By Rustina, Contributing Writer
“Just add some colloidal silver to your cup, that’ll take care of it!” “What? That’s a metal; you can’t do that!” It feels like everyone is either jumping on the “CS” train or yelling at the passengers! So what is the real deal with colloidal silver?
Let’s talk about the risks, the benefits, and the best way to use it to our advantage!
What are the risks?
First off, is silver a heavy metal as so many warn?
Yes. It is considered a heavy metal (1). I know the response to that is usually, “iron is on that list too though, and we can’t live without that!” or “It’s just like mercury!” There are differences though. Iron is an essential trace mineral, and silver is not essential to any functions of the human body. Mercury is lethally toxic in relatively small doses, silver is not. There are many categories of metal that silver also falls in, such as a noble metal (meaning it resists corrosion and chemical reactions). Again, sometimes mercury is considered a noble metal just as silver is sometimes. That classification does not stop it from being a heavy metal. A heavy metal is one that has a high density or atomic weight.
Colloidal silver is tiny silver particles that are suspended in a liquid. Silver has been used in many forms, such as nanoparticle silver or silver nitrate. The size of the silver may change, but the trace mineral still remains silver.
Can it build up in the body?
Yes. There have been new and old cases of argyria, or silver toxicity. This is from long term, regular exposure to silver causing the skin, fingernail areas, etc to turn blue or gray and can even affect the eyes/night vision and organs. The cases of argyria are often said to be only “back in the day and with mountain people,” but unfortunately, that is not the situation.
Regular, long term ingestion of colloidal silver has also caused the same condition discoloring of the skin and mucosal linings from the collection of silver in the tissues including even in the colon (2 – colloidal silver in the colon and discoloration) and in the myelin membranes causing integrity concerns in the brain’s vessels (3 – colloidal silver found in the brain vessels).
While the above mentioned situations are about colloidal silver, here is an excerpt about silver nitrate (a salt solution with silver and copper) from the Oxford Academic
“Generalized argyria occurred after using a topical solution of silver nitrate three times a week for 2.5 years to control gingival bleeding. Severe pigmentation developed and the patient no longer appeared to be Caucasian. During an abdominal operation (unrelated to the argyria), silver deposits were reported in her liver, spleen, intestines, and pancreas (Marshall and Schneider, 1977).”
Another good study to check out is Silver Nanoparticles Impair Cognitive Functions and Modify the Hippocampal Level of Neurotransmitters in a Coating-Dependent Manner
Can the body detox out silver?
Yes, but not all of it. Our tissues naturally hold on to some silver, meaning a potentially large amount will not be “eliminated” with the waste. Silver is absorbed in the small intestines, where it will be distributed to the skin, spleen, liver, and adrenals; it can also cross the blood brain barrier (3). If the oral cavity is compromised, then silver may be absorbed there as well. Silver has been found in urinary output, fecal waste, and sweat (as well as build up in sweat glands) so it does detox out to some extent. It has not been studied or confirmed how much is absorbed nor how much is sent out with the waste. Based on more recent argyria cases, it would seem safe to conclude that the more you consume, the more your body can store silver. Thus far, there is not an effective chelation therapy that works to remove silver particles from the body (4).
Is silver used for any bodily processes?
No (that we know of). They have not yet found any cellular or other functions in the body that require silver.
So we know it can build up, but is that toxic?
Well, that depends on who you ask.
There are a few good studies that show the pro-inflammatory and pro-oxidative stress that silver nanoparticles can cause (5) to the point it can cause liver and kidney damage. Nanoparticles are when the particles are between 1 and 100 nm. Colloids are when the particles are above 100 nm. Many products on the market or homemade end up with some degree of nanoparticles as well as colloids. The mainstream uses silver nanoparticles for wound dressings in some cases, but does not promote internal use. The FDA also warns against the internal use.
One reason it is not recommended orally (ironically by mainstream but also by many holistic and naturopathic doctors) is because it is a strong antibacterial – including towards the good and essential bacteria in our guts. We need a healthy gut flora to stay healthy. Internal use of silver has shown a strong disruption to good gut flora as well as the bad gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria (6).
Another reason is the concern of it damaging the livers and kidneys (again, ironically by mainstream). The body seeks to treat silver particles like it would a protein (7). This sends it through the blood and lymph leaving it to end up in the livers or kidneys where it can begin to build up (some particles can also accumulate in the brain and the muscles) (8). Once in the liver, it does bind well with reduced glutathione (GSH) – a very important super antioxidant in our bodies – thus reducing the amount of available GSH for taking care of our body (9,10). Having decreased levels of GSH leads to higher levels of oxidative stress. Higher levels of oxidative stress have been associated with premature aging (messes with collagen integrity in the skin just as it does in the vessels), Alzheimer’s, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s, and much more. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins our body uses and is a building block in all types of tissue cells.
There is also concern that bacteria has shown to develop a resistance to silver (11).
Symptoms of overexposure to silver (12)
Short term exposure:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Stomach irritation
- Decreased respiration
Long term exposure:
- Fatty degeneration of the liver and kidneys
- Changes in blood cells
- Permanent blue toned or ash gray skin
- Discolored cornea/eyes that can lead to loss of night vision
The WHO (World Health organization) puts a “No Observable Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL)” of 6.5 μg per kg of bodyweight per day (13).
What are the benefits?
Colloidal silver has shown very strong antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Many people have had great success getting rid of everything from severe tooth infections to stubborn UTIs using colloidal silver.
There are some studies that suggest it can speed up wound healing and be anti-cancer, especially using nanoparticles (14).
So how can it be used safely?
It can be very useful, but it does come with risks. So what does that mean for using it? For me, that means, using other options first and leaving colloidal silver as a last resort.
Here are some things I would reach for first (and they usually get the job done well):
When using Colloidal Silver, here are some recommended dosages (for very short time periods not long term):
- 1-2 drops topically for wounds that require more than washing, or fungal issues
- 5 drops orally for issues not resolving by herb use or as a mouth rinse for teeth issues
- 1-2 drops in the eye for irritation/inflammation
Here are some DIY recipes for alternative options to avoid colloidal silver:
Products that I reach for before CS:
I will take colloidal silver over pharmaceuticals, that’s for sure, but I won’t rush for it either. It is on my shelf, and ready if needed. It is a powerful antibacterial though and should be treated as such. Save it for the occasional really stubborn infections, not the every day or easy to treat with herbs kind of problems!
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.