Argentum nitricum, or silver nitrate, has been used in traditional medicine in a diluted solution for antiseptic purposes, although its use has all but disappeared. Silver nitrate, however, is a stock remedy in homeopathic medicine for anxiety. Potentially lethal when ingested in high concentration, diluted silver nitrate has demonstrated no effectiveness against anxiety in controlled studies.
A Dangerous Poison
Argentum nitricum is a colorless, odorless transparent crystalline substance used in photography and for silver plating of metals. In homeopathic medicine, silver nitrate solutions are used to treat anxiety, or nervousness. In mainstream medicine and in environmental hazard regulations, silver nitrate is classified as a dangerous poison that causes severe burns or death when ingested internally.
In diluted solutions, silver nitrate is a homeopathic remedy that fits with the principle that "like cures like," or the belief that taking a substance that causes the same symptoms as a serious disease can cure or prevent that disease. Presumably, in the case of silver nitrate that can cause severe abdominal pain, the symptom that often accompanies anxiety is thus both mimicked and treated homeopathically.
Treating Anticipatory Anxiety
Anxiety is present when someone has feelings of apprehension or uncertainty; this can sometimes lead to panic attacks—episodes of tachycardia, or racing heartbeats, hyperventilation, disorientation and feelings of agitation and helplessness. According to the University of Michigan, these are also symptoms that can be treated with homeopathic remedies such as silver nitrate.
People who are anxious in anticipation of an important event, such as a public appearance or examination, may develop odd impulses and crave sugar and salt; symptoms often include dizziness and diarrhea, according to the University of Michigan.
Silver nitrate in lower doses can be self-administered or prescribed by a homeopathic practitioner. If various doses of silver nitrate do not relieve anxiety "within a reasonable amount of time," then the sufferer is encouraged to try different remedies to see what works.
Results of Australian Study
Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of argentum nitricum in reducing the anxiety levels of university students facing an exam.
One study conducted at Southern Cross University in Australia compared two types of argentum nitricum with placebo in a group of 62 anxious students. There was no correlation between anxiety reduction and the use of silver nitrate, and no difference between types of treatment were found.
Researchers concluded that "homeopathic argentum nitricum does not reduce test anxiety in a general population of university students."
Results of Johannesburg Study
A similar study conducted at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, produced similar findings.
The work focused on argentum nitricim because "homeopathy is an effective form of treatment for many acute disorders and the remedy argentum nitricum is considered a specific treatment for anxiety," according to study author Christinette Snyman.
The study evaluated 40 students at the University of Johannesburg older than 18 years, who were recruited from the same course and who were facing the same exam. Participants were randomly given placebo or silver nitrate for five days before the test. Measurements of anxiety including pulse and blood pressure were taken 15 days before the test and on the day of the test.
Test results demonstrated that "argentum nitricum does not reduce test-related anxiety in a general population of tertiary students," although those who received the drug showed a more stable pulse than those who got placebo.
Ineffective, with Risk Factos
Clearly, the effectiveness of argentum nitricum as a remedy for anxiety is questionable. Ingestion of silver nitrate also carries the risk of internal tissue damage and even death, according to dose level. Thus, it is advisable to check with your physician before taking this substance internally.