Concerns About Argyria: What Is Colloidal Silver’s Worst Potential Side-Effect?

September 26, 2011

Many media outlets proclaim the risks of natural supplements: they aren’t regulated the same way as FDA approved medicine, some have dubious claims & benefits, some have serious side-effects (ephedra), or aren’t labelled properly.

But no supplement is as campaigned against as colloidal silver (although homeopathy is currently coming up negatively in all sorts of places). Why? There aren’t tons of major studies proving the efficacy of even the most popular supplements (and colloidal silver IS very popular, which only makes it more of a target).

Without strong, government-approved proof of efficacy, those who believe strongly in “what mainstream science (or government, or whoever) says is best” think that anyone seeking natural or alternative solutions are at risk of not getting the required medical treatment, potentially putting their lives (or others, in the case of transmittable disease) at risk.

Think Critically About Colloidal Silver & Other Supplements

The first thing I have to say about this is EVERYONE SHOULD THINK CRITICALLY. No matter what side you’re on (preferring natural or traditional medicine or mainstream medicine), I think there would be a LOT of common ground if everyone gave legitimate consideration to both sides of the argument rather than having a knee-jerk reaction.

There are medical treatments that are absolutely necessary, and medicines that save lives. There are also natural treatments with similar efficacy that have fewer (or no) side-effects.

On the other hand, there are unnecessary surgeries & medicines that work no better than a placebo. There are dangerous natural remedies, like a British company that was selling people diluted bleach. There are healing herbs (and foods!) that taken at too high a dose can cause severe side effects (if you were to eat a lot of nutmeg rather than sprinkle it in a dish you could cause your kidneys to fail—but it would have to be A LOT of nutmeg (yes people do this)).

Thinking critically about each individual option, rather than advocating for one exclusive route, would aid this discussion greatly.

For example, did you know that there are studies (PDF) that found colloidal silver enhances the effects of antibiotics? When fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, colloidal silver seems to make antibiotics work like new!

What Is Colloidal Silver’s Relationship With Argyria?

Colloidal silver is variously defined, even in some research. Silver compounds, proteins, and ionic silver are used by some interchangeably. While there’s some rationale for this—silver in all these forms DOES kill pathogens—it omits a VERY important distinction: these different silver forms DON’T perform the same way in the body.

The larger the particle, the more likely it is to accumulate (you probably get the largest silver particles as well as several silver compounds from unfiltered tap water).

But what, exactly, causes argyria? The general answer is silver. But specifically, what form of silver?

Historical cases of argyria usually occurred in working environments, when someone accidently inhaled or swallowed huge amounts of radiated silver, or silver compounds.

But most people are more familiar with recent examples of silver-caused argyria, especially Paul Karason, who turned blue after taking huge amounts of his home-generator made “colloidal silver”.

Of note:

  • Paul Karason took over a decade to turn blue, as it happened gradually. So there should not be fear that you could wake up one morning with argyria. (And I feel that a reasonable person should notice-especially in an age where facebook and other sites are preserving, and reminding us, of our old pictures).
  • He kept taking colloidal silver after he turned blue, because he claimed it helped with a skin condition and significantly relieved his arthritis.
  • Colloidal silver supplements ARE regulated, and have to meet manufacturing guidelines, the least of which is performing tests to ENSURE the label accurately reflects what you’re getting. Contaminantes, misinformation, or some other unknown factor can negatively influence the results of generator-made colloidal silver, and the home-brewer generally doesn’t send it off to a lab to be analyzed for accuracy.
  • There are so few cases of argyria (despite the many people regularly taking colloidal silver supplements) that there isn’t a more precise answer than “silver causes argyria when ingested”. A rigorous scientist should ask: were there environmental factors? What exactly is the composition of his home brewed silver water? Does his body react differently for some reason, as in a preexisting condition that prevents his body from properly cleansing/detoxing itself? What other variables might have lead to argyria?

Mainstream science rejecting the comparably few studies on colloidal silver/nano silver is sort of ironically mirrored by their acceptance of a few isolated cases of argyria.

How do you respond to people who have a knee-jerk rejection of all things natural, holistic, traditional but no longer used, etc.? What are some good ways we could start a fair conversation about colloidal silver and other natural supplements?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Good News About Nano Silver! — Colloids For Life Blog
May 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm
FDA Has No Evidence Colloidal Silver Harmful — Colloids For Life Blog
March 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

{ 2 comments }

Emma Spera February 14, 2012 at 6:13 am

Very well thought out! Most argyria cases have involved more than silver, they’ve involved silver nitrates, radiation, or another contaminate. I’d love to learn more about how nitrates and phosphates may affect argyria!

Thanks for sharing!

Hercolena February 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

It would be a logical conclusion to infer that since all water obtained by means of copper/metal pipes and tinned foods do not cause water/consumers thereof to turn green/rusty, the incidence of blue complexion may not be attributable to colloidal silver and may be purely coincidental. Since not actual colloidal silver, but presumably silver nitrate and silver phosphate that can cause the condition of argyria, it may be deduced that other matter containing nitrate and phosphate may be the actual culprits rather than the beneficial silver, since nitrate and phosphate is also known to affect growth of algae species, hence there may be some correlation, also as more phosphate and nitrate chemicals added to water make it change colour – the more phosphate or nitrate the sample contains, the more intense the colour. In fact skin greying can occur as a result of numerous other factors, such as low oxygenation, poor circulation, cardiac problems, cold and anaemia.

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