Ionic silver, or Ag+, has excellent bacteriocidal properties in tissue culture models as well as in living tissue. Surgeons have been using it for many years incorporated into wound dressings as either the metal sulfadiazine or in the form of nano materials. A search on the international register of clinical trials will reveal more than 300 currently active studies.
A colloidal substance is one that is dispersed microscopically throughout another substance. Milk is an example. It is a colloid of butter fat droplets dispersed throughout a water-based medium. Nanomaterials contain particles between 1 nanometer (one millionth of a meter) and 100 nanometers (0.1 micrometers).
Scientists in Utah have completed a study to determine what, if any, are the toxic effects of Ag+ nano materials. A 10 ppm mixture was given to one group and the other group received diluent only. Inflammatory markers and reactive oxygen species were then measured. While the results are not yet available, it is a positive sign that the material is being taken seriously enough to study its effects.
Silver products, in general, are undergoing something of a renaissance in clinical research. In Italy, for example, nano materials are being investigated as a component of venous catheters. In Washington state, research is underway on the use of nano materials in hand gels as compared to gels with an alcohol base.
The main side effect of silver-containing compounds is a condition called argyria. This refers to the gradual discoloration of the skin and eyes following regular exposure to the medication. This can result in a slightly blue tinge and is mainly a cosmetic, rather than a medical, problem. One of the most widely publicized cases of argyria arose from a case where the individual had made his own colloidal solution at home.
Colloidal preparations use the metal in its elemental, rather than ionized, form. Initial studies have revealed that it contains similar germicidal properties to the ionic form without the problem of developing argyria. More studies need to be conducted to confirm these results.
Colloidal silver water is becoming a growth area in medical research. Studies are currently ongoing on its use as a bacteriocidal hand gel as well as a constituent in catheters to reduce infection. The fundamental difference between ionic silver and colloidal formulations is the use of the metal in its elemental form in the latter. The most common undesirable side effect of colloids is the potential for argyria. Currently considered an alternative remedy, nano materials are a subject of lively research and may well become incorporated into mainstream, as opposed to, alternative medicine.
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