A suspension of silver metal in water, considered a panacea by some and snake oil by others.

Here are some facts to start with:

  • Colloidal silver of appropriate concentration will kill every known strain of bacteria when it is applied in-vitro -- that is, when it is applied to bacteria in a petri dish.

  • Colloidal silver is not immediately toxic to human beings.

  • Silver or suspensions of silver have been used for years to prevent infection or food spoilage. For instance, early American pioneers (lacking refrigeration) would put a silver coin in jugs of milk or water in order to keep them fresher. One can also buy ionizing devices that disinfect water by introducing silver ions into the liquid. In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was common practice to use silver eye drops to prevent or treat eye infections.

That being said, it is important to note that vendors of colloidal silver are of the opinion that the substance is capable of treating (it seems) nearly every affliction known to man: AIDS, cancer, diabetes, every kind of internal or cutaneous bacterial infection, hemmorhoids, body fungus, chronic fatigue syndrome, warts and acne, bone loss and severe bodily trauma.

It is true that silver suspensions have potent antibacterial properties, but only when applied topically. There is no proof that silver has any effect on internal bacterial infections. In other words, colloidal silver is a only surface disinfectant, like bleach or Lysol. Once it enters the body, it is doubtful whether its antibacterial properties remain intact.

Furthermore, "colloidal silver" is a loosely used term for any silver-containing liquid. True colloidal silver consists of pure, microscopic silver particles suspended in water; however, anyone foolish enough to order colloidal silver from a random vendor usually ends up getting a solution of silver ions -- not pure metal. Often, along with the silver ions come chloride ions or unidentified anionic protein fragments. (Eww)

So the point is: if you insist on using colloidal silver for your health needs (rather than the antibiotics that the good lord has provided), then be sure to order a pure silver suspension. And if you insist on using it to cure anything other than a topical bacterial infection, I'd highly recommend keeping your health insurance, you know, just in case . . .

With the recent hysteria in the U.S. concerning anthrax, many of the companies that sold colloidal silver as a cure-all have naturally taken advantage of the situation, proclaiming it as a preventative agent. Whether or not you believe in this solution, however, take heed of the character of the companies selling to you. QuackWatch reports that in a 1995 study of nine different commercially-available solutions, two of them were contaminated with microorganisms, only five actually showed any antibacterial activity whatsoever, and all of them varied wildly in concentration. Colloidal silver intake can also lead to a condition known as argyria, or silver poisoning, in which skin and fingernails can actually take on a blue-gray or silvery hue.

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