Silver and its Early Uses

Man’s use of silver as a disinfectant dates back to our earliest recorded history.

The Greeks and others used silver vessels for water and other liquids to keep them fresh. The Egyptians used silver as a thin beaten paper-like product and wrapped it around wounds to avoid infection. The Druids lined their drinking vessels with the metal for disinfecting and sanitizing water.

It was observed that those ancient families who ate from silver utensils rarely were sick and had few infections. This knowledge passed on to kings, emperors, sultans and their families and members of their royal courts. They ate from silver plates, drank from silver cups, used silver utensils and stored their food in silver containers.

Generations ago, pioneers trekking across the Wild West in the United States faced many hardships. Keeping safe drinking water was one of them. Bacteria, algae, etc., found a fertile breeding ground in wooden casks, which were carried by the wagons. They placed silver coins in the casks to retard the growth of the spoilage organisms. They also placed silver coins in their milk to keep it fresh. Settlers in the Australian outback suspended silverware in the water tanks to retard spoilage.

Wrapping wounds in silver foil was a common treatment around the turn of the century to prevent infection.

Eventually, man learned to make silver nitrate and use it in wounds as an antibiotic. But silver nitrate is a silver salt and is caustic, and therefore burns tissue, much like iodine.

These early, unstable and crudely made silver solutions were sometimes injected directly into the body, taken orally or applied topically. Remarkably, there were no significant side effects.

Silver in the Colloidal Form

The comeback of silver in medicine began in the 1970’s when the late Carl Moyer, chairman of Washington University’s Department of Surgery, received a grant to develop better treatments for burn victims. Dr. Harry Margraf, the chief biochemist, worked with Dr. Moyer and other surgeons to find an antiseptic strong enough, yet safe to use over large areas of the body. Silver has always been one of the most universal antibiotic substances. When administered in the colloidal form, it is non-toxic.

Reviewing medical literature, Dr. Margraf found repeated references to silver. It was described as a catalyst that disables the enzymes microorganisms depend on to “breathe”. Consequently, they die.

Medical journal reports from the early 1900’s demonstrated that a properly prepared colloid of silver was the only form of silver solution that was not deposited under the skin, no matter how many times the proper amount was administered.

Silver as a Bactericide and Disinfectant

Jim Powell reported in a Science Digest article in March 1978, titled “Our Mightiest Germ Fighter”: “Thanks to eye-opening research, silver is emerging as a wonder of modern medicine. An antibiotic kills perhaps half-dozen different disease organisms, but silver kills hundreds. Additionally, silver-resistant strains fail to develop.”

While silver has been used for centuries to purify water, modern ionization technology was developed by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) in the early days of the space program as a lightweight method of purifying recycled water on spacecrafts.

In Canada and the United States, more than 100 hospitals have installed silver-based water purifying systems to eradicate Legionnaire’s disease, a deadly bacteria that infects hot water pipes and storage tanks in large buildings.

Antibiotic resistance is quickly becoming a public health nightmare. Traditional antibiotics continue to lose their ability to kill certain strains of bacteria. To date, nearly every disease causing organism known has become resistant to at least one antibiotic, and several are immune to more than one. Scientists have known since the dawn of antibiotic age that the more an antibiotic is used, the quicker it tends to become useless due to bacterial resistance.