Silver in the cuisine is not alien to India and older civilisations like Greeks, Roman, Chinese and Egyptians. Several celebratory dishes and garnishes use silver leaf (warq) and silverware, utensils such as bowls, cutlery, glasses and flasks are integral to our food heritage. In Ayurveda, silver has been used in the form of Bhasma (calcined formulation), called Rajat Bhasma, for 5000 years. Ayurvedic medicine uses silver in small amounts as a tonic and elixir. It was used to treat neurological disorders, respiratory tract disorders, muscular dystrophy, infertility, urinary tract disorders and diabetes. It only seems logical to assume, there must be some merit in this metal.
Silver has historically and extensively been used as a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent. It has a long and intriguing history as an antibiotic in human health care, and also as an antimicrobial in folk medicine. It was believed that people who ate from silver dishes and cutlery were less likely to get sick. It was believed to protect the rich from Plaque in the middle ages.
Silver leaf was used to combat infections in wounds sustained by troops during World War I. Silver has also been used for water purification, treating wounds, injuries, reconstructive orthopaedic surgery, cardiac devices, catheters and surgical appliances. In the early 1800s, doctors used silver sutures in surgical wounds very successfully and that was a time when western scientists rediscovered what was known for thousands of years that silver is a powerful germ fighter. Silver began to lose favour with the advent of antibiotics in around the 1930s. With the rise of antibiotic resistance, silver is making a comeback as a useful broad-spectrum antimicrobial alternative.
Silver as a metal and a non-essential element, is much safer to a human body than other heavy metals like lead and mercury. It is also available in liquid form. This type is known as Colloidal Silver. Colloidal silver is basically the suspension of sub-microscopic silver nanoparticles in water. Prior to introduction of antibiotics, colloidal silver was used widely in hospital as a antibacterial for almost 1,200 years. It is believed that colloidal silver can kill germs by binding pathogens. In the field of wound care, silver containing dressings have been used historically. Currently more than 10 dressings containing pure silver are available.
Various studies suggest that colloidal silver is effective in killing and preventing bacterial growth, including bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant and also preventing viruses from entering human cells. It is also reported to be toxic to cancer cells.
Colloidal silver is also known to have various anti-inflammatory properties, which can soothe eye infections like conjunctivitis. It stimulates skin and tissue healing and reduces inflammation. Thus its use in traditional medicines includes conditions like psoriasis, acne, cysts etc
According to a 2014 study published in the International Forum for Allergy and Rhinology, colloidal silver has been found to be effective when used as a nasal spray. Being a potent antimicrobial agent, colloidal silver may help reduce the length and severity of colds and flu.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently does not recognise colloidal silver as a safe antimicrobial agent. A study published in the journal of alternative complimentary medicine in 2013 to review the efficacy of colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent concluded that colloidal silver was a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent.
At this time, there are not enough well designed scientific studies to determine appropriate doses and safety levels. Until then, following the principle of common sense drawing from traditional practices, getting the silver spoon back onto your dining table may be more than symbolic giving you an edge to your health and well being.