Colloidal Ionic Silver: Benefits, Uses and Side-Effects

A lot has been written about properties and uses of colloidal (ionic) silver dispersions and various bioactive properties of silver cations (Ag+). General public interest in applications of colloidal ionic silver dispersions (CISD) is quite understandable considering the uses of CISD which are diverse and range from antimicrobial treatments and facilitation of wound healing process to odour prevention in shoes and clothes.

Unfortunately, most information available on the internet and in popular magazines is often outdated and sometimes even self-contradictory. Colloidal ionic silver dispersion (CISD) is often portrayed as a sort of panacea with no side effects which is not true in reality. CISD treatment might cause exacerbation of some medical conditions, and it should be avoided in such cases.

Many scientific studies have been conducted on the topic of properties and effectiveness of colloidal ionic silver dispersions. However, most of them were published in non-English languages. Perhaps it is the language barrier that might explain why some of the laboratory and observational data is often overlooked and not taken into consideration.

What Is Colloidal Silver?

The name colloidal silver means that tiny particles of silver (Ag) are dispersed in the water thus forming a colloidal dispersion. The microscopic particles of silver are evenly distributed in a volume of water in such a way which prevents their settling. Ideally, the size of silver particles should range from 10 nm to 500 nm. However, due to imperfections in the production process, there is a certain percentage of silver particles that are larger, which can sometimes be seen under an optical microscope.

The concentration of silver particles in a colloidal dispersion is usually expressed in ppm (parts per million) and measured by specially designed laboratory instruments. The concentration of Ag particles in the colloidal dispersion can also be measured through the measurement of ohmic resistance. Measured values of dispersion’s resistance are non-linear and are dependent on several physical factors like the temperature of dispersion, its degree of contamination, cleanliness of test probes surfaces and their relative positions etc. The resistance measurement method is useful but a crude method of measuring the saturation of colloidal (ionic) silver dispersions.

Benefits of Colloidal Silver

The composition of the colloidal (ionic) silver dispersion is probably one of the most critical factors contributing to its effectiveness. It has been found that bioactive effects (benefits) of colloidal silver dispersions can probably be attributed to the particular electrochemical activity of the silver cations Ag+. Higher concentration of Ag+ cations in the colloidal silver dispersion directly correlate to the effectiveness of the colloidal silver dispersion in medicinal and wound healing facilitation applications.

Due to imperfections in the production process, most homemade colloidal silver dispersions contain 5 – 20% of silver (Ag+) cations. On the other hand, adequately produced high-quality colloidal ionic silver dispersions can contain 80 – 95 % of Ag+ cations which makes it much efficient and potent. To make a distinction between colloidal silver dispersion which contains a low concentration of Ag+ cations and a high-quality dispersion which contains a high concentration of Ag+ cations often a term “ionic” is added to the name – Colloidal Ionic Silver Dispersion (CISD).

Higher concentration of Ag particles and silver ion cations (Ag+) in the colloidal dispersion is desirable due to better effectiveness of CISD in the treatment of wounds and infections. However, when the concentration of Ag particles and cations (Ag+) gets too high, it reaches the threshold of agglomeration. In other words, Ag particles and cations (Ag+) in the colloidal dispersion are evenly distributed due to their mutual electrostatic repulsive force being the same polarity. When saturation of colloidal dispersion reaches a certain threshold, the net repulsive force becomes too strong, and any irregularity in the distribution matrix of the Ag particles causes its instability and grouping of particles into larger clusters (“clumps”). Structure of such clusters prevents their electrochemical interaction with living cells thus effectively rendering agglomerated CISD entirely useless for any medicinal use.

Agglomeration

Agglomeration is grouping of particles into clusters. Agglomerated colloidal silver dispersion can easily be recognised by a yellowish tint of dispersion which ranges from slightly visible colouration to dark yellowish tones similar in appearance to urine. Other colourations of the colloidal ionic silver dispersion are considered to be a sure indicator of its contamination with foreign particles.

Agglomeration event usually happens if proper production procedures are not observed, but it can also be caused by some external stimulus like too high or too low storage temperature, exposure to sunlight, evaporation of water from dispersion etc. HSCISD with a high saturation level of up to 19 ppm is more sensitive to an external stimulus, and sometimes even the sudden shake of the container can cause agglomeration. That is the reason why CISD and HSCISD should be stored in closed, dark glass containers at a temperature that is not lower than 6 – 7 °C nor higher than 20 – 25 °C.

The Colour of Colloidal Ionic Silver

Correctly produced colloidal ionic silver dispersion should be entirely transparent, with no visible particles or colourations of any kind. When held against the light, ideally the liquid should present no apparent visual distortions or reflections. One of the simplest methods of identifying colloidal dispersions is by using Tyndall scattering effect. Tyndall scattering effect can be observed in colloidal dispersions by scattering of light of coherent light beam passing through the dispersion. In the case of colloidal ionic silver dispersion the most straightforward way of using Tyndall scattering effect is to point laser beam through the dispersion. The laser beam gets scattered, and it appears to thicken while passing through the CISD. Higher concentration of dispersed Ag particles causes more light scattering of the laser beam, and it appears to grow thicker. Other factors like size of particles and even temperature of dispersion also affect scattering of the laser beam and introduce non-linearity in measurement, so this method should be considered to be only a crude indicator of CISD saturation levels.

Properties of water used in the production process and its possible contamination might present the problem because silver particles and especially silver cations (Ag+) easily react with minerals or other electrochemically active particles and molecules when they come in contact with them. As a result of such process, various silver ionic compounds (like silver salts) are synthesised. Silver salts exhibit virtually no bioactive effects, and they tend to accumulate in the tissues.

Uses of Colloidal Ionic Silver

Two of the most interesting bioactive properties of colloidal ionic silver dispersions are the capability to kill microbes (and generally all prokaryotes) and to cause dedifferentiation of red blood cells into polypotent cells (stem cells). In both cases, saturation of CISD and electrochemical properties of silver cations (Ag+) play a significant role. Highly saturated CISD (HSCISD) is more effective than the regular CSID due to a higher concentration of Ag particles in the dispersion. On the other hand, a high amount of silver cations (Ag+) provide the basis for electrochemical reaction with microbes and red blood cells.

Treatments with CISD and HSCISD often result with the death of microbial organisms like bacteria, yeast, mould and majority of other prokaryotes. Such antimicrobial action is attributed to the inhibition of prokaryote’s cell membrane respiratory enzymes by disrupting their electron transport chain. Disruption of prokaryotes respiratory cycle by silver cations (Ag+) consequently leads to their death by “suffocation”. Since the underlying mechanism of microbial death is electrochemical by its nature, it is virtually impossible for microbes and other prokaryotes to develop any resistance to treatments with CISD.

The effectiveness of colloidal ionic silver dispersion on viruses is still a matter of debate. Although there is some experimental evidence that CISD could be beneficial on virus infections, the mechanism of its action is not well understood. Currently, prevalent theory of CISD antiviral properties is based on the fact that every virus, once it infiltrates a living cell, takes control of infected cell’s metabolic processes to replicate itself. Metabolic processes of the “incubator” cell are thus changed into the form somewhat similar to the respiratory mechanism of prokaryotes. When such change occurs, the infected cell becomes sensitive to the electrochemical action of Ag+ cations which are then capable of inhibiting its respiratory processes and killing it. In that way infected cell is devitalised or killed before the virus can reproduce and the viral infection is effectively prevented.

Perhaps the most exciting property of colloidal ionic silver dispersion is its capability to dedifferentiate red blood cells. Some of the earliest sources describing effects are works of Dr Robert O. Becker who observed faster healing of wounds, with less scarring, if wounds were to come in contact with silver cations (Ag+). He managed to produce silver cations (Ag+) directly in the wound by application of weak direct current to the silver electrodes and facilitate the wound healing process. At a later date it was discovered that silver cations (Ag+) could be produced in a separate process (CISD, HSCISD) and then applied directly to the wound.

Initially, the underlying process of facilitated wound healing was not well understood. At a later date, it was discovered that red blood cells dedifferentiate into a form similar to stem cells when they come in contact with silver cations (Ag+). Although entirely developed red blood cells lack a nucleus, it was later discovered that they do contain nucleus in the early stages of their development and before their final differentiation. It is probably those “immature” cells that react with silver cations (Ag+) and dedifferentiate into polypotent cells although the physical mechanisms are not yet completely understood.

Cells undergoing dedifferentiation process redevelop their nucleus and essentially become polypotent. Stem cells produced in such processes accumulate into clusters which eventually become building blocks for new tissue. An accelerated rate of growth of various types of tissue can be observed virtually whenever properly produced CISD is applied on open wounds or burns.

Although CISD is somewhat an effective antiseptic, it must be noted that skin penetration properties of Ag particles and silver cations (Ag+) are virtually non-existent. Penetration of CISD into the cornified layer of skin limits its use almost exclusively to topical treatments. Usefulness of CISD in the treatment of internal or systemic infections by ingestion of CISD is doubtful since most of the silver particles inevitably react with hydrochloric acid and other stomach content to form various silver compounds (mostly silver salts). Some theories have been proposed, speculating that silver cations (Ag+) do not react with hydrochloric acid and that they are absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach lining and intestinal walls.

Experiments we performed indicate that electrochemical activity of silver cations (Ag+) is high enough to cause an immediate reaction with even just minute amounts of mineral contaminants in water. As a consequence, the synthesis of silver salts and other ionic compounds takes place. In my view, it is illogical to suppose that CISD and HSCISD would somehow differently behave when they come in contact with hydrochloric acid and remnants of food in the stomach.

Colloidal Ionic Silver and Cancer

Another controversial topic relates to properties and possible uses for colloidal ionic silver dispersion in the treatment of (topic) neoplasms like a tumour and cancer. Although there is no known mechanism by which CISD could affect a tumour and cancer cells, some reports are indicating possible beneficial effects in some cases of topical neoplastic diseases (various skin tumours and cancers). It must be noted that in most of such cases CISD was used only as supplemental treatment rather than primary one, so there is no real way of knowing if CISD did affect neoplasms or was it just a coincidence or even a placebo effect.

One could speculate that treatments with colloidal ionic silver dispersions cure visible or occult secondary infections of neoplasm and surrounding tissues. By curing secondary infections some of the previously occupied resources of the immune system would be available to attack neoplastic cells additionally. Furthermore, areas infected with microbes and yeast often exhibit a decrease in pH which provides neoplastic cells more suitable growth medium. By curing the infections, pH of the surrounding medium should at least slightly rise toward alkaline, thus providing an environment which is less suitable for development and growth of the neoplasm.

Given the fact that genesis of some neoplastic diseases has been linked to viral and yeast infections, it might as well be that some of the observed beneficial effects could be attributed to (possible) antiviral and antimicrobial properties of CISD.

Side Effects of Taking Colloidal Ionic Silver

Although some sources advocate treatment of neoplastic diseases with CISD, I would strongly advise against any such action. What makes me wary of such treatments is the fact that when silver cations (Ag+) come into contact with red blood cells, they induce dedifferentiation in those cells and they effectively transform into a sort of polypotent cells (stem cells). The reason why CISD should not be used for the treatment of neoplastic diseases is that stem cells are known sometimes to exacerbate neoplastic diseases and could lead to an acceleration of a tumour and cancer growth or their metastasising. That is also the main reason why conventional stem cells therapy is counter-indicated if the patient suffers from a neoplastic disease.

There have been reports from the 1930s and ’40s of experimental treatments using intravenous and intramuscular injections to deliver CISD (perhaps HSCISD as well) directly to the infection foci. While such an approach to CISD treatments seems like a logical approach, there is always a question of possible side effects that might occur as a result of such treatments. Unfortunately, historical data on intravenous and intramuscular use of colloidal ionic silver dispersion is scarce and incomplete, and I am not aware of any on-going research of this topic.

That being said, some of the properties of CISD and HSCISD reported in the literature and by users also seemed illogical and perhaps impossible, only to be proven real and explained at a later date. I hope that future research and experimental data will provide a more definite answer to the question of the usefulness of ingestion of CISD and HSCISD. However, for the moment I remain sceptical.

Excessive accumulation of silver salts and other silver compounds in the body may lead to the development of the medical condition called argyria. Although argyria is not life-threatening or debilitating, it does have the unfortunate consequence of the permanent change of skin colour tone to bluish-grey tone and increased photosensitivity. It must be noted that one would have to ingest very high doses of silver salts over more extended periods to develop argyria. In case of properly produced colloidal ionic silver dispersions, silver salts are virtually non-existent. Since it is virtually impossible for silver cations (Ag+) to accumulate in tissues any chance of developing argyria is eliminated.

Conclusion

High quality colloidal ionic silver dispersions have proved themselves to be effective in the treatment of topical infections and facilitation of wound healing process. However, CISD has its limitations and is NOT panacea in any way. It might even be detrimental or dangerous to apply CISD treatment in case of neoplastic diseases like tumours and cancers for the reasons given earlier in this overview.

Presently there is not enough reliable information available for us to be able to predict with certainty what would be the effects of CISD on some particular diseases. During my research on improvements and enhancements of the HSCISD production process, I fast learned that there are many seemingly unimportant parameters which one might overlook as unimportant but which at the later stage of research proved to be crucial for the success of production process and medicinal and other applications.

Although it is difficult at times to gather data on the behaviour of CISD and HSCISD in treatments, recently I had an opportunity to observe once more the effectiveness of highly saturated colloidal ionic silver dispersion in the facilitation of wound healing process. During the HSCISD treatment, I took a few photographs which illustrate some of the points I mentioned earlier in this brief overview of CISD properties.

Please note: To keep this article as understandable as possible I had to resort to simplifications as much as possible although it inevitably leads to loss of scientific accuracy.

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