Silver has been used in health and medicine for thousands of years. Prior to the introduction of antibiotics, this precious metal was used as a significant weapon against disease and infection on battle fields and in doctors’ offices.

More recent silver uses include an FDA-approved breathing tube that has a fine coating of silver to reduce patients’ risk of acquiring ventilator-associated pneumonia. More often, though, silver is used to treat open wounds, cuts, and rashes.

The first time I learned about silver’s use for wounds was when my daughter was five, and a cup of scalding water spilled onto her foot. I’ll never forget watching a three-inch circumference of burnt skin open up and peel away, revealing a fresh, pink, skinless wound.

I rushed her to the doctor, who prescribed a soothing silver cream that contained 10 mg of micronized silver sulfadiazine. We applied a thick layer of the silver cream daily and within days, the redness had subsided and new skin was clearly forming. Within a couple weeks, all that remained was a small pink patch. Within a couple months, there was no evidence that a wound had ever occurred.

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An experimental study on laboratory rats published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that wounds exposed to 1.0 percent silver sulfadiazine healed more rapidly than those in control groups. Around the fourth day of treatment, the researchers noted increased wound closure and healing of scabs. Just like with my daughter’s foot, the silver treatment shortened healing time and promoted skin repair.

Silver’s antimicrobial power comes from the release of silver ions, which are toxic to bacterial and fungal cell membranes. This makes it an effective treatment for open cuts and wounds. Silver is also beneficial for rashes; it acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, eases itching, and speeds healing.

Many people wonder if there are health risks associated with medicinal silver. According to an article in Current Problems in Dermatology, “silver exhibits low toxicity in the human body, and minimal risk is expected due to clinical exposure.” Prolonged ingestion of silver, on the other hand, can cause a rare condition called argyria, which causes the skin to turn a greyish blue color.

Applied topically, silver ointments can be a natural, effective alternative to over-the-counter antibiotic creams. A new generation of chelated silver products that are up to 200 times more bioactive and can be applied both internally and topically, are finally available on the market.

Marni Ayers is a writer, editor and mother. She writes frequently about eco-conscious living and is the founder of LusciousPlanet.com. Marni is also an award-winning playwright. Her plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities across the U.S. She lives in Santa Monica California with her husband and two daughters.

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