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The One About Colloidal Silver

We all love our pets. There isn't much that most of us wouldn't do to save our dog or cat if they were facing a difficult medical diagnosis. And many of us take prevention very seriously. It is easy to see why a proclaimed marvel of old medical technology has been making a comeback recently, along with the promise that it can not only save you but save your little dog too.

According to Alan B G Lansdown (he primarily focused his research on topical silver applications in wound dressing), "chronic ingestion or inhalation of silver preparations - especially colloidal silver - can lead to deposition of silver particles in the skin, eyes, and other organs. These are not life-threatening conditions but cosmetically undesirable." He goes on to claim that ingesting silver is mostly fine. In fact, many physicians are open to silver being used medicinally, and it is a component in many medications we take.

The aforementioned Colloidal Silver - sometimes known as "Grandpa's Cure-all" - is water with millions of suspended silver particles, or nanoparticles (AgNPs), that is consumed in the hopes of deriving health benefits or at times outright cures for otherwise incurable or nearly incurable illnesses. It is sometimes even promoted as a simple dietary supplement. However, evidence supporting health-related claims is severely lacking.

So what gives? How can silver be harmless or even beneficial, while also being a toxic heavy metal? To answer that we need to understand how silver works in the body, how it is manufactured, and take a look at some of the research.

Silver Nanoparticles with 400nm scale comparison

Silver nanoparticles have been shown to be effective for many medical research applications, such as interacting with the HIV-1 virus and inhibiting its ability to bind to host cells (this research has been conducted in test tubes, not human subjects). When applied outside of a test tube and inside a host, silver is absorbed into the body (human or otherwise) and enters the systemic circulation as a protein complex to be eliminated by the liver and kidneys, though deposits are known to happen in all tissues and in the nervous system. This is a key sticking point of concern for some researchers; the deposition in the nervous system. Illuminating in vivo*1 research specific to this concern was published in January 2019, and they tested the effect of AgNPs on memory, learning, social behavior and motor function. The test subjects for this study were BALB/C mice, which are albino House Mice bred specifically for laboratory use from a single strain dating back to 1920.

In this study, titled The Effect of Silver Nanoparticles on Learning, Memory and Social Interaction in BALB/C Mice, AgNPs as well as any non-biodegradable molecule exceeding 7 nm*2 (click here to view information on the nanoscale), are unable to be excreted by the kidneys. They go on to state, "silver will be retained in the body and, as previously studied, will concentrate mainly in organs rich with reticuloendothelial cells such as the liver and spleen. The effect on the brain would mainly relate to the uptake by the endothelial cells that make up the [Blood-Brain Barrier]."

Result 1: When testing memory and recall, the research team found that, "overall results [...] suggested impairment in spatial learning and memory among the groups treated with [Silver]."

Result 2: When testing for potential changes in social behavior, "AgNP-treated mice showed an altered social behavior. The animals of this group preferred to spend significantly more time in the empty chamber than in the chamber containing another animal."

Result 3: When testing motor coordination and learning, "the performance of the control group was significantly better," than the animals given silver nanoparticles.

Previous studies had already demonstrated the ability of these Silver nanoparticles to alter the integrity of the Blood-Brain Barrier and promote neurotoxicity following the accumulation of silver within the brain. Then this research group found a reduction in social interaction and exploratory activity along with impairment in memory, learning, and motor functions. Their data presented compelling evidence that the systemic exposure to silver nanoparticles can result in alteration of cerebral cognition and warrants consideration on the impact of AgNPs with respect to neurotoxicity and long-term health.

So why are these results so different from the opinion expressed by Alan Lansdown at the top of this article? In most professional medical applications it is being used short-term and, perhaps most importantly, is almost always in the form of topicals that are used externally. And therein lies the difference. Colloidal Silver rose to prominence as a method of treating infected wounds before antibiotics were invented. A doctor would flood a wound with Colloidal Silver to help rid the area of harmful bacteria and speed recovery. Proponents of Colloidal Silver today are drinking it, and giving it to their pets to drink. Studies conducted on silver nanoparticle usage inside the body yield mixed results. While studies focusing on external usage almost exclusively yield positive ones. And as noted earlier, Alan Lansdown specializes in the external use of silver.

In short, giving your pet colloidal silver to ingest is potentially unhelpful at best and potentially harmful at worst. When there is reliable medication on the market for almost all medical issues your beloved family pet may be facing, it is an unnecessary risk. Some people will claim that they don't like the side effects of many medications, which is a valid concern. But it isn't a reason to put toxic metals inside your animal that have been demonstrated to produce negative impacts on the brain.

This is not to say there can't be value in alternative solutions. Afterall, even colloidal silver has been demonstrated over and over again to be effective for fighting external infections while providing few, if any, negative side effects. We offer you this advice, however; going an alternative route for treating your pet's ailments may have unnecessary and unknown risks. Just be careful out there!

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Despite claims to the contrary, colloidal silver is not an essential mineral

  2. Colloidal silver should never be used as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem your pet may be experiencing, or used instead of proven medical treatments

  3. Colloidal silver can cause poor absorption of many medications, such as antibiotics and thyroid medications

  4. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. Additionally, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products

  5. Colloidal silver products are sometimes sold as homeopathic remedies, which are also often ineffective at best. (future article coming about homeopathy)

In closing, while we would say that colloidal silver is certainly no miracle, research and its long history appear to demonstrate some validity to it's potential benefits - with the caveat that ingesting it is probably not the best idea. Topical treatment for small wounds may be perfectly safe and are likely beneficial, but internally (especially with these homemade concoctions) the eventual accumulative risks seem to outweigh the benefits. But with the plethora of other topical antibacterial options on the market, using colloidal silver on wounds seems unnecessary at best.


*1 - in vivo refers to "inside" of a living organism, as opposed to in vitro which means "outside" of a living organism such as in a test tube, e.g. in vitro fertilization is fertilization outside of the body such as in the case of "test tube babies," and in vivo fertilization is fertilization inside the body such as through natural copulation.

*2 - The particle size mentioned here (7 nm) may be hard to put into perspective. It is quite small. But AgNPs can be anywhere from 1 - 1000 nm.

Further reading:


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