Colloidal Silver Overview
by Terry Chamberlain (reprinted with permission)
It has already been well established that the metal, silver, that you make
jewelry out of, has a somewhat unique property: It kills nearly all pathogens
on contact. I say, “nearly all” because it doesn’t kill absolutely every single
pathogen. There are 5 or 6 bacteria that not only are not killed by silver, they
LIKE silver, they EAT it. You will see some of these bacteria, for example,
involved in the tarnish that accrues on the surface of silverware or silver jewelry
(along with oxidation). But none of these bacteria hurt human beings.
There are also some fungi that silver does not readily kill.
I have read claims that silver only kills “unfriendly” bacteria and not “friendly”
bacteria, but this is not true. Try to make yogurt with milk into which you have
poured colloidal silver! It won’t work, because the silver killed the “friendly”
acidophilus bacteria. Besides, the labels of “friendly” and “unfriendly” are defined
by these pathogens being convenient or inconvenient to us humans.
I read somewhere that there have been references found in ancient Chinese writings
of it being recommended by a Chinese health practitioner that a piece of silver
jewelry be pressed against an infected wound to fight the infection.
It is generally believed that the Royal Families in Europe would mechanically
grind up silver into a powder and stir it into wine or water and drink it to protect
against sickness. Obviously, they wouldn’t have known about germs and viruses, but
they would have noticed that those who drank this silver-powder didn’t get sick as
often as the non-Royalty common folks (who couldn’t afford to drink silver-powder).
These immensely huge silver particles (millions or billions of times bigger than
anything we make with electricity) would, indeed, kill pathogens, but would also get
caught in the tiny capillaries in the skin and turn dark, resulting in the royalty being
called "Blue-Bloods". This was in addition to the fact that they ate off silver plates,
drank from silver cups and ate with genuine "silverware".
So, let me start at a basic beginning. If you put silver of any type, form or
shape into the presence of and in contact with almost any kind of pathogens, the
silver will kill themto one degree or another. At today’s prices, grinding up silver
and drinking it would be quite expensive.
So, nowadays, we dissolve silver using electricity, which makes the silver particles
quite small. It’s also possible to break up silver by dissolving it in an acid, but the
acid residue is not a healthy substance, and the silver particles are very unstable,
falling out of suspension easily. So I am only going to discuss here silver preparations
made with electricity (electro-colloidal silver, or ECS).
Using electricity and pure water (deionized, steam-distilled or 5-stage reverse osmosis),
there are really only two types of silver preparations:
silver suspensions and silver solutions.
The word “colloidal” is used throughout most of the scientific world
(with some exceptions) to refer to particles of something suspended in some kind
of medium. This medium could be liquid (such as water), oil or gas.
“Suspended” means floating around in the medium. Suspended means that the
particle is in contact with the medium but is not a part of it.
“Colloidal Silver” (CS) means silver particles floating around (suspended) in the
water (steam-distilled is common and recommended).
The size of these particles range from a large size to a very small size.
If the particle is too big to stay in suspension (if it sinks to the bottom), it is not
colloidal. The most common technique to help keep these particles suspended is to
use DC electricity to produce them, which imbues each particle with a positive charge.
Since all the particles have the same charge, they repel each other like the two north poles
of two magnets would. This, by-the-way, is also called “ionic” silver. The word “ionic”
simply means a particle of something that has a charge (look it up in ANY dictionary,
popular, academic or scientific). All silver preparations made with DC electricity are ionic.
It’s not possible to make non-ionic silver with DC electricity. “Ionic” has nothing to do
with the size of a particle, it merely means it has a charge, whatever size that particle is.
As long as the particles have this repelling charge, they stay in suspension (unless they
are too big or they lose their charge).
But it has been noticed that several things affect these ionic colloidal silver particles
and cause them to lose their charge. The most widely-known one is sunlight.
If you place ionic, suspended colloidal silver in the direct sunlight and let it sit there,
the sunlight will increasingly cause the silver particles to lose their charge and be attracted
to other nearby particles, where they will clump together (“aggregate” is the scientific term).
As these clumped particles get bigger from the aggregation of other silver particles that
have lost their charge, eventually they get big enough to refract light, and the colloidal
suspension will obtain a yellow hue. The larger the particles, the darker the hue, from
yellow to gold to brown to purple or grayish-black. This is why it is not uncommon to see
colloidal silver merchants advising their clients to store their CS in a dark place,
away from sunlight.
If you freeze CS, when you melt it the silver particles will sink to the bottom of the
container and you will see what looks like a bit of gray dust at the bottom. That’s the
silver particles that have fallen out of suspension. In the case of freezing, the particles
don’t aggregate, they simply fall out of suspension.
If you place a container of CS on top of a strong magnet, after awhile you will see
this same gray silver-dust at the bottom of the container. This is not because silver is
magnetic - it isn’t - it’s because the magnetic field causes the silver particles to lose
their charge. They do not become magnetic, nor are they attracted to the magnet,
they simply fall out of suspension.
The second type of silver preparation is a silver solution. A colloid is generally
defined as having a maximum size (above which it would be too large to stay
in suspension) down to a minimum size, although the scientific world is not in
complete agreement on that minimum size (and depending on which substance).
Some say one micron, some say smaller, but the point is this: Smaller than this
minimum size, the particles are not considered to be suspended in the medium,
they are considered to be DISSOLVED into the medium. If you were to stir a
teaspoon of sugar into a glass of water, you would not say that the sugar is
floating around in the water, you would just have sweet water. The sugar would
be a part of the water, and it would never leave the water and sink to the bottom,
because it is dissolved. A silver preparation that has successfully dissolved silver
into water (a silver solution) is called by the scientists, “Nanosilver”. The properties
of dissolved nanosilver are completely different than suspended colloidal silver.
Nanosilver is unaffected by sunlight, magnetic fields or freezing.
Dr. Robert Demling is a scientist involved in research concerning the efficacy and safety
of silver preparations. Here are some of his comments:
“Silver has been used for centuries to prevent and treat a variety of diseases, most notably
infections. It has been well documented that silver coins were used in ancient Greece and
Rome as a disinfectant for the storage of water and other liquids. More recently,
NASA still uses silver to maintain water purity on the space shuttle. Silver in solution
has been used as an antimicrobial for wound management for nearly a century. Beginning
in the 1920’s, a small electrical charge was passed through water and silver crystals in order
to obtain an effective silver ion solution [electro-colloidal] to be used topically on wounds.
The charged silver solutions were approved in the 1920’s by the FDA for use as an
antimicrobial agent. In addition to its recognized antimicrobial properties, beginning with
the electro-colloidal elemental form, silver solutions have been reported to improve the
healing of “indolent wounds” and to “regenerate damaged tissue”. The description of
decreased rubor [inflammation] in wounds also reflects an anti-inflammatory property
of silver. More recent information has provided at least a hypothesis as to the mechanism
of silver’s pro-healing and anti-inflammatory effects. Initial literature reports on the use
of pure silver, mainly in the electro-colloidal form, that occurred prior to the 1940’s when
pure silver was still being used. After 1940 a host of systemic antibiotics became prevalent,
decreasing the use of silver except as a topical agent. During this transition, silver was
complexed as a salt (e.g. silver nitrate and silver sulfadiazine) or other compound
(e.g. silver protein) to increase the available silver ion concentration. These silver complexes
remain a popular topical antimicrobial agent for the care of wounds. Silver itself is
considered to be non-toxic to human cells in vivo [inside the body]. The only reported
complication is the cosmetic abnormality argyria caused by precipitation of silver salts in
the skin and leading to a blue-gray color.
“The property of matter depends on size and many of the chemical and physical
characteristics change significantly when matter is reduced in size. Nanotechnology is a
general term that refers to a relatively new frontier of scientific endeavor. The prefix
“nano” signifies one-billionth. Therefore, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter,
a nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Nanotechnology and the ability to deliver silver
from a nanocrystalline structure [electro-colloidal] have and will markedly improve the
biologic value of silver. Silver has extremely potent antimicrobial properties, as only
one part per 100 million of elemental silver is an effective antimicrobial in a solution.
Free silver ions, or radicals, are known to be the active antimicrobial agent. In order to
achieve a bactericidal effect, silver ions must be available in solution at the bacterial
surface [where the pathogens are]. Efficacy depends on the aqueous concentration of
these ions [silver ions in water]. Silver ions appear to kill micro-organisms instantly
by blocking the respiratory enzyme system (energy production), as well as altering
microbe DNA and the cell wall, while having no toxic effect on human cells in vivo.
To date the nanocrystalline silver system kills all microbes found in a wound including
fungi and all current antibiotic resistant strains such as vancomycin-resistant
enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).”
Dr. Demling goes into great detail about the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and
increased healing (cell regeneration) of nanosilver. He even highlights an anti-tumor affect.
He discusses the great deficiencies of silver preparations (silver nitrate,
silver sulfadiazine, etc.) that were used by doctors in the past (and actually still are), but
which are resolved by the extremely tiny particle size of “crystalline” electro-colloidal
nanosilver. He further discusses how these crystalline electro-colloidal particles produce
“complex metastable silver hydroxyl anions”, meaning different forms of silver that act
differently in our bodies. These “complex hydroxyls would be metastable and thus have
an ability to migrate into the surrounding environment and interact with it. The rapid kill
of bacteria and fungi suggests a rapid route of uptake of silver from nanocrystalline silver.”
In essence, he is saying that nanosilver doesn’t just kill pathogens, it migrates through the
body’s cells to kill other pathogens along the way. This would be because the nanosilver
particles are so small they pass through the walls of the cells in the body to get to
pathogens hiding inside the cells. Suspended colloidal silver particles are too large
to do this.
The properties of dissolved nanosilver are not present in suspended colloidal silver.
One of the main points of his research is to highlight the unique properties of dissolved
nanosilver vs. suspended colloidal silver.
He declares nanosilver to be completely safe, and emphasizes that it is complexed silver
salts that are responsible for Argyria (blue-gray skin) or any other toxic affects that have
been reported in the medical literature.
Nanosilver is considered to be more effective than colloidal silver because the silver
particles are small enough to pass through the walls of the body’s cells
(what Dr. Demling calls “metastable”), enabling it to get to the places viruses like to hide.
Colloidal silver particles are too large to do that.
The strength of a silver preparation is measured in what is termed, “ppm”, which stands
for “parts-per-million”. Now, you would get the impression that ppm stood for parts
of one thing in proportion to parts of another thing, but that is not correct. In the scientific
world, the term, “parts-per-million”, actually represents a ratio of one thing to another,
not the number of parts. You could have one lump of silver at the bottom of a container
of water and still have 40 ppm. It is not a unit measurement,
it is a ratio/quantity measurement.
When brewing colloidal or nanosilver, there is a limit to how much silver can be
dissolved into a quantity of water before it reaches a certain saturation point. After this
point, the silver particles begin to aggregate together because the water is saturated with
silver particles. Although there is disagreement on exactly when this point is reached,
it is generally considered to be at about 15-30 ppm. This saturation limit is affected by
things like water pH, temperature, etc. Silver preparation products that are advertised as
being 50, 100, 500 or even 1,000 ppm are not dissolved nanosilver.
20 ppm colloidal silver and 20 ppm nanosilver have the same amount of silver in them,
but the nanosilver has many more particles of silver, which are just as lethal to microbes
as the larger colloidal particles. These nanometer particles also go places the larger
colloidal particles can't (such as inside the cells of our bodies where viruses like to hide).
Colloidal silver particles will float around in the blood stream and will kill any pathogens
they come in contact with. But viruses like to hide inside the cells in our bodies, and
colloidal silver particles are too big to pass through the walls of the cells. However,
nanosilver particles go wherever the water goes, which includes inside the cells in
Here is an important point: Every silver preparation that you buy or anyone brews is a
combination of suspended colloidal silver and dissolved nanosilver, because it is
impossible to make a preparation that is 100% colloidal or 100% nanosilver, and
they are ALL ionic. So, the answer to the question, "Is this colloidal silver or nanosilver
or ionic silver?" is: YES. It is all those things.
I know, you will see various silver products being advertised as "colloidal" or
"nano" or "ionic", but trust me, they are all three. The vendor either doesn't know
what he is talking about or he is trying to fool you with scientific techno-babble.