The Historical Use of Silver Salts and Colloidal Silver

These notes are paraphrased from a pre-WWII copy of Materia Medica and Therapeutics by Blumgarten, pub 1935, 6th Edition.
I have only altered terminology to make it clear what they were saying to a lay audience, I have NOT altered any dosages. EXTREME CAUTION should be used in experimenting with any of these notes in a practical way; remember that the science of Medicine was almost in the stone age in 1935, (and some would say that parts of it still is). However, doctors were freer to experiment, and less likely to be sued, so information tended to be recorded if it was possibly of use in treating patients; but they knew very little compared with the vast body of clinical knowledge accumulated since.
This was especially the case with the medical knowledge obtained during WWII by both the US, UK and the Germans. If you have had a piece of intestine removed due to traumatic injury, the doctor only knew how much he could cut away due to the experience obtained during WWII. There were also heart surgeons in the US Army 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group, who, because they had no option but to try to operate on soldiers shot in the chest, even removed bullets from the ventricles of living hearts, with some success!
The death camps, particularly, added a unique and valuable resource which can never be repeated, especially with regard to the use of Vitamins in high dosages. For that, we must have the most profound respect for the terrible involuntary sacrifice made by the concentration camp inmates.
The information below is given strictly for the purpose of curiosity. Please add other information if you find any from other sources. [Blogger’s notes are in square brackets].
Page 65 – 68:
Colloidal Silver is mentioned here in some detail. The form used is described as “mild Silver protein” and are considered to be mild antiseptics and germicides, used for irrigation, and “locally” [externally] and on mucous membranes of the nose, throat, eyes and genito-urinary tract as antiseptics. They are all said to be especially effective against gonorrhoea. The concentrations given range from 5 % to 50 % [and as such are almost guaranteed to give some degree of Argyria if used internally or on internal mucous membranes]. There are a number of versions described, and most are said to be “soothing and not irritating to the tissues”. Other versions are described as Silver Oxide, Iodide and suspended in albumin, proteins [unspecified] and gelatin. None of the descriptions give details of manufacture. Some of the more interesting descriptions are given below, together with their proprietary names.
Argyrol is described as a mixture of Silver Oxide and protein, in percentages between 20 % – 25 % of Silver, re-diluted to make a 10 % – 25 % solution, and it is stated that it stains linen dark brown.
Argyn: “A colloidal compound of Silver Oxide and albumin, containing 20 – 30 % of Silver”.
Cargentos: This is said to be a 50 % albuminous solution of Silver with casein. It is “used as an antiseptic, in the form of tablets, vaginal tampons, dusting powder, ointment or suppositories”.
Neosilvol: [For some reason, the previous owner of my copy of this book has put a pencil tick by this name. I can only guess that she must have used this particular product successfully, but I cannot be sure, of course]. It is said to be a colloidal combination of 20 % Silver Iodide and a protein, re-diluted the same way as Argyrol [10 % – 25 % solution].
Collene: This is tantalisingly described as a colloidal Silver salt in permanent suspension. It is not irritating and does not discolour the skin. It is used “in full strength” [unspecified].
Collargol: This is described as 78 % – 85 % Silver [It must have looked a bit like Mercury! – or more likely a deep brown colour] and it is stressed in the book that this contains a larger proportion of metallic silver and less of Silver combined with protein. It is described as a solution of very finely divided Silver in albumin, containing about 85 % Silver. The book states three times that this product is often given by direct injection into the blood [intravenously] as an antiseptic and also used locally [externally]. The dosage for intravenous use is given as being between 1:500 to ½ % solution, for use against sepsis. [This would seem to equate to between 1560 – 1700 ppm up to 3900 – 4250 ppm, which is impossible with our electrolytic methods, and again also very likely to cause Argyria, although a bit less likely than with an equivalent concentration of IS]. There is also a mention of the product being given by mouth at a dosage of 0.06 gm [1 grain or about three drops. I have heard of this product or something very similar being used intravenously for the treatment of Cholera and Typhoid during WWI]. This product was also given in the form of suppositories, pessaries and as a dusting powder.
Collargol Ointment: described as 15 % Collargol in an unspecified ointment base, rubbed into the skin in cases of mastitis.
Page 95:
In the event of poisoning by Silver Nitrate, the suggested treatment was to wash out the stomach and give Sodium Chloride as an antidote [turning the Silver salt into Silver Chloride]. It notes that a symptom of Silver Nitrate poisoning is a burning pain in the mouth, with the lining of the mouth being covered in a greyish-white membrane.
It states that Silver has been used for centuries, esp by the “Arabians” [sic] for use against nervous diseases. Silver was associated with the Moon, hence the other common name for Silver Nitrate, Lunar Caustic.
Silver Nitrate is used to “check excessive granulation tissue and to contract the mucous membranes of the eye, nose and mouth when they are inflamed. The salts of silver are particularly valuable in the treatment of gonorrhoeal infections. They destroy the gonococci, the bacteria which cause the disease”.
Argyria is mentioned, and described as “Chronic Silver Poisoning” caused by prolonged use of Silver salts. It comments that Potassium Iodide is given to relieve the condition, “but it is not very effective, however”.
Page 96:
Silver Nitrate is used in 1 – 2 % solutions in the eyes of infants to prevent gonorrhoeal opthalmia. For treatment of gonorrhoea, is it used in weaker solutions, between 1:10000 and 1:1000. Silver Nitrate is said to form an explosive compound with Tannic acid [so don’t mix it in your tea].
Reference is made to the use of Lunar Caustic on small sticks with Silver Nitrate like a match-head.
Silver Citrate is referred to as a non-irritating antiseptic, used in solutions of 1:4000 to 1:10000 for injections into the urethra and cavities [unknown definition of cavities].
Silver Lactate is used for disinfecting purposes in solutions of 1:100 to 1:2000 [external surfaces or the skin?]
Page 556:
A 1% solution of Argyrol is suggested for injection into the urinary tract as a urinary antiseptic for the treatment of gonorrhoea and cystitis. Also Silver Nitrate in dilutions of 1:1000 – 1:10000 solution for gonorrhoea.
Page 600:
Under Arsenic preparations given for the treatment of Syphilis, it mentions Silver Arsphenamine (Silver Salvarsan) as being better than Arsenic by itself, the dosage quoted is 0.1 – 0.3 grams dissolved in 5 c.c. of warm distilled water, given intravenously or intramuscularly into a deep muscle. There is a warning that overdose may cause poisonous symptoms such as Argyria and swelling.
There is also a note that the Jarish-Herxheimer reaction may occur due to the excessive release of dead spirochaete toxins, which may develop a day or two after injection. The symptoms given are:
1) A rash which becomes markedly reddened and “all the constitutional symptoms become markedly accelerated”.
2) Headache.
3) Nausea & vomiting.
4) There is a rise in temperature.
In the event of arsenic poisoning, it indicates that the antidote is Sodium Thiosulphate, given intravenously in doses of 0.6 – 1.0 gm.
[Blogger’s note: None of these dosages seem remotely practical or necessary with CS as we make it today. They also seem almost guaranteed to give rise to cases of Argyria. I particularly would avoid the use of Silver Nitrate, as in addition to the high risk of Argyria, the product can be very corrosive. The use of Silver Citrate, Iodide and Lactate as sterilising antiseptics for use on floors and kitchen surfaces is of some interest, but I would rather use CS reduced with fructose or glucose for this purpose. This is a collection of historical notes for preservation for the future, as we never know if the information may one day become useful, even if only as background information, but I WOULD NOT USE ANY OF THIS INFORMATION FOR LIVE MEDICAL USE. I also must re-iterate that I am not a doctor, nor do I suggest the use of any of this information as a treatment for any ailment or disease. If you are unwell, I would suggest that a medical professional, practised under modern medical training, is of more immediate use, and must suggest that you seek qualified professional medical advice if you feel unwell. Although the medical practitioners of yesteryear were undoubtedly doing their best, even the most casual reading of the Materia Medica cannot but give concerns as to how primitive the practise of medicine was in those days.]

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