A brief history of silver in medicine

There is a long, almost sacred history of humans harnessing the power of silver. It has been found in artifacts dating back to 4000 B.C.E.[1]

Early civilizations first used silver to extend the shelf life of food. Silver lined the vessels that stored drinking water for the kings. In ancient Greece, silver shavings were taken internally to treat heart palpitations and bad breath. Silver plates and foils were applied to wounds to speed healing. Eventually, humans began using silver water for its medicinal properties as well. While the methods of producing it have become much more sophisticated than in ancient times, this silver water is still used widely today. It is also called colloidal silver. Colloidal silver ingredients are simple: just silver salts and water! But homemade silver solutions are not standardized and can be dangerous [2].

A brief history of silver in medicine

For a period after antibiotics became widely available in the 1940s, silver’s use in medicine saw a temporary decline. While silver was still used to purify water and in other industrial applications, it fell out of fashion with doctors and pharmacists.

Now, this ancient remedy is being rediscovered! You can find silver in a myriad of medical applications. Silver is suspended in powerful antimicrobial surface cleaners manufactured for use in hospitals. It is used by dentists, doctors, and surgeons. Silver is woven into the mesh inside of surgical dressings and bandages.[3] What is it about silver that makes it so ubiquitous?

A prolific antimicrobial

Silver was the most critical antimicrobial compound known to man before antibiotics. It can be used to create an atmosphere that is hostile to the growth of not only bacteria but also viruses and fungi. Bacteria take longer to develop resistance to silver than to other antibiotics.

Early surgeons noticed wounds sutured in silver would heal rapidly compared to their silken-sewn counterparts. These early findings are echoed in the silver-infused bandages and gels used by modern surgeons. Silver gels are especially effective in healing superficial wounds.

Silver ions disturb the function of the outer biofilm layer that protects infectious microbial colonies. When used alone silver is no more effective than antibiotics against this biofilm. But when combined with antibiotics, silver shows promise as a treatment for drug-resistant bacteria. The emergence of treatment-resistant bacteria is one of the biggest existential threats facing humanity today. Thus, we are likely to see the medical use of silver extend far into the future. [3]

The anti-inflammatory effects of silver

Silver preparations have been a popular alternative treatment for generations. They are commonly used for arthritis and other joint pain. Silver has been found to help reduce swelling and redness.

The anti-inflammatory effects of silverA paper published recently about a new therapy for rheumatoid arthritis may shed some light on how these popular remedies work. First, a team modified silver nanoparticles to be highly bioavailable. The team then observed that once inside the cells, silver ions interrupted a specific pro-inflammatory process. Instead, they saw that silver coaxes the body into producing a powerful antioxidant that encourages cellular regeneration. This treatment is the first of its kind studied and there were no toxic side effects recorded. [4]

Thus, topical preparations made with silver may also be effective in reducing the redness and swelling associated with chronic skin conditions. Those with eczema, psoriasis, or rashes may enjoy some relief from their conditions from a topical application made with silver. Gels, ointments, sprays, and creams can all be infused with silver.

The ultimate in immune support

Age, weight, diet, and lifestyle factors can all contribute to chronic, low-level inflammation in the body. The anti-inflammatory properties of silver offer clear advantages by stopping the downstream effects of these stressors. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and GI upset can all be linked to low levels of inflammation.

“Low-level” inflammation does not sound particularly serious at first. But, when low-level inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to disease. The following is a list of conditions linked to chronic, low-level inflammation:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Heart Disease
  • Joint Diseases
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

There are two tests designed to detect chronic low levels of inflammation. Even with decades of data linking it to disease, mainstream doctors rarely order them. The tests are generally only administered to those suspected of having auto-immune issues.

Do you eat a low glycemic index diet every day? Do you avoid the industrial seed oils that are in almost every processed food? Do you manage to live a stress-free lifestyle and get perfect sleep? Are you the type to finish that good night’s sleep off with some morning exercise? If so, you may not need to worry as much about developing one of these very common conditions. [5]

The rest of us may be walking around with levels of inflammation significant enough to wreak havoc on our bodies and be entirely unaware of this fact. Silver, with its ability to halt inflammatory processes, can be an invaluable immunological support tool.

Even those who lead impeccable lifestyles might wish to supplement zinc during cold and flu season. Studies show that while taking silver, levels of white blood cells increase in the body. [6] The role of white blood cells is to fight disease as well as bacteria and fungi. Colloidal silver taken with water is also both sugar-free and low glycemic index. It’s a perfect way to support our lymphatic system with extra ammunition when bugs and sniffles have us surrounded.

The safety of using silver for health purposes

The safety of using silver for health purposes

Silver is generally safe for most people. But there are some potential side effects. Smaller nanoparticles of silver pass safely through the liver and kidneys. Much of a high-quality colloidal silver preparation will be excreted from the body within 72 hours. Nanoparticles that are larger and more crudely made may not be small enough to pass through certain organs.They can build up toxic levels in tissues and bones. That is why it is imperative to seek a good form of high-quality silver sourced from a reputable company. When silver is coated with saccharides, it is much less reactive. This form is processed mainly through the liver, where toxins can safely be excreted through bile. Therefore, coated silver is a much safer choice than ionic silver.

On the other hand, it’s important to take some precautions with even high-quality silver products. It is important to always follow the manufacturer’s directions and not take more oral colloidal silver solution than recommended. An overdose of silver can in rare cases cause a non-fatal condition known as argyria. Argyria is a condition in which the skin turns blue, either all over the body or in patches. While quite uncommon, there is no known cure for argyria. So, it is important to take a high-quality supplement and read the label carefully!

Just one drop of coated silver per day is perfect for maintaining health. Argyria after colloidal silver has not been observed in studies involving individuals with significant serum levels of coated silver. [7] Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning the use of this or any supplement. The safety of using silver products during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has not been studied.

Silver, a gift from the ancients

Silver may be one of the oldest medicines still studied vigorously today. Its applications in modern medicine and engineering seem endless. Yet, it was so intricately woven into the fabric of ancient lives for centuries.

The current shift in the focus of the healthcare industry toward preventive medicine has driven interest in ancestral medicines like oral colloidal silver. Modern researchers now look towards cures used for generations by our ancestors. For thousands of years, silver has assisted us in healing our wounds and keeping our health vibrant.

Gentle enough to protect the eyes of newborn babies. Powerful enough to protect humankind from one of its greatest threats. Science is only now beginning to understand the mechanisms behind this keystone of ancient medicine. Humankind has always known that when you honor your body with silver you get back in return robust health. Healers have observed this truth for thousands of years.

Silver’s broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties have been well demonstrated. Its use as an anti-inflammatory is just being explored. And its applications in biotech are endless. First used for serving food and water. Later, for curing ailments we did not yet understand. Through the years, silver never lost its following as alternative medicine. And now silver has a shining future as a complementary therapy for conventional western medicine.

Featured Image Credit: DrSJS / Pixabay

In Post Image 1 Credit: Activedia / Pixabay
In Post Image 2 Credit: By US gov – US gov, Public Domain
In Post Image 3 Credit: TranQuangKhai / Pixabay


1.Barillo DJ, Marx DE. Silver in medicine: a brief history BC 335 to present. Burns. 2014 Dec;40 Suppl 1:S3-8. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2014.09.009. PMID: 25418435.

2. Alexander, James. (2009). History of the Medical Use of Silver. Surgical infections. 10. 289-92. 10.1089/sur.2008.9941.

3. Dharmshaktu GS, Singhal A, Pangtey T. Colloidal silver-based nanogel as nonocclusive dressing for multiple superficial pellet wounds. J Family Med Prim Care. 2016 Jan-Mar;5(1):175-7. doi: 10.4103/2249-4863.184659. PMID: 27453869; PMCID: PMC4943132.

4. Yang Y, Guo L, Wang Z, Liu P, Liu X, Ding J, Zhou W. Targeted silver nanoparticles for rheumatoid arthritis therapy via macrophage apoptosis and Repolarization. Biomaterials. 2021 Jan;264:120390. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2020.120390. Epub 2020 Sep 19. PMID: 32980634.

5. Pahwa R, Goyal A, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/

6. Bondarenko I.G., Punivalu M., Eslaminia I.K. SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF COLLOIDAL SILVER ON THE FUNCTION OF HUMAN BLOOD NEUTROPHILS IN VIVO // Medical academic journal. – 2014. – Vol. 14. – N. 2. – P. 28-33. doi: 10.17816/MAJ14228-33

7. https://coatedsilver.com/colloidal-silver-eliminated-human-body/