If someone told you that they were in possession of something that could cure any illness almost instantaneously, would you believe it?
If you were told that there was a small risk of permanently changing the color of your skin, would you be willing to run the risk and take it anyway?
The name of the elixir in question is colloidal silver, and it is concocted by suspending microscopic silver particles in liquid.
Colloidal silver has been claimed to be effective against hundreds of conditions and diseases, including cancer, AIDS, parasites, acne, enlarged prostate, pneumonia, and a myriad of others. However, long-term use of this silver can lead to a conditional called argyria, (about which more in a moment), which can leave you with permanent death pallor.
Does colloidal silver really carry the medicinal cure-all properties it is claimed to have, or is it just risk without benefit?
“Colloidal silver was used a lot about 15 years ago”, Dr. Joan-Ellen Macredis, a naturopathic physician told me. “It was believed to boost the immune system by increasing the body’s ability to heal. But there isn’t really any research supporting that. And there are so many other things out there that are documented to work well without possible side effects, so why take a chance?”
Why indeed. True, silver has had some medicinal uses going back for centuries. However, more modern and less toxic drugs have eliminated most of those uses. A few prescription drugs containing silver are still available. Silver nitrate can be used to prevent an eye condition called conjunctivitis in newborn babies, and silver sulfadizine can be used to treat burns, but these drugs are applied to the body, not taken internally like colloidal silver, and they can still have negative side effects. “When they started telling us not to use it for more than two weeks, I took it off my shelf”, says Dr. Macredis.
Then there’s argyria, a condition in which a buildup of silver turns the skin metallic ashen-gray. Argyria cannot be treated or reversed, and it is permanent. While it is not known how argyria occurs, it is thought that silver combines with protein, forming complexes that deposit in the skin and are processed by sunlight (as in traditional photography). Other side effects from using colloidal silver products may include neurologic problems (such as seizures), kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches, fatigue, and skin irritation. Colloidal silver may interfere with the body’s absorption of the following drugs: penacillamine, quinolones, tetracyclines, and thyroxine.
To top it off, the claims for miraculous benefits appear to be completely unsupported. One study in the Journal of Wound Care (“Colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent: Fact or fiction?”) tested three samples of colloidal silver on bacterial strains and found that they had absolutely no effect. “People take it thinking it’s a preventative, but there’s not a shred of evidence that it prevents anything”, Dr. Macredis stated.
To be entirely fair, the makers of colloidal silver products agree that too much silver is a clear and present danger, but they argue that the minute amounts they use are not a danger, and are needed for antiviral, antibacterial effects. The problem is there isn’t any research supporting those claims.
The Food and Drug Administration has declared that all over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver for internal or external use are not generally recognized as safe and effective and are misbranded.
“There are so many other things that work well to support the immune system”, Dr. Macredis told me. “It’s a risk without benefit. Why take a chance?”