Use of Silver in Lyme Disease
Silver is a natural remedy that was used for infection as far back as 1000 BC where the Persian king Cyrus used silver vessels to treat water for drinking. Topical use has a long history in modern medicine, with it being used to treat wounds in WWI, up to its use to prevent eye infections in newborns and its current wide use in preventing infection in burns. Silver solutions have been approved by the FDA since the 1920's for the treatment of a variety of infections.
Lyme and silver are often terms that come up together. Many of my patients have asked about the use of colloidal silver in lyme disease, as they often already have experience with very rapid healing of the usual colds and flu's when they use silver. Now as overdosing on silver, whether we are treating lyme with silver, or a run-of-the-mill infection with silver, can cause serious side effects, I typically don't suggest that silver be used without supervision, and it probably should be reserved for more serious infections. Silver can cause a permanent discoloration of the skin, making it turn a dusky blue color. Just like a smurf.
Silver is theorized to address infection through oxidation first, then alkylation. We often read about antioxidants - and sure, they may be helpful, but oxidation is how we generate energy, and how we kill germs. Because of this fundamental importance of oxidation, our own cells have well-developed antioxidant systems that protect themselves from oxidation, whereas germs that cause illnesses like Lyme disease have no such protective systems. Thus in my opinion, oxidative treatments like IV vitamin C, intravenous hydrogen peroxide, UV blood irradiation, and yes, silver, may help in lyme disease.
White blood cells of your immune system use hydrogen peroxide and bleach to mount an "oxidative" attack on germs that cause infection. Unlike antibiotic drugs, it is rare for a germ to be resistant to this type of attack. Resistance may occur when germs develop mechanisms for preventing drug from binding to receptors or on their cell wall: this doesn't apply to something like bleach or other types of "oxidative" attacks.
When using silver for lyme disease, we should keep in mind that smaller particle sizes are typically better. This may allow for more free silver ions to be available, and more surface area for the silver to generate its "oxidative" actions for killing lyme. Silver hydrosol may be one of the best in my opinion. It has no silver protein in it, no stabilizers. Hydrosol just means the silver is suspended in pure water, whereas other colloids might use solvents.
To many patients, but particularly those with lyme, silver can also bring warning bells as it is in fact a heavy metal. In my opinion most lyme patients should have had a heavy metal workup with conventional blood tests and with provoked challenges, as certain heavy metals may effect the immune system.
Silver can be toxic if used incorrectly or in the incorrect form. Animal toxicity studies show us this large margin of safety. However, side-effects are common with silver in lyme disease. Lyme patients typically understand well the "Herxheimer" reaction, which we attribute to the response to the lyme bacteria dying, and stimulating an uncomfortable immune response from the toxins that are released. Lyme treatment with silver can cause: headaches, joint pain, sweating, nausea, flu-like reactions, fatigue, skeletal pain, itching, diarrhea, and fever. Not too unusual for a herxheimer reaction.
Silver can have true toxicity. One is the skin discoloration. It can also accumulate in the liver, and in some rat studies, it caused swelling of the brain. Note that massive doses were used to cause the brain swelling, and such doses on a weight equivalent basis would never be used clinically. I should note that in my experience in lyme, silver has been tremendously useful in the cognitive brain fog.
Silver is most widely used in its colloidal silver form to be taken orally. In conventional medicine, it is used in dressings to prevent infection in burn wounds. I should note that dosing of silver is both product and patient specific. For example, the mcg dosage of a silver hydrosol needed for a good clinical effect in my experience is much less than a larger particle based colloidal silver.
Clinically, a baseline battery of tests typically need to be run:
Liver, kidney, electrolyte tests
G6PD level (possible)
CD57 assay (to monitor progress of treatment of lyme with silver)
Once these are clear, then depending if the patient has already had other oxidative therapy already, and if they are on antibiotic therapy, and if any co-infections are present, a short course of silver therapy for lyme disease may be recommended.
Herxheimer reactions are treated accordingly. In my experience, once symptoms start to improve, we find an optimal treatment schedule, and usually retest.