Silver Manufacture: Silver Metal, Silver Ions and Colloidal Silver

Written by MICANS, MS, PharmB, Philip A

What I would like to achieve in this article, is to add something to biochemist’s James South MA, superb and extensive article in the Summer 1999 Anti-Aging Bulletin, about the effects, uses and actions of Mild Silver Protein (MSP) in the treatment and prevention of infections.

Actually, I feel that there is only one thing I can add! That is to point out the differences between the “silver solutions” and to elaborate on the reasons why some are better than others, and indeed why only certain types should be sought, if you want to avoid the much reported “side effects” with high-dosage or long-term use of “silver supplementation.”

It all stems from the tendency in the literature to use the word “silver,” to imply both the metal and the ions, and this clearly leads to needless confusion. It is therefore important to discriminate between these profoundly different entities.

With this as background, let us consider some of the various materials “loosely and incorrectly” grouped under the name of “colloidal silver.”

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is nothing more than metallic silver in colloid form, dissolved in a solvent, most commonly water. Although bulk silver is, of course, insoluble in water, if it is fragmented into smaller and smaller particles, one ultimately arrives at particles that will dissolve in water. As such, the color of the solution tends to depend on the particle size.

Solutions that are dark yellow (near brown/ black), contain particle solutions that are indefinitely stable to light and air, but impurities can cause aggregation of the silver atoms to form silver mirrors. For this reason, it is usual to “protect” the colloidal metal with stabilizers, typically proteins. These systems are indefinitely stable and constitute what is known as “Mild Silver Protein” or MSP.

It must be emphasized that this material contains silver in the atomic, metallic form. When properly prepared, there are no silver or other ions present; its conductivity is the same as that of the water in which it is dissolved. Such solutions have extremely low toxicity, a number of reported cases where, through inadvertence, children and others have swallowed 100ml or more of “properly prepared” MSP, have produced no ill-effects whatsoever and with no development of argyria, (we will come back to that later).

The pre-war literature cites many references to the clinical uses of colloidal silver preparations; primarily topical applications for the treatment of gonorrhea, urethritis, tonsillitis, conjunctivitis etc. Though many of these preparations were colloidal silver salts (i.e. containing silver ions), some were clearly colloidal silver (metal). The products seem to have been effective and widely used, but silver fell into disuse because of the development of patentable, (and hence promoted) anti-biotics and because of the development of the nasty side effect of argyria in some cases.

Silver Ions

It is important to distinguish between silver as a metal and silver as an ion. The metal is made up of silver atoms. A silver atom differs from a silver ion by one electron only. Both have the same atomic nucleus, but the silver atom has 47 electrons circulating the nucleus, versus 46 for the silver ion. The loss of this electron, gives the ion a single positive charge.

So silver ions have totally different properties. They are colorless. Their aqueous solutions are quite different from colloidal silver solutions. They conduct electricity, and are very reactive. They complex virtually instantaneously with sulfhydryl-groups and with amines/ proteins.

Thus, silver ions react with DNA, RNA, most proteins and many other cell constituents. It follows that they are powerful, cytotoxic and active in very low concentrations, (one reason why they have been used as antiseptics for decades).

Some “ignorant” physicians have fed silver salts to their patients and even injected it. The patients, for the most part did not die, but they did acquire argyria- a permanent and disfiguring bluish pigmentation of the skin.


This condition is a simple consequence of the photo-lability of silver ions in the presence of organic material. A piece of photographic printing paper (essentially silver bromide dispersed in gelatine), exposed to sunlight, rapidly turns color to blue-gray. Then absorbed photons induce the transfer of electrons from the gelatine to the silver ions, generating particles of metallic silver.

The process is similar in argyria patients; essentially the ingested silver ions are converted into silver in their skin.

But PURE colloidal silver cannot induce argyria. Why? Read on.

Pure Colloidal Silver

It seems clear that the problems associated with the clinical uses of colloidal silver are to be ascribed solely to the presence of silver ions.

This has been one of the prime reasons that IAS has only ever recommended a colloidal silver that is subject to an elaborate purification procedure, to assure the TOTAL elimination of all ions, including silver ions.

Such a colloidal silver process was developed by Discovery Experimental and Development Inc., (DEDI) and IAS has been stocking a range of their colloidal silver products for several years with NO complaints. Indeed, tests conducted by the University of Toronto found DEDI colloidal silver to be non-toxic.

Yet, whilst the DEDI colloidal silver is free from silver ions, it is still a bactericidal, and DEDI have much data on file purporting to its beneficial effects for the treatment of viruses, including; Staph. Aureus and E-Coli and numerous other bacteria.

Indeed, University laboratories have documented that it inhibits the replication of the HIV virus in human T-lymphocytes and it kills the spirochaete responsible for Lyme’s disease.

In its “over the counter status”, pure colloidal silver has found a wide-spread acceptance as a gargle for tonsillitis, sore throat, gingivitis, as an anti-septic for cuts and abrasions, and in special formulations for treating ring-worm and psoriasis.

There is little doubt in my mind that pure protected colloidal silver preparations have a therapeutic merit, and should continue to be available to the general public. The problem is to keep off the market “colloidal silver” preparations, containing significant amounts of silver ions, and to also educate both the public and the medical profession, that not all colloidal silvers are the same, and what they should look for when purchasing such a product etc.

Perhaps a revision of the specification in an official Pharmacopoeia, such as the US Pharmacopoeia would help to achieve that objective?


As James South MA stated in the Summer 1999 Anti-Aging Bulletin, in his silver article:

“Silver is unique among antimicrobial agents in its broad spectrum of action. It has been claimed to kill some 650 different disease organisms. And unlike antibiotics, Silver is an ‘equal opportunity destroyer’ – it doesn’t discriminate, but effectively kills germs of all major types: gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, spore-forming bacteria, fungus/yeasts, viruses and protozoal parasites. Silver sulfadiazine is used almost universally in hospitals to prevent serious burn infections, but it kills dozens of different bacteria; it also kills 95% of 72 strains of herpes virus, as well as the protozoal parasite Plasmodium berghei (malaria). It also kills various yeasts, including several Aspergillus varieties, Mucor pusillus, Rhizopus nigricans and 50 different clinical isolates of Candida albicans.”

MSP is a powerful tool available at our disposal to treat and prevent infection, by that very consequence, it may need to be taken regularly over a lifetime. Hence, it makes good sense to ensure that we only use a pure MSP that is proven, (to quote the Hippocratic oath) – to first do no harm.


Please see the long list of references at the end of James South MA article; “Hi Ho, Silver Away” in the Summer 1999 IAS Anti-Aging Bulletin. They are available upon request or can be downloaded from