Colloidal Silver has been made at home with very little equipment for decades. Colloidal silver is well known to be an effective antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal substance. Silver is appearing in many commercial products, from personal hygiene to washing machines. The EPA has even tried to ban it for fear that it will destroy beneficial microorganisms in the environment.
Unfortunately, homemade colloidal silver is often made incorrectly resulting in the final product being something other than colloidal silver. Usually that is silver oxide or silver chloride, both of which are ionic salts of silver and which seems to be the product that turns people blue.
It is my intent to show a proven method of making true colloidal silver, and why you should not make ionic silver for internal use.
What exactly is a colloid?
A colloid consists of very small particles of something suspended in another medium. It is not a solution of dissolved material. Fog is a good example of a colloid; it is very fine drops of water suspended in air. Milk is a colloid of very fine particles of proteins and fats suspended in water. With a fine enough filter, the suspended material in a colloid can be filtered out. If the particles in a colloid lump together, the particles will get bigger to the point where they can no longer stay suspended, and they will fall out. If this happens to be fog or a cloud, it becomes rain. Colloidal silver is actually silver nano sized particles suspended in water, usually about 14 nanometers in diameter.
In the case of true colloidal silver, the particles are kept apart by electrostatic repulsion. This is true regardless of whether the silver nanoparticles were made by electrochemical or chemical means.
When a beam of light is projected through a colloid, the particles reflect light in all directions making the light beam visible. This is called the Tyndall effect, and I’m sure you have seen it while driving on a foggy night.
Color of the Colloid:
Another important attribute of a colloid is its color. Milk looks white because the particle sizes in the liquid are at least as large as the wavelengh of red light. The milk particles reflect all wavelengths of visible light, from 400 nano meters to 800 nano meter wavelengths. (A nanometer is a length of 1 billionth of a meter).
When metal particles are much smaller than the wavelength of light, they no longer can reflect all wavelengths, so they are no longer white. At small particle sizes, each particle exhibits the Plasmon Resonance1, and absorbs specific wavelengths from the light striking it. This gives the colloid the appearance of the complementary color of the wavelength it absorbed. IE: If the blue light is removed by absorption, the particle will look yellow (green and red are not absorbed, so the resultant color is yellow). The important thing to know about the Plasmon Resonance is that color tells you the particle size of a metal nanoparticle!
Newcomers to making CS soon learn about the Tyndall Effect. It is the scattering of light by the particles suspended in solution, and typically it shows you have a colloid. Its what allows you to see a flashlight beam projecting in a fog. Its also not very important, and it doesn’t require you to buy a laser pointer; a small flashlight will do. The Tyndall effect really shows turbidity6, which is something which should be minimized in the colloidal silver product. A strong Tyndall effect means there are more particles of larger size. Smaller particle sizes produce less Tyndall effect.
Ionic Silver versus Metallic Silver:
All elements are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. When an atom contains the same number of protons as electrons, it is in its elemental state. Silver normally has 47 electrons and 47 protons. Electrons are negative charge, and protons are positive charge, so in an atom of elemental silver, the net charge is zero because each electron is cancelled out by a proton. If an atom of silver were to lose one of its electrons, it would then have a positive charge, and that is called an ion. An ion is an atom which has either gained an electron (becoming negative) or lost an electron (becoming positive). Negative ions are called anions, and positive ions are call cations.
When elements combine chemically, some atoms give up electrons to other atoms. This is what makes a chemical compound. For instance,a sodium metal atom gives up an electron to a chlorine atom to form table salt. When that happens, the sodium becomes ionic instead of metallic.
Why is this important? Most people make silver oxide or silver chloride (ionic silver products) thinking they are making colloidal silver, and while ionic silver is an antibacterial, it is also 25 times more toxic to human cells than metallic silver2. It also seems to be the commonality among the people who have experienced disfiguring Argyria, the permanent blue discoloration of the skin.
The most common method of making silver at home produces silver oxide. But silver oxide reacts strongly with hydrochloric stomach acid producing silver chloride, the silver salt most likely to cause Argyria. For the rest of this article, references to ionic silver means silver chloride unless otherwise noted.
How Does Ionic Silver Cause Argyria?
Most people know that film photography is based on silver. In particular, it is based on silver salts5, because silver salts are naturally photosensitive. Film is coated with silver salts, exposure to light provides enough energy to break apart the silver compound in the film producing silver metal. The remaining silver salts which were not exposed to light are then washed away in the development process leaving the dark opaque silver behind as a negative image. A similar process can occur in a person’s skin.
One important difference between metallic and ionic silver is that ionic silver chloride is partially soluble in water. This would seem to be the key as to why Argyria occurs, and why it is permanent. Silver chloride is soluble to .8 parts per million, but some other silver compounds like silver selenide and silver sulfide are not soluble at all.
As a dissolved substance, ionic silver chloride can travel places in the body’s tissues that larger metallic silver nanoparticles cannot because ions are the smallest possible pieces of matter. These silver ions are positive charged and are attracted to human cells which are negatively charged on their outside cell walls. Since positive and negative charges are attracted to each other, the silver ions bind to and enter into the cell wall, carried by metallothioneins. The silver ions then react chemically with sulfur or selenium ions present in the cell creating insoluble silver compounds. At that point, the silver is no longer ionic, and is no longer in solution. It is trapped inside the cell. As these particles accumulate, the cell darkens and result in Argyria. Most of the silver is trapped by a person’s internal organ cells, so even though the skin looks normal, it is quite possible that Argyria is already occurring internally where it cannot be seen.
It is well documented that the worst discoloration of Argyria occurs in the parts of the skin that are most exposed to light: the face, arms and hands. This is because silver chloride trapped inside skin cells is photosensitive…. its what makes photographic film work. So sunlight can also transform a silver ion into a silver atom, which looks blue black in such tiny particles. Single atoms of metals tend to grow like a crystal as they colllect more silver atoms, and thus grow in size. This is another way ionic silver gets trapped in the skin by converting to metal through exposure to sunlight.
Scanning electron micrographs of biopsies of Argyria victims confirm the presence of silver metal, silver selenide, and silver sulfide in the skin tissues.
The progression from ingesting ionic silver to Argyria is then:
Ingest ionic silver oxide
Silver oxide converts to silver chloride in the presence of stomach acid
Ionic silver is absorbed by tissues and bloodstream
Ionic silver then binds to cell walls by electrostatic attraction
Silver ions enter the cell and are taken up by the metallothioneins.
Silver ions react with sulfur or selenium ions and are permanently trapped in the cell.
Silver ions react to sunlight and are reduced to silver atoms.
Silver crystals form as more silver ions repeat the process.
There are many scientific studies of the properties of silver nanoparticles in the published literature. Almost all that the author has found are in-vitro3 studies exploring the effectiveness of silver preparations and how to produce them. The studies for the most part are done using silver products prepared chemically by the reduction of silver salts using a reducing agent. Few if any have been done using silver produced electrochemically. However it is safe to assume that colloidal silver made electrochemically is equivalent to that made chemically provided the particles’ basic attributes of size and shape are the same. Because the vast majority of serious research is done in-vitro, there is little real data concerning real life dosing, and results. Most of the information about using colloidal silver internally is anecdotal. There is a published peer reviewed study showing that silver nanoparticles are more effective for bacteria and fungi than ionic silver.
“Interestingly, AgNP’s have been shown in a variety of cases to be more toxic to bacteria and fungi than free ions”7
It will be left to the reader to seek out the published literature if so desired.
There seems to be hundreds of manufacturers of colloidal silver, each touting their own special formula. Some of these sources make excellent product and some are very dubious. One thing is clear though: Colloidal silver is only cheap if you make it yourself.
Even at $50 an ounce for silver, a 16 ounce bottle of 20ppm colloidal silver has less than 2 cents worth of silver in it. Quality colloidal silver can be made at home with a very modest investment. $100 worth of supplies will probably last a lifetime.
Thoughts on dosing:
As said previously, there is little to no scientific studies regarding dosing, or what happens in-vivo4 when colloidal silver is consumed. However, some of the in-vitro data may be useful. One of the important pieces of information is the concentration of silver required to kill bacteria. Two to six ppm seems to be the minimum for most bacteria in lab experiments. It seems safe to suppose that less than that would not be effective in the body. (One ppm is one milligram of silver in a liter of water.)
It seems sensible to assume that disease agents travel around the body in the blood and lymph, the primary fluids which flow within all parts of the body. Considering then that the average person has 5 liters of blood, it would then seem that a dose large enough to kill bacteria in the blood stream would be at least 10 milligrams of silver. This would be the amount of silver in about one pint of 20 ppm colloidal silver.
Calculating dose based on blood volume would be an ideal way to get a handle on dosing except that we do not know how much of the silver ingested actually is absorbed and enters the bloodstream, and if that silver entering the blood stream is still of a size that has therapeutic value. As soon as the colloidal silver enters the body, some will be absorbed through the mucosal lining of the mouth and esophagus, but the remainder is soon mixed with hydrochloric acid plus a host of other chemicals in the stomach. Acids and other electrolytes destroy the electrostatic repulsion between the silver particles and allow them to aggregate into larger particles which would make them useless. The actual amount of silver which enters the bloodstream would then be affected by anything which affects the chemistry of the stomach. So dosing is still a guess, but we do have a good idea about the minimum dose. As a personal choice, the author arbitrarily doubles the minimum amount and takes 1 liter of 20 ppm silver over the course of a day when needed. No antibiotics including silver should ever be taken without good cause.
It is obvious then that taking a teaspoon a day as a food supplement is probably not going to do anything therapeutic, unless the placebo effect is considered therapeutic since the amount would be far below the concentration needed to kill bacteria or other microorganisms. Silver is not a food, and is not essential to life. Consuming small amounts of silver as a food supplement has no documented and proven health benefits.
In the next part, we will talk about various ways to produce true colloidal silver.
1) Plasmon Resonance: Resonant oscillation of the surface electrons of metals at visible light frequencies. Resonant frequency depends both on size and shape of the particle and contributes to the observed color.
2) Antibacterial activity and toxicity of silver nanosilver versus ionic silver, Libor Kvitek
3) In-vitro: research done in a test tube environment — literally, ‘in glass’ as opposed to within a living organism.
4) In-vivo: Within a living organism
5) Usually silver chloride, silver bromide, or silver iodide.
6) Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by individual particles (suspended solids) that are generally invisible to the naked eye,
7) Advances in Applied Microbiology Vol. 77 By Allen I. Laskin, Geoffrey M. Gadd, Sima Sariaslani