Dangerous Immune Booster

If someone told you that he/she was in possession of something that could cure any illness almost instantaneously, would you believe it? If you were told that there was a small risk of permanently changing the color of your skin, would you be willing to run the risk and take it anyway? The name of the elixir in question is colloidal silver, and it is concocted by suspending microscopic silver particles in liquid.

Colloidal silver has been claimed to be effective against hundreds of conditions and diseases, including cancer, AIDS, parasites, acne, inflammation of the prostate, pneumonia and a myriad of others. However, use of colloidal silver can lead to a permanent discoloration of the skin. Does colloidal silver really carry the medicinal cure-all properties it is claimed to have, or is it just risk without benefit?

THE TREND IS OVER

“Colloidal silver was used a lot about 15 years ago,” Joan-Ellen Macredis, ND, a naturopathic physician in private practice told me. “It was believed to boost the immune system by increasing the body’s ability to heal. But there isn’t really any research supporting that.” Then why the hype?

Silver has had some medicinal uses — especially to inhibit the growth of bacteria — going back for centuries. However, advances in medicine, resulting in less toxic drugs, have eliminated most of those uses. A few prescription drugs containing silver are still available. Silver nitrate can be used to prevent conjunctivitis (pink eye) in newborn babies and silver sulfadizine can be used to treat burns, but these drugs are applied to the body, not taken internally like colloidal silver usually is, and they can still have negative side effects.

SILVER’S SIDE EFFECTS

A common side effect of colloidal silver is argyria, a condition in which the skin and deep tissues turn a bluish-gray. Argyria cannot be treated or reversed, and it is permanent. While it is not known what causes argyria, experts speculate that silver combines with protein, leading to deposits in the skin. Colloidal silver products can also cause neurological problems (such as seizures), kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches, fatigue and skin irritation. Colloidal silver also may make it difficult for the body to absorb certain drugs - such as penacillamine, quinolones, tetracyclines and thyroxine.

To top it off, the claims for miraculous benefits appear to be completely unsupported. One study in the Journal of Wound Care (”Colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent: fact or fiction?”) tested three samples of colloidal silver on bacterial strains and found that they had absolutely no effect. “People take it thinking it’s a preventative, but there’s not enough supportable evidence for the use of colloidal silver,” Dr. Macredis stated.

To be entirely fair, some makers of colloidal silver products agree that too much silver is a clear and present danger, but they argue that the minute amounts they use are not a danger, and can be beneficial for their antiviral and antibacterial effects. The problem is there isn’t any credible research supporting those claims.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that all over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver for internal or external use are not generally recognized as safe and effective and are misbranded. Colloidal silver is still sold — a quick Internet search allowed me to find a number of sources selling it.

There are indeed some highly skilled and experienced naturopathic doctors who do use colloidal silver under close supervision for specific uses and for short periods of time. Mark Stengler, ND, author of Bottom Line’s Natural Healing, is one of them — and he reminds me that many pharmaceuticals are powerful and dangerous and require close supervision. So, too, with colloidal silver.

Dr. Macredis’ view is slightly different: “There are so many other things that work well to support the immune system, why take the risk with colloidal silver?”

Dangerous Immune Booster

* Joan-Ellen Macredis, ND, has been practicing naturopathic medicine for more than 20 years. She also is a licensed acupuncturist. She is based in Stamford, Connecticut.
* Mark A. Stengler, ND, a naturopathic physician and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. He is director of the La Jolla Whole Health Clinic, La Jolla, California, and associate clinical professor at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon. He is author of the newsletter Bottom Line Natural Healing (800-234-3834) , www.DrStengler. com

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