Silver is probably one of the most researched of the elements. Its potential value for safeguarding public health cannot be ignored. In fact, silver is highly effective in destroying harmful microbes. It was widely circulated long before antibiotics were used.
Table of Contents
- What is ionic silver?
- Silver Nanoparticles vs. Ionic Silver
- What is colloidal silver?
- What is coated colloidal silver?
- Why is coated silver the safest of these types?
- Silver Supplements: Proof of Safety and Effectiveness
- How is colloidal silver useful?
- Here are other current and potential uses of colloidal silver:
What is ionic silver?
Silver supplements generally use one of two forms of silver. The first is ionic silver, and the other is colloidal silver. Most people who take or plan to take silver aren’t aware of the difference. Little do they know it can be harmful, even fatal.
Ionic Silver consists of silver ions, specifically positive silver ions (Ag+). These are highly reactive and readily combine with anything inside the body within seconds. It reacts with stomach acids, body enzymes, and vital organ tissues.
This random, high reactivity of silver ions is what makes it toxic to humans. It burns tissues it comes into contact with. However, researchers found contradictory findings. One study suggests that the human body is naturally protected from silver toxicity because of the high amount of chloride and sulfide ions in the body. These ions somehow help temper the reactivity of silver ions, making these less toxic.
Following the entry of nanoparticle technology, the uses of silver nanoparticles (also known as AgNP) have spread across multiple industries. Regulatory bodies, the scientific community, and the public are divided as to its safety to humans and the environment. Tough decisions have yet to be made as to its appropriate use.
Despite wide disagreement, silver is used for medical implants to decrease the risk of post-surgery infections. Consumer goods manufacturers, like Samsung, have also added it to their products to help keep bacteria under control.
In recent years, silver supplements have also been introduced in the market. Many are concerned it can lead to adverse health effects. Indeed, reasonable precautions must be taken when supplementing with silver. This is because not all silver is the same, and it is not difficult to buy colloidal silver like ionic silver.
Silver Nanoparticles vs. Ionic Silver
A study sought to compare ionic silver vs. silver nanoparticles, and how each one reacts with the body. The study also aimed to find out if these are absorbed by tissues or exit the body. Researchers further examined tissue accumulation of silver and the level of toxicity they cause.
The study used mice as subjects. One group was given silver acetate (AgOAc) while three other groups were given silver nanoparticles at varying sizes. After 13 weeks, the subjects’ internal tissues were examined.
Key findings reveal:
- Rats in the 10nm AgNP group showed silver build-up inside the cells. On the contrary, those in the AgOAc group revealed silver ions have a high affinity to tissue membranes. Although AgNP also accumulated on membranes, a significantly higher amount of silver build-up was noted among subjects in the AgOAc treatment group.
Researchers suggested this indicates that 10nm AgNPs penetrated cells better than AgOAc and larger AgNP particles. This type and size of silver also remained intact after passing through tissue membranes.
- AgNP were absorbed intact. AgNP then relocates to tissues and organs, while keeping its non-disintegrated form.
- Despite effective absorption, the researchers stressed that AgNP did not cause any tissue changes associated with any disease. Moreover, AgNP did not cause lesions which indicates the development of a disease. This observation is based on findings using light microscopy.
- No change in feeding patterns and weight were noted among subjects in the AgNP group. Subjects in the AgOAc group showed otherwise.
What is colloidal silver?
Colloidal silver consists of extremely tiny particles of silver. These are considered as silver nanoparticles or nanosilver as well. Colloidal silver can range anywhere from 1nm to 1,000nm. To be clear, when we use the term, “colloidal silver” here, we are referring to colloidal silver particles sized between 1nm and 100nm only.
Silver nanoparticles exhibit unique properties compared to bulk silver and larger particles of nanosilver. These properties make it behave differently than ordinary silver and plain silver ions.
Vuyutsky defines these unique properties of colloidal silver as follows:
- Colloidal silver is insoluble. Its particles are evenly dispersed yet stays suspended in water. Silver and water will never mix.
- Colloidal silver is heterogeneous. It is neither a solution nor a suspension, neither solid nor liquid. A silver colloid covers a larger surface area than an ordinary solution.
- Colloidal silver is multiphasic. It is neither liquid nor solid. Colloidal silver particles and water molecules are constantly sliding against each other. This causes nanosilver to move rapidly and at random.
What makes colloidal silver even more special is that it retains these properties even when combined with other materials. However, many forms of colloidal silver supplements available in the market either use silver particles larger than 10nm or are prepared using processes that fail to stabilize them.
Silver particles larger than 10nm are unable to penetrate the cell wall. Instead of entering the cells, they end up aggregated on tissue membranes when ingested. On the other hand, unstable silver colloids react with other substances in the body. Many times, these reactions create by-products that can end up hurting your cells.
What is coated colloidal silver?
After years of successful application across industries, there’s no doubt there are potential benefits of nanosilver still waiting to be harnessed. Despite this, the risks of using silver supplements are great. That’s why it matters how your silver supplement was sourced, processed, and packaged. It matters that these processes are developed with your ultimate safety in mind.
Consumer safety is the primary inspiration for the introduction of coated colloidal silver. Unlike earlier forms of silver used for health reasons, this form has safety built into the design.
The coating or capping agent for silver is often made with polymers. That includes polysaccharides and polyethylene glycol. Capping agents address the inherent unstable nature of colloidal silver. The choice of capping agent itself influences the very nature and properties of colloidal silver itself. It can affect its shape, size, and how it behaves.
Why is coated silver the safest of these types?
As colloidal silver takes on a new behavior, it reaps very important advantages vs. uncoated colloidal silver:
- Coated colloidal silver particles are more uniform in size. The size of silver nanoparticles can be maintained at 10nm. At this size, it can better penetrate the tissue membrane and reach cells where its potentially beneficial actions can be realized.
- Coated colloidal silver can maintain its shape. Silver nanoparticle shapes vary depending on how it was synthesized. Some are spherical, hexagonal, or shaped as rods. Researchers suggest that triangular nanosilver particles exhibit the most efficient and the most effective antimicrobial property.
- Coated colloidal silver is more stable. Capping agents are added to stop bare colloidal silver from randomly reacting with other substances. The coating creates an electrostatic surface that makes particles repel each other. Without a capping agent, silver nanoparticles have a strong affinity for each other and tend to aggregate in tissue membranes which keeps them from reaching cells.
- Coated colloidal silver controls the release of silver ions. As such, silver ions are kept within acceptable thresholds. This way, toxicity is prevented more effectively and nanosilver particle levels are better managed. An oversupply of silver ions in the body can lead to adverse health effects.
- Coated colloidal silver exit the body via normal excretory processes. As much as 70.5% to 98.6% of nanosilver particles are eliminated from the body. This means that nanosilver does not accumulate in tissues which lowers the risks for toxicity and development of diseases. The rate of nanosilver elimination from the body is expected to improve with the introduction of a capping agent.
Since silver nanoparticles can safely pass through the body all the way to excretion, the risk of developing argyria is also lower. Argyria is a condition where deposits of silver in the body make the skin appear bluish-grey. A similar condition, argyrosis, can develop in the cornea. Studies have that neither argyrosis nor argyria causes chronic or life-threatening diseases. Even then, people who suffer from these conditions may experience adverse psychological distress, depression, and anxiety.
Silver Supplements: Proof of Safety and Effectiveness
Researchers embarked on a study to examine the safety and effectiveness of different forms of silver. The study examined leading brands of commercial silver supplements sold on amazon.com. A total of 14 brands were rounded up. Each one was subjected to several tool-assisted tests to examine brand claims.
The researchers concluded that the actual properties of silver being sold are not always consistent with marketing claims. In particular, the study found that:
- 10 of the products examined did not contain true silver nanoparticles at all. They further noted that these products made use of silver particles that were larger than 100nm. At this size, silver particles are unable to penetrate the tissue membrane effectively.
Rather than reach cells, these particles tend to aggregate or clump on the surface of tissues. This renders these products ineffective in delivering any potential benefit that may be derived from supplementing with silver.
- Those 10 products showed a clear, colorless liquid. The researchers noted that these are labeled, “colloidal silver”. They stressed further that colloidal silver is expected to appear yellowish because of its inherent properties. Thus, such products are likely made using silver ions, not colloidal silver, and are gravely mislabeled.
- Silver concentration, expressed in ppm, was not always consistent with what’s inside. Some contained far fewer silver particles per drop than what is claimed on the label.
- Only three brands contained silver particles sized between 10 and 20nm. Only one brand of coated colloidal silver carried uniformly silver nanoparticles estimated at 10nm. Consistency in size indicates that the nanosilver particles have a high dispersion rate and are highly effective in fighting off bacteria.
- One brand showed up to two magnitudes higher concentration of nanosilver. That is, approximately 12,900ppm. This means that users can obtain more nanosilver per drop.
Coated colloidal silver is highly effective in destroying harmful microorganisms.
However, it must be noted that the market is replete with fake and counterfeit silver supplement products. Many of which even claim to deliver colloidal silver even if these contain only silver ions. Any other form of silver that is not 10nm colloidal silver nanoparticles are sub-standard and not worth your hard-earned dollar.
How is colloidal silver useful?
Colloidal silver nanoparticles have many uses from the medical field to consumer goods. There remain to be grey areas as to its appropriate use. Despite outstanding uncertainties, the scientific community seems to be in agreement that colloidal silver nanoparticles have a role to play in public health.
One of its most glaring potential uses is in fighting off multi-drug resistant bacteria (MDR). A growing number of bacterial strains have developed resistance to antibiotics over the years. Studies have shown that colloidal silver can destroy MDR bacterial strains. Although more research is needed to establish whether or not MDR bacteria can eventually develop resistance to nanosilver.
Colloidal silver can rapidly destroy bacteria cell membrane in 90 minutes. As soon as it penetrates the bacteria’s cell, colloidal silver causes oxidative stress that produces free radicals. A series of reactions are triggered which, in turn, damages the bacteria. As damage builds up, colloidal silver nanoparticles stop bacteria growth and reproduction. This mechanism makes it an effective treatment against pathogens.
Here are other current and potential uses of colloidal silver:
- Silver nanopartices are used to line medical implants to prevent biofilm and post-surgical infections.
- Silver nanoparticles speed up wound healing and are added to wound dressings.
- Nanosilver is added to fabrics to prevent odor by preventing bacteria from growing.
- Consumer appliances are made with nanoparticles of silver.
- Disinfectants use silver nanoparticles as the active ingredient.
- Air purifiers include nanosilver to clean indoor workspaces.
- Nanosilver may support immune response.
- Colloidal silver nanoparticles may destroy cancer cells.
- Silver nanoparticles may eliminate HIV-1 virus.
- COVID-19 may be tackled by colloidal silver.
The list of possibilities for colloidal silver nanoparticles is endless. A grave stumbling block in realizing its potential for medical and commercial uses is the lack of consensus on toxicity. Meanwhile, its potential uses continue to be harnessed across industries.
Increasing awareness about its mechanism of action dictate that different forms of silver exhibit varying properties. Silver ions do not act on the body and on pathogens in the same way that colloidal silver nanoparticles do.
Anybody planning to take silver as a supplement should take so with caution. Silver nanoparticles are highly effective but it matters what kind of silver you’re taking. Make sure to look up your products and examine it closely. Don’t be duped by copycats and counterfeits.