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Note: This article reflects knowledge about Colloidal Silver from the 1990s. While in the most part still valid, it does not cover recent advances in automatic metering and current management found in the Silvonic Pro CS Generator which makes much finer particles and more ions. The CS made by the Silvonic will not degrade when exposed to light.
During the last two years, a number of books and articles have appeared in public on the subject of colloidal silver. Some of these include: the Bio-Tech News Special Report, "Hi-Yo Silver"; Colloidal Silver, The Natural Antibiotic Alternative, by Zane Baranowski; Colloidal Silver, by Tonita d'Raye; and "Banishing Disease with Three Nine Volt Batteries", parts I & II, by Mark Metcalf. Literally hundreds of other newsletters and small publications have repeated the information in these articles without checking the content for accuracy.
The appearance of these materials two years ago was the first wave of public education concerning colloidal silver. Today, most Health Food Stores carry and sell several brands of colloidal silver, scores of MLM companies have colloidal silver products in their lines, and prices are starting to drop. While it is still possible to spend as much as $10/oz. for colloidal silver in Health Food Stores, prices can be as low as $5/oz. Some mail order catalogs sell it for as little as $2.50/oz., and I have seen small classified ads selling it for under $1/oz. The trend is definitely toward a lower price.
One of the phenomena driving the price down is the appearance of the devices that allow people to make their own colloidal silver. At this time, (Spring 1997) the cottage industry of colloidal silver generators is starting to penetrate the larger market. This is starting to cause alarm in high places. One major commercial manufacturer of colloidal silver has recently issued a warning statement to its customers, alerting them to the dangers of the "inferior quality" of colloidal silver made by these devices. CNN and other major media have also tried to scare the public away from colloidal silver by showing a blue-skinned person who "suffers" from Argyria, a cosmetic condition caused by the build-up of silver compounds under the skin. Even JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) has run articles warning of Argyria and the toxicities associated with "colloidal silver proteins." On January 16, 1997, new labeling guidelines concerning colloidal silver went into effect, issued by the FDA. Other FDA rulings on "safety and effectiveness" are still pending. With all of these developments, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the whole situation around colloidal silver is heating up!
The purpose of this article is to raise the level of public knowledge to a higher degree of accuracy. Knowledge is power, and the public needs to know the truth about colloidal silver.
The first thing people need to know is that there are at least FOUR different products on the market being called COLLOIDAL SILVER.
The first type of product is the classic, original kind, usually called "electro-colloidal silver." This product is made either by the "electro-arc" method in deionized water, or by the "low voltage electrolysis" method in distilled water. This product is usually found in concentrations between 3-5 ppm (parts per million), but sometimes as high as 100 ppm. Properly made, this product consists of microscopic particles of pure, elemental silver suspended in water, with no other elements present. Each particle of silver carries a POSITIVE electrical charge. Colloidal silver made this way appears either transparent-clear or transparent-light yellow.
The second is called "mild silver protein." This product chemically binds microscopic particles of silver to a protein molecule. It is usually found in concentrations between 20-40 ppm. Its appearance may be transparent-clear or amber.
The third are "silver salts." These products can be made either chemically or electro-chemically and usually create a form of silver that DISSOLVES in the water. Concentrations range between 50-500 ppm. Its appearance is transparent-clear. The silver particles do carry a POSITIVE electrical charge, but almost invariably, these products contain other elements or compounds other than silver.
The fourth is sometimes referred to as "powdered silver." This product was developed by the Russians and is made when a pure silver wire is rapidly disintegrated by an high voltage electrical discharge, similar to an old photographic flash bulb. The microscopic silver dust is collected and either dissolved in water or added to salves and creams for topical use. Concentrations range from 100-500 ppm.
All of these products work, to one degree or another, as a broad spectrum germicide because they all contain microscopic particles of SILVER. That said, it is important to understand a number of things: 1) all of these products are not "colloidal suspensions" of silver, 2) these products DO NOT all behave the same in the body or in laboratory tests, 3) effectiveness and dosage varies from product to product, 4) quality varies from product to product and from batch to batch with the same product, and 5) they are NOT all uniformly safe and non-toxic. There are no industry standards that manufacturers voluntarily follow to assure quality control and there is no governmental regulation of the industry.
On the other hand, there are millions and millions of satisfied colloidal silver users who would like to have continued, free access to the product, and a growing number of manufacturers entering the market with a wide variety of new products.
The critical factors that make a "good" colloidal silver product are particle size, purity, concentration, and cost. The only way to authoritatively determine the first three is by laboratory analysis. The best way to determine particle size is by electron microscope photograph. The best way to determine purity is by mass spectroscopy or by x-ray defraction analysis. The best way to determine concentration is by chemical analysis of total dissolved solids. The cost of the product should be calculated in reference to the total quantity of silver present, such as: $5.00/oz of 100 ppm is equal to 25¢/oz of 5 ppm (the first has 20 times more silver by volume and costs 20 times more by volume.)
Making Your Own
If you are already making your own colloidal silver, please pay special attention to this section because much of the information you now have may be incorrect.
The simplest way to make real colloidal silver at home is by the "low voltage electrolysis" method. A few batteries may be connected to some silver electrodes and placed in a glass of water. This process will cause small particles of silver to be sintered off the electrodes and enter the water. This deceptively simple method is very easy to do WRONG, and most people who are making colloidal silver at home are making an inferior product.
It's In The Water
Another variable that influences particle size is the water temperature. The warmer the water, the faster the reaction will take place, and the smaller the particles will be.
Please Pass The Salt
The Best Is Yet To Come
When 30 volts is applied across silver electrodes held uniformly apart in distilled water, a totally different event happens. First, the reaction proceeds very slowly. Often, for the first 15 minutes nothing seems to be happening. Then finally, a faint yellow mist will begin to form. Within a few minutes, the reaction will speed up, but the particles produced will be a golden-yellow as viewed with a flashlight. Using this method, 8 ounces of distilled water at room temperature can be made into a 3-5 ppm colloidal silver preparation in 20-25 minutes. Made this way, colloidal silver can cost under 10¢/oz to make. Electron microscope photographs of this product show a silver particle size in the range .001 to .004 microns. During manufacturing, the particle cloud is a golden-yellow. These particles will hang in the water at the level they are produced, and for the most part, will not fall to the bottom of the glass. This is what a "colloidal" preparation of silver looks like. After the particles disperse, the water will look clear again, but may turn a light yellow if the concentration is high enough and after the particles have become evenly dispersed.
"The Yellow Color"
The Brown Glass Bottle
The Same Difference
Colloidal or Ionic?
The word "ionic" refers to a condition where a particle has an electric charge. In the case of "electro-colloidal" silver, this electric charge is ALWAYS positive. Silver will not form a negatively charged ion. So, the truth is that electro-colloidal silver is BOTH colloidal and ionic. It is considered colloidal because of the particle SIZE and it is considered ionic because of the particle CHARGE. In fact, most of the biological studies suggest it is colloidal silver's ionic characteristics that make it such a good germicide. It is also interesting to note that the old chemistry books make no distinction between the colloidal and ionic states of the electro-colloidal metals.
Purity of Silver
In one sample of 10 ppm colloidal silver we sent out for total analysis (made with 99.9% silver electrodes), the primary impurities found were: 1) Sodium, 470 ppb, 2) Calcium, 260 ppb, 3) Manganese, 70 ppb, 4) Potassium, 50 ppb, and 5) Magnesium, 24 ppb. Since none of these impurities could have come from the silver, it suggests that the purity of the water should be of greater concern to the person making their own colloidal silver, than spending extra money on purer silver.
Safety and Toxicity
Argyria, while not being a deadly condition, certainly is undesirable. It is usually caused by the massive intake of silver salts, such as silver nitrate, silver sulfate, and silver chloride. To determine just how toxic these substances are, I contacted the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry through their on-line information service at (http://atsdr1.atsdr.cdc.gov:8080/ToxProfiles). All of these silver salts are talked about as toxins, but the only consequence of even high exposure in humans that is listed is Argyria. EPA issues a "control code" for each toxic substance it tracks that can cause human illness. Silver nitrate and silver sulfate have control codes, but silver chloride does not. I received essentially the same information when I spoke with Dr. Eidson at the Department of Epidemiology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Apparently, the government thinks silver and silver compounds are toxins that essentially have no significant toxic effects other than the ability to discolor your skin.
Looking just a little deeper into the situation, I pulled out Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica by J.T. Kent. In the section on the use of metallic silver as a homeopathic remedy, there are 7½ pages of indications (symptoms) that include actions on the nerves and cartilage, as well as increased tendency toward emotional outbursts and mental excitability. In fact, the list of symptoms is rather extensive. So, exposure to silver may not kill you or cause organic disease, but that may not mean there is no toxicity. Apparently, silver has the ability to act as a subtle irritant as well as lodge in certain tissues. This suggests that taking colloidal silver every day may not be a good idea for people who already have these symptoms.
Electro-colloidal silver's effectiveness as a broad-spectrum germicide is directly related to the number and size of the particles. The same volume of space taken up by one silver particle .1 microns in size, will hold about 10,000 silver particles .001 microns in size. This reduction in particle size not only allows for a greater distribution of the silver, but it also greatly increases the total surface area of silver available for interacting with the environment. These, plus the stability of the electrical charge, are the most important factors when considering the effectiveness of colloidal silver.
Here is an example of the problem. It is now estimated that one in four women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. I have spoken to two women who claim to have cured themselves of breast cancer with colloidal silver. They were both diagnosed by biopsy. After the diagnosis, they took 2 teaspoons of colloidal silver a day until their surgery. One took a home-made product, the other took a silver protein product. In both cases, the biopsy of the removed breast tissue and lymph nodes was cancer free. The question is, will colloidal silver work this well for all cases of breast cancer? Probably not, but in the current legal and political environment, we may never know. No pharmaceutical company can control or monopolize ownership of colloidal silver, so none of them will ever fund the testing, which currently costs over $10 Million and takes 10 years. FDA says if you claim that colloidal silver cures breast cancer, that would classify it as a new drug, and the public cannot be given access to new drugs without proper testing. Using the FDA model, it could cost the public $1-billion to "prove" to the FDA what the FDA already knows about colloidal silver. Politics has definitely entered this picture. FDA does not want to be exposed as an enforcer for the drug companies, or be seen as an agency clearly not acting in the public's best interest. While these ideas are not new to some of us, it would be a startling revelation if a large portion of the population began thinking this way. FDA would certainly like to avoid this "public relations" embarrassment. The fact is, FDA has never spent our tax dollars discovering something important, and then published their findings for the benefit of the public at-large; especially when it involved something that was powerful, safe, and inexpensive for the public to make for themselves. Obviously, empowering the population to be self-reliant and frugal in relation to their own healthcare is not the FDA's responsibility.
Colloidal silver clearly has some extraordinary capabilities and hundreds of legitimate uses. But without standardization, quality control, and extensive medical testing, the public will never know how best to use colloidal silver in a given situation. FDA may yet try to restrict public access to colloidal silver, claiming it is unsafe, even though they know how "safe and effective" it CAN BE when used properly. In the absence of the release of this authoritative testing data, the public is left just experimenting and groping for the answers. A big fight over the public's access to colloidal silver may be looming because the cost of healthcare in this country is out of control, and the public is looking for inexpensive solutions that work. In that sense, colloidal silver could be "just what the doctor ordered."
There are a number of strategies that can reduce the probability of digestive interactions. The simplest one is to swish the colloidal silver around in your mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing. This promotes an absorption of the colloidal silver into the body away from the intestinal tract. Another strategy is to take smaller doses, multiple times per day, or with meals. Either way, if you do experience a die-off of friendly flora, they can be re-populated by taking any of the acidophilus products on the market.
If you buy one of the colloidal silver makers on the market, make sure it can make the "yellow" particles. When you make it yourself, make sure you are making the "yellow" particles. If you have any doubts about the quality of the product you are making or buying, you can send samples to any of the following laboratories for definitive testing.
For particle size testing with electron microscope, contact: EMS Laboratories, 117 West Bellevue Drive, Pasadena, CA 91105 (818) 568-4065 Price will be under $200 per sample.
For concentration test (mg/L) of total dissolved solids, contact: Associated Laboratories, 806 North Batavia, Orange, CA 92668 (714) 771-6900 Call for prices.
For elemental analysis, including "Tyndall effect" and "precipitation" test, contact: Kimball Laboratories, 600 East 11800 South, Draper, UT 84020 (801) 571-3695 Call for prices.
These companies are busy professionals who have no idea I am listing them in this article. Please don't waste their time unless you plan to submit samples for testing with payment.
Kehoe, R. A. et al, 1940. J. Nutr. 19:579.
Kent, J.T. Lectures on Homeopathic Materia Medica, Jain Publishing Co. New Delhi, India, reprint 1982.
Michaelis, L. The Effects of Ions in Colloidal Systems, Williams & Williams Co. Baltimore, MD, 1925.
Ostwald, W. Practical Colloid Chemistry, Methuen & Co. Ltd. London, UK, 1926.
Simonetti, N. et al, Electrochemical Ag+ for Preservative Use. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. American Society for Microbiology: Washington,1992, Vol. 58, No. 12, pp 3834-3836.
The Association for Advanced Colloid Research, 232 NE Lincoln St. Ste."G", Hillsboro, OR 97124, private conversations.
Borderland Sciences Research Foundation, PO Box 220, Bayside, CA 95442
Special thanks to Michael Theroux for valuable research and private consultation.