Silver has been used in many different forms since Roman times and is today becoming increasingly recognised for its versatility and effectiveness as a natural antibacterial mineral.  In fact, in the 18th century, babies fed with silver spoons were believed to be healthier than those fed with utensils made from alternative materials, hence the term ‘born with a silver spoon in the mouth.’  In those days, it was commonly believed that silver improved health and longevity, and English nobility frequently ate with silver cutlery and drank from silver tankards for that reason!

Natural properties of silver

So just how is silver antibacterial?  It is thought that silver’s antibacterial action is attributable to the silver ions, which are thought to be able to bind to the DNA and to the spores of the bacteria, preventing them from reproducing and spreading.  The mineral is also believed to be able to kill bacteria by interfering with the bacteria’s cell wall and preventing the transportation of oxygen.

Storage and preservation uses

The use of silver as an antimicrobial agent began many years before the English nobility insisted on silver cutlery.  In fact, Herodotus, the ‘Father of History,’ accounts that no Persian king, including Cirrus, would drink water that was not transported in silver containers, which kept the water fresh for years.  This was especially important during military conflicts, when fresh water from natural sources was not available.  It was also common to drop silver coins into the water container to preserve it, a preservation method which was also used for milk.

Medical Uses

As silver increasingly became more recognised as a versatile and effective antibacterial, it began to be used by the medical industry, and was often used to combat infection prior to the development of antibiotics.  It was reportedly used to improve a breadth of conditions such as ulcers, wound healing, gingivitis, blepharitis and infectious diseases.

Dr William Halsted (1852-1922) was an influential and innovative surgeon, and advocated the use of silver in surgery to prevent wound infections.  This led to the use of silver in wound dressings, urinary catheters and even endotracheal tubes, which are used for keeping airways open during surgery.  The use of this versatile mineral declined following the introduction of pharmaceutical antibiotics, EU regulations on silver have more recently influenced people’s choices. 

When using silver, it is important to look for a high quality medical grade colloidal silver solution, with a small particle size to ensure that there is a proportionately large surface area for optimal effectiveness.  Look for a silver which is made from a minimum of 99% medical grade silver which has been created via a professional water purification process.  Purchasing silver in a glass spray bottle is a good idea so that you can use it when traveling, around the home or in the office.

Sometimes it’s worth remembering that the old remedies can be very effective, especially those with a history as successful as silver.

By Emily Hammond, Nutritional Therapist BA, Dip CNM, mBANT


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