Colloidal Silver Overview

By Terry Chamberlin From Natural Health Library

It has already been well established that the metal, silver, that you make jewelry out of, has a somewhat unique property: It kills nearly all pathogens on contact. I say, “nearly all” because it doesn’t kill absolutely every single pathogen.

There are 5 or 6 bacteria that not only are not killed by silver, they LIKE silver, they EAT it. You will see some of these bacteria, for example, involved in the tarnish that accrues on the surface of silverware or silver jewelry (along with oxidation). But none of these bacteria hurt human beings. There are also some fungi that silver does not readily kill.

I have read claims that silver only kills “unfriendly” bacteria and not “friendly” bacteria, but this is not true. Try to make yogurt with milk into which you have poured colloidal silver! It won’t work, because the silver killed the “friendly” acidophilus bacteria.

Besides, the labels of “friendly” and “unfriendly” are defined by these pathogens being convenient or inconvenient to us humans.

I read somewhere that there have been references found in ancient Chinese writings of it being recommended by a Chinese health practitioner that a piece of silver jewelry be pressed against an infected wound to fight the infection.

It is generally believed that the Royal Families in Europe would mechanically grind up silver into a powder and stir it into wine or water and drink it to protect against sickness.

Obviously, they wouldn’t have known about germs and viruses, but they would have noticed that those who drank this silver-powder didn’t get sick as often as the non-Royalty common folks (who couldn’t afford to drink silver-powder). These immensely huge silver particles (millions or billions of times bigger than anything we make with electricity) would, indeed, kill pathogens, but would also get caught in the tiny capillaries in the skin and turn dark, resulting in the royalty being called "Blue-Bloods". This in addition to the fact that they ate off silver plates, drank from silver cups and ate with genuine "silverware".

So, let me start at a basic beginning. If you put silver of any type, form or shape into the presence of and in contact with almost any kind of pathogens, the silver will kill them to one degree or another. At today’s prices, grinding up silver and drinking it would be quite expensive.

So, nowadays, we dissolve silver using electricity, which makes the silver particles quite small. It’s possible to break up silver by dissolving it in an acid, but the acid residue is not a healthy substance, and the silver particles are very unstable, falling out of suspension easily. So I am only going to discuss here silver preparations made with electricity (electro-colloidal silver, or ECS).

Using electricity and pure water (deionized or steam-distilled or certain types of reverse osmosis), there are really only two types of silver preparations: silver suspensions and silver solutions.

The word “colloidal” is used throughout most of the scientific world (with some exceptions) to refer to particles of something suspended in some kind of medium. This medium could be liquid (such as water), oil or gas.

“Suspended” means floating around in the medium. Suspended means that the particle is in contact with the medium but is not a part of it.

“Colloidal Silver” (CS) means silver particles floating around (suspended) in the water.


The size of these particles range from a large size to a very small size. If the particle is too big to stay in suspension (if it sinks right to the bottom), it is not colloidal. The most common technique to help keep these particles suspended is to use DC electricity to produce them, which imbues each particle with a positive charge. Since all the particles have the same charge, they repel each other like the two north poles of two magnets would. This helps to keep the particles in suspension for a much longer time. This, by-the-way, is also called “ionic” silver. The word “ionic” simply means a particle of something that has a charge (look it up in ANY dictionary, popular, academic or scientific). All silver preparations made with DC electricity are ionic. It’s not possible to make non-ionic silver with DC electricity. “Ionic” has nothing to do with the size of a particle, it merely means it has a charge, whatever size that particle is. As long as the particles have this repelling charge, they stay in suspension (unless they are too big or they lose their charge).

But it has been noticed that several things affect these ionic colloidal silver particles and cause them to lose their charge. The most widely-known one is sunlight. If you place ionic, suspended colloidal silver in the direct sunlight and let it sit there, the sunlight will increasingly cause the silver particles to lose their charge and be attracted to other nearby still-charged particles, where they will clump together (“aggregate” is the scientific term). As these clumped particles get bigger from the aggregation of other silver particles that have lost their charge, eventually they get big enough to refract light, and the colloidal suspension will obtain a yellow hue. The larger the particles, the darker the hue, from yellow to gold to brown to purple or grayish-black. This is why it is not uncommon to see colloidal silver merchants advising their clients to store their CS in a dark place, away from sunlight.

If you freeze suspended CS (SCS), when you melt it the silver particles will sink to the bottom of the container and you will see what looks like a bit of gray dust at the bottom. That’s the silver particles that have fallen out of suspension. In the case of freezing, the particles don’t aggregate much, they simply fall out of suspension.

If you place a container of SCS on top of a strong magnet, after awhile you will see this same gray silver-dust at the bottom of the container. This is not because silver is magnetic - it isn’t - it’s because the magnetic field causes the silver particles to lose their charge. They do not become magnetic, nor are they attracted to the magnet, they simply fall out of suspension.

The second type of silver preparation is a silver solution. A colloid is generally defined as having a maximum size (above which it would be too large to stay in suspension) down to a minimum size, although the scientific world is not in complete agreement on that minimum size (and depending on which substance). Some say one micron, some say smaller, but the point is this: Smaller than this minimum size, the particles are not considered to be suspended in the medium, they are considered to be DISSOLVED into the medium. If you were to stir a teaspoon of sugar into a glass of water, you would not say that the sugar is floating around in the water, you would just have sweet water. The sugar would be a part of the water, and it would never leave the water and sink to the bottom, because it is dissolved.

A silver preparation that has successfully dissolved silver into water (a silver solution) is called by the scientists, “Nanosilver”. The properties of dissolved nanosilver are completely different than suspended colloidal silver. Nanosilver is unaffected by sunlight, magnetic fields or freezing.

Dr. Robert Demling is a scientist involved in research concerning the efficacy and safety of silver preparations. Here are some of his comments:

“Silver has been used for centuries to prevent and treat a variety of diseases, most notably infections. It has been well documented that silver coins were used in ancient Greece and Rome as a disinfectant for the storage of water and other liquids.

More recently, NASA still uses silver to maintain water purity on the space shuttle. Silver in solution has been used as an antimicrobial for wound management for nearly a century. Beginning in the 1920’s, a small electrical charge was passed through water and silver crystals in order to obtain an effective silver ion solution [electro-colloidal] to be used topically on wounds.

The charged silver solutions were approved in the 1920’s by the FDA for use as an antimicrobial agent. In addition to its recognized antimicrobial properties, beginning with the electro-colloidal elemental form, silver solutions have been reported to improve the healing of “indolent wounds” and to “regenerate damaged tissue”.

The description of decreased rubor [inflammation] in wounds also reflects an anti-inflammatory property of silver. More recent information has provided at least a hypothesis as to the mechanism of silver’s pro-healing and anti-inflammatory effects. Initial literature reports on the use of pure silver, mainly in the electro-colloidal form, that occurred prior to the 1940’s when pure silver was still being used.

After 1940 a host of systemic antibiotics became prevalent, decreasing the use of silver except as a topical agent. During this transition, silver was complexed as a salt (e.g. silver nitrate and silver sulfadiazine) or other compound (e.g. silver protein) to increase the available silver ion concentration. These silver complexes remain a popular topical antimicrobial agent for the care of wounds. Silver itself is considered to be non-toxic to human cells in vivo [inside the body]. The only reported complication is the cosmetic abnormality argyria caused by precipitation of silver salts in the skin and leading to a blue-gray color.

“The property of matter depends on size and many of the chemical and physical characteristics change significantly when matter is reduced in size. Nanotechnology is a general term that refers to a relatively new frontier of scientific endeavor. The prefix “nano” signifies one-billionth. Therefore, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, a nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Nanotechnology and the ability to deliver silver from a nanocrystalline structure [electro-colloidal] have and will markedly improve the biologic value of silver. Silver has extremely potent antimicrobial properties, as only one part per 100 million of elemental silver is an effective antimicrobial in a solution.

Free silver ions, or radicals, are known to be the active antimicrobial agent. In order to achieve a bactericidal effect, silver ions must be available in solution at the bacterial surface [where the pathogens are]. Efficacy depends on the aqueous concentration of these ions [silver ions in water]. Silver ions appear to kill micro-organisms instantly by blocking the respiratory enzyme system (energy production), as well as altering microbe DNA and the cell wall, while having no toxic effect on human cells in vivo. To date the nanocrystalline silver system kills all microbes found in a wound including fungi and all current antibiotic resistant strains such as vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).””

Dr. Demling goes into great detail about the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and increased healing (cell regeneration) properties of nanosilver. He even highlights an anti-tumor affect. He discusses the great deficiencies of silver preparations (silver nitrate, silver sulfadiazine, etc.) that were used by doctors in the past, but which are resolved by the extremely tiny particle size of “crystalline” electro-colloidal nanosilver. He further discusses how these crystalline electro-colloidal particles produce “complex metastable silver hydroxyl anions”, meaning different forms of silver that act differently in our bodies.

These “complex hydroxyls would be metastable and thus have an ability to migrate into the surrounding environment and interact with it.

The rapid kill of bacteria and fungi suggests a rapid route of uptake of silver from nanocrystalline silver.”

In essence, he is saying that nanosilver doesn’t just kill pathogens, it migrates through the body’s cells to kill other pathogens along the way. This would be because the nanosilver particles are so small they pass through the walls of the cells in the body to get to pathogens hiding inside the cells. Suspended colloidal silver particles are too large to do this.

The properties of dissolved nanosilver are not present in suspended colloidal silver. One of the main points of his research is to highlight the unique properties of dissolved nanosilver vs. suspended colloidal silver.

He declares nanosilver to be completely safe, and emphasizes that it is complexed silver salts that are responsible for Argyria (blue-gray skin) or any other toxic affects that have been reported in the medical literature.

Nanosilver is considered to be more effective than colloidal silver because the silver particles are small enough to pass through the walls of the body’s cells (what Dr. Demling calls “metastable”), enabling it to get to the places viruses like to hide. Suspended colloidal silver particles are too large to do that.

The strength of a silver preparation is measured in what is termed, “ppm”, which stands for “parts-per-million”. Now, you would get the impression that ppm stood for parts of one thing in proportion to parts of another thing, but that is not correct. In the scientific world, the term, “parts-per-million”, actually represents a ratio of one thing to another, not the number of parts. You could have one lump of silver at the bottom of a container of water and still have 40 ppm. It is not a unit measurement, it is a ratio measurement.

When brewing colloidal or nanosilver, there is a limit to how much silver can be dissolved into a quantity of water before it reaches a certain saturation point. After this point, the silver particles begin to aggregate together because the water is saturated with silver particles. Although there is disagreement on exactly when this point is reached, it is generally considered to be at about 15-30 ppm. This saturation limit is affected by things like water pH, temperature, etc. Silver preparation products that are advertised as being 50, 100, 500 or even 1,000 ppm are not dissolved nanosilver.

20 ppm colloidal silver and 20 ppm nanosilver have the same amount of silver in them, but the nanosilver has many more particles of silver, which are just as lethal to microbes as the larger colloidal particles. These nanometer particles also go places the larger colloidal particles can't (such as inside the cells of our bodies where viruses like to hide).

Colloidal silver particles will float around in the blood stream and will kill any pathogens they come in contact with. But viruses like to hide inside the cells in our bodies, and colloidal silver particles are too big to pass through the walls of the cells. However, nanosilver particles go wherever the water goes, which includes inside the cells in our bodies.

So how do you brew nanosilver? With every single CS-brewer in existence (that uses electricity to dissolve the silver), what is brewed is always a mixture of both suspended colloidal silver and dissolved nanosilver, as it is impossible to brew 100% one of the 100% the other.

The differences between one CS brewer and another is the percentage of nanosilver vs colloidal silver.

When I sent a sample of the CS that my 1-gallon brewer can brew to a laboratory in the US that specialized in testing CS, the test results showed my CS to be "90-95% nanosilver, 5-10% colloidal silver".

The reason why any CS made by any electrically-operated CS brewer is effective is because they all make a mixture of both forms of CS, suspended colloidal silver and dissolved nanosilver. The prime difference between one Colloidal Silver brewer and another (in spite of what the vendor claims) is what it costs, how much you can brew per batch and how long it takes to brew a batch (plus any bells and whistles).

Knowing this, most CS-brewer vendors add certain items (bells and whistles) that seem to make their simple brewers fancier than they actually are, like stirrers, bubblers, TDS meters (which are quite inaccurate), scrub pads (which reduce the life of the silver wires), etc.

How do you optimize the percentage of dissolved nanosilver vs suspended colloidal silver? Simple. Just brew clear CS. The minute you start to see a color or cloudiness in your CS, you have brewed more than is needed. The exception to this is when you are using any water that has minerals (or substances) in it, in which case you can only make cloudy/murky looking CS, which is mostly suspended colloidal CS.

This does not mean it's bad or toxic, but it will be less effective because of its much lower percentage of dissolved nanosilver. Folks who can only brew CS with non-distilled water will likely need to drink a lot more of it to experience similar effectiveness, but if you are brewing your own, that's not a big deal.