When the average person thinks of silver, it is not likely that the first thing that comes to mind is that it may be good for your health. Silver has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties, dating back to the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Phoenicians. Silver is an element that is found naturally occurring in whole grains, mushrooms, spring and tap water, and many other places.1,2 Silver found use in antimicrobial and wound-healing applications for battlefield medicine in the 1800s and early 1900s.3 In more recent times, scientists are discovering that these ancient individuals were definitely onto something. Today, silver is used to purify drinking water on the international space station,4 promote wound healing5 and in medical devices.6
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Taking a Silver Supplement?
Silver hydrosol, silver in its most pure form, has also been scientifically shown to be far more effective than prescribed antibiotics. Silver is able to attach itself to and enter harmful bacterial cells, destroying free radicals and creating microbial transduction pathways. In contrast to prescription antibiotics, the gut’s microbiome is unaffected by silver. This is important for sustaining the body’s diverse array of species which are crucial for proper bodily function.
Not only is silver a powerful source for immune support, but it also has a variety of benefits for the skin.3-5 It is an ingredient in many topicals and is particularly useful for burns. When it is in the form of silver hydrosol, it is incorporated into a gel-like form for use. This gel can be applied to the skin to ease anything as minor as bruises and scrapes or more pressing issues like rashes and infections.
“Bioactive silver hydrosol is the ultimate formulation, with greater than 98 percent bioactivity achieved through its unique mixture of silver ions and the smallest particles achievable,” said Dr. Rob MacCuspie, director of science at Natural Immunogenics Corp. in Florida, the makers of Sovereign Silver, a retail brand of dietary supplements and topicals that contain silver, as well as Argentyn 23, a professional line. “These are the most uniform silver particles I’ve seen at this size range in my 20-year career.”
What Are Some of the Clinical Applications of Silver?
Given our increased understanding that silver supplementation can offer several health benefits, it is important to take a look at the science behind it. Scientists have categorized the three most important applications of bioactive silver hydrosol: 1) antimicrobial properties, 2) broad spectrum immune and inflammatory modulation, and 3) effective for wound healing and tissue regeneration.
As far as the antimicrobial properties of silver hydrosol, research has demonstrated that it has the capability of destroying harmful bacteria, like that of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.7 Silver can directly suffocate and destroy the bacteria cells with absolutely no reported negative effects on the body.
The second effect, broad spectrum immune and inflammatory modulation, pertains mostly to the size of the cells. The nanoparticles can be deadly to the cells and as a result, there is a localized inflammatory response.8
Their final property, wound healing and tissue regeneration, has to do with the remarkable healing power of the nanoparticles. The nanoparticles in silver are able to heal the skin rapidly, as they have the ability to catalyze the rate of wounds closing. Furthermore, the silver can also have positive effects relative to the cosmetic appearance of the wound. In most cases, silver can leave the site of injury in the same or in better condition than it was before damage.
Are There Any Risks to Using It? Can You Take Too Much?
With the ingestion of any supplement or drug, there is always concern about potential side effects. The greatest concern from the perspective of a doctor is the potential for argyria, a slight blue coloring to the skin upon excessive ingestion. Nevertheless, research has shown that when silver is used in its most pure form and taken in a low dosage, argyria will not arise. In addition, in-vivo research also illustrates that silver is efficiently excreted from the body.9
This all pertains to the size of the particles of this type of silver, silver hydrosol. The particles are about 0.8 nanometers, which means they are small enough to be safely absorbed into the body and small enough to be effectively eliminated. Despite the various benefits of silver, too much of anything in the body is not healthy. The recommended amount of 10 ppm bioactive silver has to do mostly with your reason for consumption. For “maintenance,” you should only be taking 1 tsp per day. For “building immunity,” you can have up to 3 tsp per day. Lastly, for “long term effects for immunity,” you can take up to 5 tsp per day. No matter the stage you are taking it, it is encouraged you take the silver sublingually, holding it under your tongue for 30 seconds, and then swallowing the remnants.
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about the dangers of heavy metals. Many people are concerned that silver may be considered a heavy metal, and if it were, it would not be safe for long-term use. The term “heavy metal” is generally meant to refer to metals that are considered toxic to humans, even in low doses (e.g., mercury). Technically, silver (Ag) is listed as a “transition metal” on the periodic table. Other metals listed as transition metals include nutritional minerals you would be familiar with, such as chromium, copper, zinc and iron. These are nutrients considered essential to human health, in the proper form and dose.
Silver is an example of one of the lesser-known natural ways in which we can boost our immune health and help healing. If you are looking for an alternate therapy to improve immunity and help speed the healing process, silver may be an option to consider. Like with any dietary supplement, it is best to tell your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Giving them a full picture of what you do to manage your health will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
1 Johns, C., I. The Roman Silver Cups from Hockwold, Norfolk. Archaeologia, 2011. 108: p. 1-13.
2 Alexander, J.W., History of the Medical Use of Silver. Surgical infections, 2009. 10(3): p. 289-292.
3 Manring, M.M., Hawk, A., Calhoun, J.H., Anderson, R.C., Treatment of War Wounds: A Historical Review. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 2009. 467(8): p. 2168-2191.
4 Pierson, D.L., Microbial Contamination of Spacecraft. Gravitational and Space Research, 2007. 14(2).
5 Tian, J., Wong, K.K.Y., H, C.M., Lok C.N., Yu, W.Y., Topical Delivery of Silver Nanoparticles Promotes Wound Healing. ChemMedChem, 2007. 2(1): p. 129-136.
6 Schierholz, J.M., Lucas, L.J., Rump, A., Pulverer, G., Efficacy of Silver-Coated Medical Devices. Journal of Hospital Infection, 1998. 40(4): p. 257-262.
7 Li, J., Tang, M., Xue, Y., Review of the Effects of Silver Nanoparticle Exposure on Gut Bacteria. Journal of Applied Toxicoligy, 2019. 39(1): p. 27-37.
8 Wilding, L.A., Bassis, C.M., Walacavage, K., Hashway, S, Leroueil, P.R., Morishita, M., Maynard, A.D., Philbert, M.A., Bergin, I.L., Repeated Dose (28-day) Administration of Silver Nanoparticles of Varied Size and Coating Does Not Significantly Alter the Indigenous Murine Gut Microbiome. Nanotoxicology, 2016. 10(5): p. 513-20.
9 Bergin, I.L., Wilding, L.A., Morishita, M., Walacavage, K., Ault, A.P., Axson, J.L., Stark, D.I., Hasway, S.A., Capracotta, S.S., Leroueil, P.R., Effects of Particle Size and Coating on Toxicologic Parameters, Fecal Elimination Kinetics and Tissue Distribution of Acutely Ingested Silver Nanoparticles in a Mouse Model. Nanotoxicology, 2016. 10(3): p. 352-360.
Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition during early life and pregnancy. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She is an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, NY and is a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey. Dr. Avena has written several books, including What to Eat When You’re Pregnant and What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler. She regularly appears as a science expert on the Dr. Oz Show, Good Day NY and The Doctors, as well as many other news programs. Her work has been featured in Bloomberg Business Week, Time Magazine for Kids, The New York Times, Shape, Men’s Health, Details, as well as many other periodicals. Dr. Avena blogs for Psychology Today, is a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau and has the No. 2 most watched TED-ED Health talk, “How Sugar Affects Your Brain.” You can follow Dr. Avena on Twitter (@DrNicoleAvena), Facebook (www.facebook.com/DrNicoleAvena) and Instagram (@drnicoleavena), or visit www.drnicoleavena.com.