Silver. It’s a word that brings to mind jewellery, currency, cutlery. In recent years, we’ve also seen it in our plasters, bandages and even as a health supplement. Some Asian cultures today still drink water boiled with silver as a way to ward against disease. Is there any truth to such practices? What exactly does silver do, and how can it help us to stay healthy?
Silver’s Long History
Throughout the ages, silver has been used by many civilisations as a disinfectant and healing aid. Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine," believed that silver healed wounds and controlled disease. The early Greeks and Romans were taught to beat silver into very thin foil to wrap around wounds to prevent infection and hasten healing.
Did Silver Save the Royals?
Even the term ‘Blue Bloods’ might have originated as a result of silver. During the middle ages, the upper classes dined with silverware to reduce their exposure to poisons and infection. This protected them from the brunt of the plague outbreak. While effective against disease, accumulation of heavy metals (like silver) in the body can lead to argyria, a condition where skin turns blue. Could these privileged royals have developed a bluish tint to their skin from their continued ingestion of silver?
Silver for Safe Drinking
Silver was a well-known water cleansing agent in the past. Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia (550 - 529 BC) only drank water stored in silver flagons to prevent sickness. Early American settlers believed that putting a silver dollar into their milk and water helped to keep liquids fresh and algae-free. In the Napoleonic wars, the Russian army used water casks lined with silver to clean their drinking water from rivers and streams. This practice lasted all the way up to World War II. In 1869, Raulin recorded that Aspergillus niger (a type of mould) could not grow in silver vessels - the first clinical record of silver’s water purification properties. Today, silver is still a major component in the U.S. water purification market.
How Silver Ions Work
In 1869, Swiss botanist Karl Wilhelm von Nageli discovered that certain metals were lethal on affected bacteria even at high levels of dilution. Recent studies confirm that silver ions are effective against bacteria even at low concentrations of 1 part per billion in pure water.
Silver Stops Bacterial Growth
Silver ions inhibit the growth of bacteria by deactivating their oxygen metabolism enzymes. This in turn blocks cell respiration, destroys the bacteria’s cell membranes and stops the replication of the bacteria’s DNA -- thus stopping infection in its tracks. Silver ions not just act against bacteria. They are also effective against the enzyme systems of virus, yeasts and harmful parasites, making ionic silver an effective broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent.
Silver Promotes Tissue Healing
Silver ions are also powerful tissue healing agents. They are commonly used for burn and wound care, as they not only prevent infection but also promotes new cell growth, helping wounds heal better and faster. Step into a pharmacy and you’ll see plenty of plasters and wound dressings that have been enhanced with “silver ions”. These days, silver products include many variations of bandages, intratracheal tubes and catheters.
- Silver has been used throughout the ages as an antibacterial agent.
- Silver ions disable the enzyme systems of bacteria, viruses, and parasites, making them inert.
- Silver ions promote tissue growth and are effective in aiding wound healing.
- The use of silver ions is common in many aspects of healthcare today.
- Silver ions (Ag+) are the active agents that destroy bacteria, not physical silver. Physical silver is a heavy metal, and carry very few silver ions, making them less effective as an antimicrobial.
- Ingesting too much (physical) silver can lead to argyria (skin turns blue).
Want to add some silver to your daily health maintenance routine?