the production process. This doesn’t make it suddenly effective in the treatment of disease, but it does make it a true colloidal silver. If and when it is used as a topical treatment on the skin this is the form of colloidal silver used. It is relatively rare and hard to find due to its high cost and complex manufacturing process.
And that’s where things started to get a bit confusing when you consider the other two silver solutions. They call themselves colloidal silver, but they’re not. It’s an effective way to take advantage of the relative rarity and expense of true colloidal silver with a promise that is both deceptive and illegal.
Ionic silver is a silver solution created through a process called electrolysis. It’s the same process used to silver plate silverware and metal jewelry. It involves running an electric current through a solution that has a large piece of silver suspended. The electric current draws the silver molecules from the piece of silver and applies it to any object like a steel spoon or an aluminum piece of jewelry.
The result is a silver coating on the metal. If there is nothing in the solution to be plated, the ions remain in the solution. The result is an ionic silver solution. It is not colloidal silver, but many people selling it falsely refer to it that way.
Ionic silver is the type of silver solution that can be made with homemade kits promising DIY colloidal silver. You can do it yourself, but you won’t end up with colloidal silver. Ionic silver solution is also the solution that can cause Argyria or bluish discoloration of the skin and eyes when taken in significant quantities over a period of time. The condition is irreversible.
Silver protein is another silver solution. It consists of a combination of fairly large, metallic silver particles and a protein binder. Silver protein solutions are easily produced, but because the silver particles are proportionately large, they need a protein additive to remain in suspension. Otherwise they simply sink to the bottom. This additive is typically gelatin produced from boiling the skin, ligaments, hooves, or tendons of animals.
The gelatin encapsulates the silver particles and creates enough buoyancy to keep them in suspension. The greatest risk is that the gelatin can become a breeding ground for bacteria. That’s a curious contradiction for a product that claims to kill bacteria, let alone treat cancer. Silver protein solutions are also frequently referred to as colloidal silver. They’re not.
Little Truth and Mostly Fiction
The sad fact is that there will always be people who struggle daily with an illness or condition that has no known cure. They’re the desperate few hoping and searching for a miraculous cure or obscure answer that can bring them relief from a long pattern of suffering.
Hopefully, they’ll find it someday. Unfortunately, it won’t be found in colloidal silver.
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