Colloidal Silver: What You Need to Know

Colloidal silver, which is mostly microscopic bits of silver floating in some form of liquid, has been used medically for decades. But does it really work?
Colloidal silver, which is mostly microscopic bits of silver floating in some form of liquid, has been used medically for decades. But does it really work?
iStockphoto.com © Donall O Cleirigh

When Dr. G.L. Rohdenburg published an article in 1915 on the benefits of colloidal silver in treating tumors, he likely had no idea that this product would have such staying power. Nearly 100 years later, colloidal silver is used by some as a dietary supplement, decongestant and a treatment for all kinds of ailments and illnesses.

Although colloidal silver has been called a cure-all, its healing properties, as reported by the companies that manufacture the supplement and its related products, haven't been published in reputable medical journals [source: Zeratzky]. It's really not known if colloidal silver cures ailments, and the side effects include everything from seizures and kidney damage to fatigue and skin irritation.

So what is this mysterious metal, and what does it do? Is it even a real metal, and how well does it work? And should people be concerned about the side effects?

First things first: yes, colloidal silver really is silver, or at least, a silver residue of sorts. A colloid is a particle of some substance, broken down and mixed into or suspended in liquid [source: Merriam-Webster Online]. Colloidal silver is mostly microscopic bits of silver floating in water or some other gelatinous goo.

Silver is naturally found in food and water, and when recommended by a physician, the typical dosage of colloidal silver is about one teaspoon. Due to the lengthy list of side effects and relatively sparse information on what this product can actually do for you, you won't find many health experts promoting the substance.

Read on to learn about the alleged benefits of colloidal silver.

Colloidal Silver Benefits

Colloidal silver is not a new alternative medicine. In fact, in the last century, people who could afford colloidal silver used it to remedy several different health issues. Colloidal silver's popularity as a kind of antibiotic peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. But with time and the ever-increasing science behind medicine, we came to use different antibiotics that had proven effects. Yet proponents of colloidal silver products feel that just because we have, as a society, access to more updated medicine that doesn't mean that colloidal silver no longer retains its benefits [source: Today's Women and Health].

Colloidal silver is found still in medicine today, especially in medications that are used to combat fungus in the body. It also has a very powerful potential when used to kill disease, viruses and other harmful bacteria. Specifically, many people claim that when they take colloidal silver, it helps to improve their immune system's ability to fight against colds and flu viruses [source: Valentino].

People often claim to use colloidal silver to soothe burns, repair skin and tissue damage, and to treat scars. Other skin issues that might be helped by colloidal silver include rashes, sties and acne [source: Today's Women and Health].

Colloidal silver is purported to be easily digestible and therefore easily absorbed into the internal organs that need it most. This ease of absorption helps the benefits of colloidal silver work fast [source: Valentino]. Proponents claim that this property of colloidal silver is most important when it comes to strengthening the immune system [source: Today's Women and Health]. As with any form of medicine, alternative or not, it is important to weigh its benefits against its side effects. Continue reading to uncover the side effects of taking colloidal silver.

Colloidal Silver Side Effects

Despite the supposed pros of taking a bit of silver with your cereal each morning, there are drawbacks, too. One potential side effect is a condition called argyria, which causes your skin to turn blue or blueish-gray [source: Celizic]. Whenever you come into direct contact with a released element or chemical, it can affect you depending on how much contact you have with it and for how long. In the case of people who have consumed colloidal silver for an extended period of time, argyria is sometimes the result [source: ATSDR].

When taken orally, colloidal silver can also wreak havoc on proteins and make other medicines less effective. For pregnant women, colloidal silver poses risks to the unborn child, as fetal abnormalities may develop due to its use [source: Sloan-Kettering].

In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that any and all over-the-counter products that contained colloidal silver were not to be regarded as safe or effective. The FDA also reported that products containing colloidal silver -- which claimed to treat diseases including HIV, AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis and more -- were to be considered misbranded [source: FDA].

Although there may be two sides to the colloidal silver story, one of the additional effects that health officials worry about with colloidal silver is that those who use it will begin to rely on it as a cure-all instead of seeking real medical treatment. With potentially false promises being made about this substance, both the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA have cracked down on Web sites that report cure-alls in the form of colloidal silver [source: Winter].

In our next section, we'll learn about how colloidal silver is made.

Colloidal Silver Generators

In this day and age of medical and personal technology, it comes as no surprise that the world of colloidal silver has married the two. Although several products are available online, at alternative healing workshops or in holistic health shops, for the tech-savvy, an at-home generator can help you whip up your own colloidal silver products.

There are several places you can purchase your own generator, some for as little as $50. However, as with colloidal silver you purchase in pre-packaged form, the side effects that result from the home-brewed concoctions are just as likely to occur. Also, making colloidal silver at home might be a bit trickier than purchasing it [source: Woolsten]. But imagine using something small enough to fit in your purse to create your own colloidal silver [source: HealthHerbs]. It can be done.

Colloidal silver generators come in a range of sizes, and some of them simply sit on top of a jar or container and pump a current of electricity across a plate or piece of silver. This discharges the silver particles into the water, where they remain suspended. There are several types of suspensions, and sometimes the liquid will appear clear or amber-yellow [sources: SilverGen, Lindemann].

Follow the links on the next page to gather more information regarding colloidal silver.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

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