Silver water is a general term for silver particles within water, although there are numerous types. The most basic solution consists of visible pieces of silver in tap water, whereas "ionic silver" is a more sophisticated type and involves the process of electrolysis to produce positive silver ions suspended in a colloidal solution. The safest and most biologically active silver solutions contain the smallest particles and the purest water. The benefits of silver were known by the earliest civilizations.
Ancient civilizations, such as the Phoenicians and Greeks, knew that storing water and oils within silver containers preserved the freshness of the liquids for long periods of time. Some also realized that drinking from a silver cup was healthier than drinking from a copper or lead cup. Hippocrates, considered an originator of medical practices, ground up pieces of silver into powder and consumed it with water for assumed health benefits. During ancient times, microbial causes of disease and spoilage were not understood, but years of practice yielded noticeable benefits that were recorded. In fact, many people, right up until the widespread use of refrigeration and homogenization, used silver spoons and coins in milk to preserve it.
As it became better understood how micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and molds caused disease and spoilage, more emphasis was put on discovering and using substances that killed them. Before 1938, when penicillin was discovered, silver solutions were used as disinfectants, especially for surgical instruments and laboratory equipment. Silver nitrate ointment was used to disinfect newborns' eyes for many decades beyond penicillin's discovery. According to the National Academies, ionic silver solutions are used to disinfect the potable water on the International Space Station and the Russian "Mir" orbiting station. The World Health Organization, through its sponsored manual, "Water Disinfection," states that silver colloids are effective water disinfectants for potable water in Third World countries.
Although evidence supporting silver's ability to purify water and disinfect inanimate objects is plentiful, its ability to kill pathogenic organisms in the human body is considered controversial and not well-studied. However, a South Korean study published in a 2008 edition of "Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology" found that ionic silver solutions are effective at killing bacteria and Candida albicans fungus in Petri dishes. University of North Texas researcher Dr. Mark Farinha found that solutions of colloidal silver had an antimicrobial effect on in-situ populations of Staphylococcus, Candida and Pseudomonas. An interesting property of silver solutions seems to be the inability of pathogenic organisms to become resistant to them, which is why human studies are so important to undertake.
- "History of Medicine"; F.H. Garrison; 1966
- "Spacecraft Water Exposure Guidelines for Selected Contaminants: Volume 1"; National Academies Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology; 2004
- World Health Organization: Water Disinfection
- "Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology"; Antifungal Activity and Mode of Action of Silver Nano-particles on Candida albicans; K. Kim et al.; August 2008
- SilverMedicine.org: University of North Texas Study