What Are Colloidal Minerals?
Excerpts from: Mineral Primer, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD, Weston A. Price Foundation.
Several types of mineral supplements are available commercially including chelated minerals, mineral salts, minerals dissolved in water and “colloidal” mineral preparations. A colloid is a dispersion of small particles in another substance. Soap, for example, forms a colloidal dispersion in water; milk is a dispersion of colloidal fats and proteins in water, along with dissolved lactose and minerals. Colloidal mineral preparations presumably differ from true solutions in that the size of the dispersed particles is ten to one thousand times larger than ions dissolved in a liquid. Colloidal dispersions tend to be cloudy; or they will scatter light that passes through them. Shine a flashlight through water containing soap or a few drops of milk and its path can be clearly seen, even if the water seems clear.
There is no evidence that the body absorbs colloidal mineral preparations any better than true solutions of mineral salts or minerals in chelated form. Many so-called “colloidal” formulas often contain undesirable additives, including citric acid, that prevent the mineral particles from settling to the bottom of the container. Furthermore, these products may contain an abundance of minerals that can be toxic in large amounts, such as silver and aluminum. Even mineral preparations in which the minerals are in true solution may contain minerals in amounts that may be toxic. If a product tastes very bitter, it probably should be avoided.
The Truth About Colloidal Minerals
One of the biggest misinformation campaigns in today’s health products marketplace is the use of colloidal minerals.
Colloidal minerals are getting a lot of publicity, and many companies have used colloidal minerals to amass millions of dollars in sales simply by using anecdotal stories about the effects of these minerals. Many of these stories come from an audio tape entitled, "Dead Doctors Don’t Lie," that is currently being widely circulated.
The information that we will present in this paper is not based on stories that are impossible to back up or verify. So, in this paper, you will find facts based on true research. In many instances throughout this paper, we have provided references so, if you choose, you may go to those sources for additional, in-depth details.
"The current edition of Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines colloids:
Physical chemistry( A.) a colloidal system, one in which a finely divided solid is suspended in a liquid: such colloids range from solutions to gels. ( B ) a colloidal suspension… a substance that when suspended in a liquid will not diffuse easily through vegetable or animal membrane.
To be considered "essential" to the human body, a mineral must demonstrate that "a dietary deficiency of that element consistently results in a suboptimal biological function that is preventable or reversible by physiological amounts of the element".
Six criteria have been outlined to establish "essentiality.19 "For all practical purposes, there are only 17 minerals or elements of substantiated nutritional value."
Minerals that many companies are selling in supplement form, including lead, cadmium, mercury, boron, lithium, strontium, beryllium, rubidium and others, have been referred to as "nonessential contaminants".
It seems absurd that companies are having a heyday marketing minerals that have no known value, while at the same time many consumers are fearful of taking supplemental iron, a mineral that is an essential nutrient. Some people seem concerned over taking too much of an essential mineral, but are lured by claims of minerals, such as silver, that have well-documented toxic effects.
I like how it was put in a quote I recently read, "Many are offended by the dangers of pollution in the water supply with heavy metal contamination or overexposure to known toxic substances. Why wouldn’t they feel the same about supplementation of known toxic substances?"
Why would someone who is careful about health and nutrition or worried about pollution and environmental toxins, take dietary supplements that are described not in pharmacological textbooks, but in books about poisons and toxins. Perhaps the marketers have done such a good job of veiling the truth that consumers are simply unaware of the potential dangers. Here are just a few:
The major effect of excessive absorption of silver is generalized impregnation (saturation) of the tissues where it forms an insoluble complex. It accumulates in the spleen, liver, bone marrow, lungs, muscles and skin. Lesions of the kidney and lungs, as well as arteriosclerosis have been attributed to industrial and medicinal silver exposure.
When colloidal silver was given to experimental animals, it produced death due to pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation and swelling in the lungs) and congestion. Hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells) and resulting bone marrow hyperplasia (abnormal multiplication of cells or enlargement of a part due to an abnormal increase of its cells) have been reported with silver. Chronic bronchitis has been reported from the medicinal use of colloidal silver.
The following is a letter to the editor that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on October 18, 1995 – Vol. 274, No. 15. This article was written by doctors from the Food and Drug Administration about the dangers of Silver. This, of course, doesn’t mean ANYTHING of itself, but it does lend support to the other sources warning of regular colloidal silver use.
While occasional use of Colloidal Silver may appear helpful, we at Pure Health Systems believe there is a much better way to support the immune system and resist Bacterial or Viral Health Threats!
To the Editor – Silver compounds have been used as medicinals for centuries. (1) In the 19th century, colloidal silver proteins (CSP’s) were promoted as cure-alls to prevent and treat diseases such as tetanus and rheumatism.
In this century up until World War II, CSP’s were widely used to treat colds and gonorrhea. However, in recent decades, the medicinal use of silver has been largely replaced by safer and more effective therapies.
Since 1990, interest has resurged in promoting CSP products as "essential" mineral supplements with multiple health claims (Roma Egli, FDA Nontraditional Drug Compliance Branch, written communication, February 1995).
For example, advertising materials in health food stores promote CSP use in more than 650 different diseases. Colloidal silver proteins are being touted as powerful antimicrobials against viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes, Candida, and tuberculosis.
The CSP’s also have been advertised as "an immune system stimulant and anti-inflammatory agent," for use in conditions such as diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, and cancer.
One manufacturer quoted a researcher in an unpublished article, "If we cannot assimilate silver for some reason or as the tissue ages, we develop a silver deficiency and an impaired immune system leading to cancer. When silver was present, the cancer cell de-differentiated and the body was restored."
Initially available in Northwestern states, CSP’s are now widely available throughout the United States because of aggressive marketing by distributors.
They are recommended for use in adults, pregnant and lactating women, and children; they are available as oral solutions, aerosols, intravaginal douches, and injectables; and they are labeled as nontoxic and void of drug interactions.
Recently, combination products became available as mixed mineral supplements and as a mixed CSP – colloidal copper-menthol product for minor skin ailments.
Contrary to these promotional claims, silver is not an essential mineral supplement and has no known physiologic function. The use of silver products as germicidals has chiefly been replaced.
Efficacy claims for the treatment of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and systemic fungal infections or for the prevention of cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and diabetes remain unproven. Use of such products with unsubstantiated claims can delay appropriate medical intervention, resulting in deleterious consequences.
Silver is not without toxicity. Silver accumulates in the body and may result in bluish skin discoloration (argyria). (2) While silver deposits derive from dietary (eg. mushrooms, milk, and bran), environmental, or industrial exposures, the indiscriminate use of CSP’s and other silver medicinals adds unnecessary exposure and may result in argyria.
Although primarily a cosmetic concern, argyria is irreversible and has no effective treatment. In addition, neurologic deficits (3) and diffuse silver deposition in visceral organs (4) have been reported with long-term use of oral silver products.
Renal damage and metal fume fever have been reported with high silver exposures. We are concerned that renewed interest in CSP’s among health food enthusiasts could lead to increased toxicity.
Slate-Grey Skin Caused by Taking Silver Supplements
Diagnosis (Testimonial by a woman with Argyria) Right after starting high school at the age of 14, my friends and I volunteered to work in the local hospital as "candy stripers."
The hospital was run by a Catholic order of nursing sisters who required that all new volunteers attend a class at their convent once a week on Saturday mornings. The nun who gave the course was also a nurse and a pharmacist. One morning when I walked in she was very startled by my appearance.
"Why are you that color?" she asked. What color? No one had noticed that my color was weird until then. She repeated, "Why are you that color? Ask the doctor." Suddenly everyone noticed. I was slate-gray. We had a family friend, a general practitioner, who made an appointment for me to see a dermatologist.
Meanwhile, Saturday rolled around again and I went back to class. This time Sister greeted me with, "You’re taking nose drops, aren’t you?" I told her I was. "Stop," she said. "They have silver in them. That’s why you’re gray."
She had seen another nursing sister at the hospital with the same skin discoloration which was also caused by nose drops, probably from the same doctor who was on their staff. The dermatologist took one look at me and diagnosed argyria – a permanent, irreversible skin discoloration caused by the ingestion of silver.
A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis showing all the little specks of silver in my skin. Unfortunately, that is the only information that I have ever been able to get about the drug that disfigured me. No one ever sued doctors back then.
What are the risks of using these products?
Animal studies have shown that silver builds up in the tissues of the body. In humans, buildup of silver from colloidal silver can lead to a side effect called argyria. It causes a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, other organs, deep tissues, nails, and gums.
Argyria cannot be treated or reversed, and it is permanent. While it is not known how argyria occurs, it is thought that silver combines with protein, forming complexes that deposit in the skin and are processed by sunlight (as in traditional photography).
Other side effects from using colloidal silver products may include neurologic problems (such as seizures), kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches, fatigue, and skin irritation.