Colloidal silver as a nutritional supplement became a news item again this year with the death of one of its most famous proponents. Paul Karason died in September of 2013, Karason gained fame after appearing on the Today Show in 2008 for having blue skin due to argyria (Netburn. 2013). Karason’s argyria was caused by his ingestion of silver, he drank colloidal silver to treat his dermatitis (Netburn. 2013). Colloidal silver has been marketed on the internet as a treatment for a very wide variety of illnesses, one manual claims that it treats “over 650 known conditions” (Claussen, 2012, p.14). This paper will investigate the background of the treatment, methods of use, benefits, current research and will make recommendations on the use of colloidal silver as a nutritional supplement.
The medicinal use of silver goes back for centuries, and – as noted by Fung and Bowen – was used for nervous disorders in the middle ages, epilepsy in the nineteenth century and syphilis in the twentieth century (1996). Cold remedies contained colloidal silver proteins well into the nineteenth century (Fung and Bowen, 2006). Alexander, in his research, found that the history of silver for medical conditions goes back further still. Silver containers were used by ancient civilizations to preserve water and this occurred prior to the scientific evidence that “microbes were the agents of infections” (Alexander, 2009, p.289). Evidence exists of silver filings being used as a purifier of blood, to prevent heart palpitations, and to treat halitosis by Avicenna in 980 A.D. (Alexander, 2009). Additionally, Alexander found that Paracelsus – in 1520 – had used silver nitrate for wound care and internally (2009). Early settlers to North America would put silver coins into containers to preserve water while traveling (Alexander, 2009). The use of silver in regards to cutlery led to the following:
Privileged families used silver eating utensils and often developed a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, thus becoming known as ‘‘blue bloods.’’ Privileged people also often avoided sunlight so that the presence of the bluish discoloration, argyria, might become even more prominent. The prevalence of argyria prior to 1800 has not been documented, but it was reported to be associated with a reduced mortality rate during epidemics of plague and other infectious diseases.
(Alexander, 2009, p.290)
During the period 1800 to 1900 dressings with silver nitrate were used to treat skin ulcers and other types of wounds (Alexander, 2009). In the 1880’s, Doctor Carl Siegmund Franz Crede introduced the use of silver nitrate eye drops to successfully prevent gonorrheal ophthalmia in newborns (Alexander, 2009, p.291). In the period between 1900 and 1940, colloidal silver was consumed by patients and silver was also given intravenously; but it was later discovered in high doses parenterally, the silver could cause gastrointestinal disturbances, convulsions or death (Alexander, 2009,...