The Chemical and Physical Basis of the Therapeutic value of colloidal forms of Silver
John Marshall Dudley

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Silver in its various forms has had a long history of reported therapeutic value. Recently, through the work of Dr. Bob Beck and other researchers, it has become popular, both alone, as well as part of a 4 part protocol advocated by Dr. Bob Beck claiming cures for an almost astounding number of ailments from the cold and flu to lupus, aids and cancer.


However, a search of literature has revealed that there is no consensus on how it works, or even what it does. Most discussions appear to be pure theories or speculation with little or no supporting scientific evidence.

Silver colloids are analyzed from a nuclear, chemical, catalytic, and physics perspective to determine what the expected action is on various pathogens as wel as its effect, if any, on so called good bacteria.


The result is that what is being generally reported by many people and researchers is exactly what is to be expected. This is important, since winning the approval of medical professionals, and even that of many patients requires that they understand just what a new therapy does and does not do, and how it works.


Silver has been reported to have therapeutic value throughout the ages.

It has been reported that one reason the upper class did not succumb to many of the plagues which almost wiped out many villages was because they ate with silver utensils, off silver plates and drank from silver goblets. Churches did, and still do, use cups made of silver for communion, where one goblet is passed from person to person. Earlier this century people put silver dollars in their milk and wells to ward off spoilage and illness (4).


The knowledge of the miraculous healing powers of silver were so well known that legends of werewolves required silver to kill the lychantrophy, and supposedly, evil witches cowered at the power of silver to eliminate evil.


Even more recently, many researchers such as Bob Beck have reported that silver in a colloidal state eliminates virtually all known pathogens, viruses, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and yeasts. Yet, it appears that there is no effect on the good bacteria in the intestinal tract, either because it does not attack good bacteria, or it is absorbed into the blood stream before reaching the intestinal tract.


Silver is referred to as a transition metal in chemical literature, along with copper and gold. They are metals that are heavier than the life giving light metals, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium, yet lighter than the toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury. Gold and silver are considered noble metals because they tend to not react easily to form compounds. The transition metals are known for their catalytic properties.

Although ionic silver (such as any silver compound dissolved in water) has very little if any catalytic effect, and macroscopic silver has little effect either. However, very finely powdered silver becomes a very good oxidizing catalyst. Starting with atomic or ionic silver, the catalytic effect increases with particle size until it reaches a peak at some value, then drops off to a much lower level when the particles approach the wavelength of light.

This is easy to explain by examining how a catalyst works. Each positively charged silver atom will attract one negatively charged atom or molecule. Once they touch, the charge is neutralized. If you have more than one positively charged atom of silver in a particle, then each can attract a negatively charged atom or particle. If a clump of silver atoms binds with two negatively charged particles, such as oxygen and something else, these two particles will no longer electrostatically repel each other, but will be brought together and will react, oxidizing the particle.


The larger the particle, the more positively charged silver atoms can attract oxygen and other negatively charged particles to the surface. However, if particle size becomes too large, then the amount of silver hidden in the center of the particle means that the increase in mass, which goes up with the cube of the diameter, is increasing faster than the active surface areas, which goes up at the square of the diameter. The catalytic effect thus peaks at some particle size and decreases with respect to the amount of silver if the size is increased further.


Bacteria come in two forms - anaerobic and aerobic. 


Earlier this century it was discovered by Dr. Gram that he could stain bacteria with a specially prepared Gram stain, and that in general good bacteria stained, but pathogenic bacteria did not stain. It was later discovered that the pathogenic bacteria are negatively charged. Pathogenic bacteria are anaerobic, and if oxidized will die. Thus, to prevent oxidization, they carry an enzyme to specifically repel negatively charged oxygen. If this enzyme is disabled so that they lose this negatively charge, or if oxygen is supplied in a form such that it is reactive to negatively charged pathogens, such as ozone water or hydrogen peroxide, the bacteria will be oxidized and the reaction is ultimately lethal to the pathogen.


It thus follows that negatively charged bacteria, and negatively charged oxygen will both be attracted to and will bind with silver particles. Since the negative charge is neutralized through an electron transfer with the particle of silver each can now easily combine with the other, and will do so, oxidizing the pathogen an destroying it.


Specifically it has been determined that with anaerobic bacteria and viruses oxygen reacts with the sulfhydryl (-S-H) groups surrounding the surface and removes the hydrogen (converting it to water) so that the sulfur atoms form an -R-S-S-R bond. This interferes with the organism's transport or membrane proteins and deactivates them.(5)


Not only will it result in the catalytic oxidation of the bacteria or other pathogens, but since almost all pathogens are negatively charged and the silver is positively charged, the silver and pathogen are attracted to each other via a static attraction causing interactions much faster and at much larger distances than would be expected by pure chance of collision.


However "aerobic bacteria, those that breath oxygen, do not carry a negative charge. This enables the good bacteria to attract oxygen which they require to breathe. One would expect that aerobic bacteria would not be killed by silver.


However testing done at University of Tennessee under our directions has shown that colloidal silver is also quite effective in killing aerobic bacteria. The method by which the aerobic bacteria are killed is still under investigation.


It has been previously thought that the reason that colloidal silver does not affect the good bacteria in the intestines was because it did not kill good bacteria. We have proven this to be false. Further investigation indicates that colloidal silver is unable to move around and interact with bacteria when in a gel or solid matrix.


This in conjunction with the fact that most if not all of the silver, when particle size is correct, will get absorbed through the stomach lining and into the blood stream, most likely accounts for the lack of killing the good bacteria in the intestines.


It should be clear now why silver colloids are extremely effective at destroying pathogenic bacteria, yet do not affect good bacteria in the intestines or mammal cells. Yet the reports on the effectiveness of silver colloids, when compared with normal antibiotics, still seem to call into question why silver is so much more effective, often effecting a cure in hours, when powerful antibiotics may take days or weeks.


There are a number of reasons why silver seems to have much more effectiveness than normal antibiotics. 

Here are a number of them:


1. Colloidal silver is positively charged; most antibiotics do not carry a strong positive charge. This causes silver to virtually seek out and destroy pathogens, instead of simply having to move around until they happen to bump into each other. This effect is quite appropriately referred to as the "Silver Bullet" effect by Dr. Beck.


2 Silver kills immediately by oxidizing the pathogen. Antibiotics do not affect viruses at all, and for bacteria will only kill the bacteria when it tries to divide (penicillin type antibiotics) or will prevent the pathogen from dividing (tetracycline type antibiotics). In the first case, it may take the bacteria several days before it attempts to divide; and in the second case the bacteria is not killed at all, but just prevented from replicating. In both cases, the immune system must take care of most or all of the pathogens.

With silver, they are killed outright immediately.


3. Silver is a catalyst. Thus, as soon as a particle of silver has oxidized a pathogen, the pathogen loses it's negative charge and floats away, and the silver is free to attack another pathogen. Antibiotics usually bind with the pathogen and for each pathogen destroyed, one particle or molecule of the antibiotic is used up.

The result is that silver will usually give a much faster kill than an antibiotic. The down side of this is that the high and rapid kill rate can result in Herxheimer's reaction or healing crisis (1). The body simply does not have time to eliminate the huge amount of toxins and dead pathogens that can result from silver water.


Other therapies which work along similar lines such as ozonated water are reported to cause the same problem. It is highly recommended to never initially give therapeutic dosages of colloidal silver to a severely ill person, but to give small amounts initially and work up to therapeutic dosages in a couple of days. This allows the kill rate to be maintained where the body can eliminate the dead pathogens and toxins without undue stress. Of course, drinking large amounts of liquids can help flush the toxins and should be encouraged.

Other Possible negative effects


As most people know, silver is used as the photo-sensitive ingredient in almost all photographic processes. Silver compounds, when exposed to light, will often result in the silver being reduced to atomic or metallic silver. Then in the presence of a developer, any silver compounds that contact the silver particles will also undergo a reduction reaction, enlarging the silver particle.


While this process is essential to photography, it is undesirable in the skin of a person. It is thought by many that the reason that the royalty long ago were called blue bloods is because the silver from the goblets and wares would react with acids in their drinks and foods, then precipitate out in their skin giving them a bluish color.


It is known that consumption of silver compounds, such as silver nitrate, followed by exposure to sunlight can result in a graying or bluing of the skin, a medical condition called argyria (2). As it turns out, a number of chemicals that can appear in the blood make quite effective developers. Caffeine and tannin are just two of them (3).


Fortunately, colloidal silver, when made by the electrolytic process in pure distilled water without any salts being added, produces no silver compounds. Thus, silver plating out of colloidal silver is not possible; the silver particles are already reduced to pure silver, and are mutually repulsed, because of their positive charges.


However, if the colloidal silver is made from silver salts by reduction chemistry, (as the high ppm level products are) traces of silver salts can remain.


Although silver metal is non-toxic to mammals, silver salts are poisonous because of the associated cations, and can result in argyria (2).


Also, when colloidal silver is made by the electrolytic process and salt or sea salt is added, silver salts will be produced as well. Although, in an emergency, one would be wise to make one's own silver water using techniques previously given by Dr. Beck, for long term use all exposure to silver salts should be avoided.


The use of table salt (sodium chloride) will produce some Silver chloride. This is undesirable, and although the amount of silver chloride is limited by it solubility in cold water to 89 PPM (6), this is still a significant amount of silver compound comapared with the amount in the colloid itself (5 to 10 PPM).


The use of sea salt which many people recommend is especially disturbing. Sea salt contains many compounds, including various nitrates and fluoride. Many of the compounds can combine with silver to produce silver compounds. Specifically silver can combine with nitrates forming a highly soluble and toxic silver nitrate salt and with fluoride producing highly soluble and toxic silver fluoride. Nitrates in sea salt can run as high as 20 ppm, and fluorides are typically 40 ppm (7).


Therefore colloidal silver should be only made with pure distilled water to prevent the formation of any toxic silver compounds. If one must use an accelerating agent, then adding a small amount of previously produced colloidal silver is recommended, over adding any type of salt.


Effectiveness verses particle size

Several publications indicate that for absorption through the stomach wall, particles must be .015 micron (15 nm) or smaller. Traditionally particle size has been determined by electron microscopy. This technique is quite slow and tedious, resulting in a procedure which is both slow and inaccurate. The absorption band of silver colloids increases in wavelength as the size of the particles increase. This allows a qualitative measurement on the particle sizes in a colloid by use of a scanning photospectrometer. Ionic silver has an absorption band in the uv, and thus is virtually clear. As more atoms aggregate into a particle, the absorption band moves from the uv into the violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.


Since the color of a substance is the complement of the color absorbed, colloidal silver will go from clear to very light yellow, gold, orange, red, blue and green. (CC) p 65. Colloids that contain a broad range of sizes can absorb wavelengths across the spectrum resulting in brown and black. It is generally accepted that only clear to light gold silver colloids have particle sizes small enough to be effective, and to be able to reach the blood stream.


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1. FUNGUS The species specific understanding of, and difference between bacterial phase and fungal phase developments in blood pictures. Michael Coyle. Explore! 1997.

2. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 76th Edition 1995-1996 CRC Press. David R. Lide Editor in Chief. P 4-27.

3. A Use for that last Cup of Coffee: Film and Paper Development. Dr. Scott Williams.

4. Health Consciousness Magazine Vol 15, No 4.

5. The Development and Functions of Silver in Water Purification and Disease Control. The Silver Institute. Richard Davis & Samual

6. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 52th Edition 1971-1972 page B-135

7 ibid. F-165

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