General Medical History of Silver


Before getting started on all of the benefits of using colloidal silver, perhaps an overview of the historical uses of silver is appropriate first. A brief history will ground the many benefits of colloidal silver within a contextual framework that does not make colloidal silver seem like a too-good-to-be-true wonder drug that you can use for everything to cure anything.

General medical history of silver

You may not be aware, but silver has been used pretty much forever within a medical or health context.  While drug companies and regulatory bodies often sneer at colloidal silver, there is a long, long tradition of medical professionals and everyday people using silver for its health benefits.

Way Back When

No one really knows exactly who, or exactly how silver was found to have beneficial properties, but there are plenty of examples of how silver has been used to benefit health for centuries – as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.[1]

The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to store beverages and food to keep it fresh and to preserve it better used silver containers.[2] Silver has been considered a precious metal for so long that using it to store beverages can be considered more than a simple sign of wealth.

Silverware has been used on tables nearly as long – silver cutlery, silver dishes, and silver glasses were all commonplace. Although the phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth” has more to do wealth and luxury than health, perhaps the regular use of silver for dining and storing food also contributed for the longer lives of those who could afford to use it.

Steve Barwick claims that expression “is said to be as much of a statement about health as it was about wealth,” when responding to the statement about British aristocrats letting their children suck on a silver spoons to apparently boost immunity.[3]

Like many great discoveries, there is no doubt that the discovery of the health benefits of silver was accidental. There is also the slight (very slight) possibility that all of these people using silver were oblivious to its effect. It has been used in healthcare and medicine since well before bacteria were even discovered as the cause for many different illnesses and diseases.

Up to the 19th Century

It wasn’t until the middle ages that the use of silver medical apparatuses was documented.[4] Doctors used silver surgical instruments and silver prostheses.  During the 17th century, there are records of surgeons using silver in neurosurgery (for example the neurosurgeon Ambrose Pare used facial clips in facial reconstruction surgery).[5] Also in the 17th century, there is evidence that the English surgeon John Woodall used silver nitrate to treat infections from crainofacial surgery.[6]

Within the next hundred years further advances would be made regarding silver in healthcare, and how and where to use it.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common practice for people to put silver coins in barrels of water, or in their containers of milk in order to keep (or make) the water potable, and to keep milk fresh. There are many records of pioneers and settlers using this trick to keep themselves in good health.[7]

It is also good to know that it wasn’t until the 17th century that bacteria were known to exist. Anton van Leeuwenhoek in the 1660s was able to grind glass lenses to magnify items up to 500 times their normal size. When he (for an unknown reason) magnified a sample of pond water, he was the first person to witness bacteria in action. It was not until the late 19th century, however, that bacteria were linked to disease and illness[8].

Introducing Colloidal Silver

In many ways, the late 19th and early 20th centuries were rich times for medicine. As odd, misguided, and flat-out wrong as some of the theories and beliefs from that era seem today, there definitely were some bright shining moments of truth that are still relevant today.

Andrew Ede’s book on the rise and fall of colloid science thoroughly covers how colloid solutions rose to prominence and then lost favour. Essentially, colloids as a field of Chemistry did not develop the promise that many believed them to have. Many saw them as anticlimactic; as Ede states, “colloids were not as the researchers expected[9].”

But, it is from that era — the tail end of the 1800s until the early 1930s — that colloidal silver solutions were developed. It made silver easier to administer, for example, in eye- and eardrops amongst many other medications.[10]

Because this technology was, so to speak, still in its infancy, there was really no way to ensure that safe colloidal silver was produced. Much higher concentrations of silver solutions were used than today, the particle sizes were much larger, and any variety of liquid was used, in addition to many different means of producing colloid solutions, including grind, wave, chemical and electrical methods.[11]

The inconsistency of colloidal silver solutions, and the rise of pharmaceutically produced antibiotics led to the end of colloid science as a prominent field of study, and of colloidal silver as a well-known antibiotic.

19th Century and Early 20th Century

The 19th century was certainly a time for many wild medical experiments. New theories were introduced, tested, thrown out and declared wrong short decades after being declared among best of medical practices. During this time the use of silver expanded beyond medical tools and became commonly used in treatments too.[12]

Perhaps the first third of the 20th century, while colloid studies still held a prominent part of the scientific spotlight, was the height of silver’s popularity in medicine.

A wide array of silver products – most commonly silver nitrate based – was available and developed for all sorts of ailments. It is likely that the use of silver nitrate in medicine goes back to the 15th century.[13]

Silver nitrate solutions were used topically to treat a wide variety of skin infections, in addition to being flushed thoroughly in the eye to treat regular and mucous membrane infections. It was also commonly used as a type of mouthwash.

Silver nitrate solutions were also used (along other solutions) for such treatments such as sterilizing birth canals and vaginal douching[14].

With the rise of effective antibiotics, for example penicillin, the use of silver in healthcare dramatically declined, though some practices still remained commonplace – including using silver in burn treatments.

The use of silver medically has been increasing in recent years. As people grow frustrated and distrustful of the medicines advocated and available today, and with the increase of superbugs resistant to powerful antibiotics, more and more people are looking to alternative solutions to control their health.

Silver Today

Today electric production is the primary method for producing consistent, high quality, microscopic colloidal silver[15]. Colloidal silver, however, is rarely recommended or used in institutional medical settings although silver is used extensively in other manners for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

A few of the ways that silver is used include:

Bandages and Burn Treatment[16]

A wide variety of bandages are on the market that somehow use silver (the means and methods differ between types bandages). Essentially, exposure to moisture (from a wound directly or otherwise) causes positive silver ions to be released from the dressing, and the silver works to neutralize or kill any bacteria or toxins in the wound.[17] Silver dressings and bandages are commonly used in hospitals for skin wounds, burns, and infections.


Acupuncture needles containing silver have been used nearly as long as the practice of Acupuncture has been around. Silver needles are used in Acupuncture for specific treatments, rather than used generically across the board.

Dentistry (in fillings)[19]

Silver is still used today in Amalgam fillings  -fillings made from a number of different metals including tin, copper and mercury. Amalgam fillings have been used for over a century and have proven to been reliable and safe.

Water purification[20]

There are many proprietary methods of using silver to purify water so that it is safe for drinking – the best known among them perhaps is Katadyn®.

Silver is commonly combined with copper (silver-copper technology) in water purification systems.

Techniques to purify water include filtering water through silver impregnated or coated filters, soluble silver salts, and through the release of silver ions into water systems (done electrically or otherwise).

Clothing and textiles[21]

Silver is becoming increasingly popular in clothing and textiles. Valued for its antibacterial and anti-fungal effects, many manufacturers have developed proprietary means of infusing fibers with silver ions in order to take advantage of its benefits. Lululemon, for example, has a line of clothing that uses X-static® silver yarn, called Silverescent® in order to make their clothes “anti-stink” because it helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria.


Historically, catheters used to be made from silver and although antibacterial, then were eventually replaced by catheters made from more pliable materials for ease of use.

Today, it is easy to find catheters that have been manufactured that are either impregnated with metallic silver or coated with silver, silver oxide, or silver sulfadizine in order to reduce the risk of catheter-related infections caused by bacteria. Catheters for intra-urethral use and intraceberal also use silver treated catheters to reduce the risk of infection.

Sutures, staples, etc[23]

Silver wire has been used to sew wounds together at least since the Roman empire was at its height. Although they undoubtedly have been refined since them, silver wires are still used today for retention sutures – although stainless steel, silk, and synthetic wires are more common. Silver staples, likewise, are still used although they are not the standard staples used.

There are also recent advances in using silver coated or impregnated silk or synthetic fibers for sutures, although this technology is considered to be largely experimental.


Silver is also used in a wide variety of other medical applications, including orthopedics (plates and cements)[24], and cardiovascular medicines (heart and vale stents).[25]


Silver has been used for countless centuries to human benefit. From storage containers for beverages and food, to its popular use for tableware, and to its many, many medical uses (including bandages, medical instruments and topical solutions), silver’s health benefits have been proven many times over, and is still widely used today across a broad spectrum to benefit us in our daily lives.

It is highly unlikely that the use of silver in medicine will cease. With the ability to manufacture silver impregnated devices and fibers, proprietary techniques and technologies will keep silver in the medical field.

For a very thorough study on silver in health care, read Alan Lansdown’s book, Silver in Healthcare: Its Antimicrobial Efficacy and Safety in Use (RCS Publishing, 2010[1] ). While he says little about colloidal silver, the studies about silver toxicity and build up are relevant to those wishing to learn more about the potential risks of having silver in their body.


This information has not been evaluated by any official agency. The content of this website is intended for information only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. For medical advice, please consult a medical professional.

We are not doctors and are not prescribing colloidal silver to you for any use. Please consult a medical professional before consuming colloidal silver, or to find out what dose or ppm solution is right for you.

The author and publisher of this information disclaims responsibility or liability for any hardship or loss that may be incurred as a result of the use or application of this information.

Information that is referenced is believed to be from reliable sources, but no guarantee can be made regarding the accuracy of sources.


Baranowski, Zane. Colloidal Silver: The Natural Antibiotic Alternative. Healing Wisdom Publications, 1995.

Barwick, Steve. The Ultimate Colloidal Silver Manual: Introducing the All Natural Antibiotic They Want to Take Away from You. Life and Health Research Group, 2009.

Ede, Andrew. The Ride and Decline of Colloid Science in North America, 1900-1935: The Neglected Dimension. Ashgate, 2007

Hill, John. Colloidal Silver: Medical Uses, Toxicology, & Manfacture. 3rd edition. Clear Springs Press, 2009.

Lansdown, Alan. Silver in Healthcare: It’s Antimicrobial Efficacy and Safety in Use. RSC Publishing, 2010.

Types of Bacteria, “How and When Were Bacteria Discovered.” <>

[1] Hill 10

[2] Lansdown 4, Hill 10

[3] Barwick 176

[4] Lansdown 1

[5] Lansdown 1

[6] Lansdown 1

[7] Hill 10

[8] Types of Bacteria: How and When Were Bacteria Discovered

[9] Ede 1

[10] Lansdown 2

[11] Ede 68

[12] Lansdown 3

[13] Lansdown 95

[14] Lansdown 2

[15] Baranowski 4

[16] Lansdown 104

[17] Lansdown 104

[18] Lansdown 126

[19] Lansdown 193

[20] Lansdown 146

[21] Lansdown 152

[22] Lansdown 115

[23] Lansdown 113

[24] Lansdown 123

[25] Lansdown125

check how to properly reference that book. year, publisher, isbn? order of info?


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