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The Amazing Applications Of Silver

You are probably wondering if the photo above is photo-shopped or if the man is wearing paint on his face.  The answer is no.

In fact, if you really wanted to, anyone could decide to be blue. Did you know that blue bloods, a term used for the royals in medieval times, got the name because they ate and drank from silver plates, cutlery, and chalices? These things introduced small amounts of silver into their bodies and slowly turned them a faint blue. 

The secret to the smurfyness is silver nanoparticles.  If you ingest and accumulate high enough levels of silver, you could develop “argyria” – a condition that turns the skin a blue grey (just like Paul Karason, dubbed the “Blue Man”, in the photo above). Karason did this by using daily nasal drops of silver nanoparticles as a natural supplement for a dermatological issue. 

Silver’s antibacterial and antifungal properties have been known for centuries. It’s the basis for the old wives’ tale that putting a silver coin in your milk would stop it from growing bacteria and spoiling. In fact, you can test silver’s antimicrobial effects through a very simple at-home experiment by adding silver nanoparticles to milk and watching the results over the next few days. Too excited to wait? Check out these videos from Steve Barwick, (WARNING!!! If curdled milk makes you queasy these videos may trigger unpleasantness).

Silver has some exciting modern-day applications 

In Medicine: Silver is being used today to help wounds heal faster by killing harmful bacteria, and preventing them from growing and causing infection.  These effects can be seen in silver-based wound dressings and bandages, and in antibacterial topical creams that contain silver as their bacteria fighting ingredient.1,2

As well, silver nanoparticles suspended in water can be taken as a medicine, which has been shown to kill bacterial with antibiotic resistance. This observation has led to its use in treating eye infections in infants, and ear infections.3

In Water Sanitation: Because it is able to kill 99.9% of pathogens in water, silver has applications as an affordable purification technique in communities with low water sanitation.

Dr. Teri Dankovich, the creator of The Drinkable Book, was inspired by material chemistry and the water needs of 663 million people in developing countries that do not have access to clean drinking water. The drinkable book is “the first-ever manual that provides safe water, sanitation and hygiene education and serves as a tool to kill deadly waterborne diseases by providing the reader with an opportunity to create clean, drinkable water from each page” (

*image courtesy of The Drinkable BookTM WATERisLIFE*

Each page of the book is infused with silver and copper nanoparticles.  To obtain clean water, individuals simply tear out a page, place it into the filter holder (which comes with the book), and pour unpurified water from any source over it. As the water passes through the filter paper, bacteria come in contact with the silver nanoparticles and kill the bacteria.  The result is purified water that is 99.9% free of pathogens, and meets the required water sanitation levels of first world countries. Each page can filter 100 litres of water before a new page must be used, this equals to 30 days of clean water for one person. One drinkable book provides 4 years of sanitary water for one individual!

*image courtesy of The Drinkable BookTM WATERisLIFE*

Is ingesting silver beneficial? 

As a chemist and not a medical professional, I cannot say if it is beneficial or not to use silver.  Consuming as much as 50 – 100 mg/kg body weight of colloidal silver is a lethal toxic dose for humans. This is equal to a 150 lb human drinking two bathtubs (170 L) with 3,400 mg of silver suspended in the water (20 mg/L of silver in water).

The human body naturally contains 1 mg of silver for normal bodily functions and minor amounts of silver will have no effect on these levels.4  In cases of argyria, the person is able to live because silver will react with the chloride, sulfur, and selenium normally found in the body and is easily expelled by natural processes. It is the reaction of silver with important proteins that cause cell death when a person has consumed a large concentration of silver. 

If you decide to ingest colloidal silver be aware that it does not distinguish between good and bad bacteria, it decimates them all!

Ingested silver is also shown to cause DNA damage, which is what can result in diseases like cancer.5,6 Overall, silver is harmless in low dosages, it is not the chemical but the amount that can cause harm.  Medical websites and doctors say that applying silver medicines to the skin is safe, but to avoid ingestion of silver compounds which have a greater effect on the gut cell linings.  Consult a doctor before personal use of silver medicines, or else you could end up blue.  

*Feature Image courtesy of

The human body reacts to things in fascinating ways. Consider the strange effects of grapefruit on the brain, for example.