We're standing in the kitchen, watching ghostly trails ooze off sticks of silver in a jam jar filled with distilled water. The kitchen, the jar, the silver, and the machine sending an electronic charge through the metal all belong to Graham Garnos, an agricultural business owner and an alternative healing enthusiast.
Garnos, a downtown Miami resident originally from Presho, South Dakota, is brewing some homemade silver colloid, a substance that's been used since the 1800s as a disinfectant and a healing agent. It can be applied topically --- people put drops in their eyes to treat sties or conjunctivitis, or on their skin to fight acne or psoriasis --- or orally.
"It kills like 700 anaerobic bacteria within about 30 seconds. And they've known this for 150 years," Garnos says. "Penicillin kills [at most] four, five, six, or seven different bacteria. They had colloidal silver. They knew colloidal silver killed hundreds of anaerobic bacteria. What did they popularize? They popularized penicillin. Why? Because it was patentable. Why? Because it was profitable."
Garnos says colloidal silver can also be used to make water potable. "If you're in say, Ecuador, and there's no clean water, and you carry a couple pieces of silver with you and a nine volt battery and a couple wires, you can make a silver colloid and it will kill most of the [bacteria] in the water," he says. "Does that mean that viruses will die? No. But the major water-borne pathogens of the world are killed by silver in the water. So if you need to survive, it's a great thing to carry, and a lot of people do."
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's website has a page devoted to examining the use of colloidal silver as medicine. It acknowledges that the solution "denatures proteins by binding to their reactive groups and can inactivate some enzymes by forming hemisilver sulfides with sulfhydryl groups of the enzymes," but it doesn't explicitly describe its antiseptic effect.
Silver colloid is available as a supplement in health food stores and online, but Garnos and many other proponents of the health tonic find it more cost effective to make it at home. The generator he uses can be bought for less than $100 online. He spends between $10 and $20 for two 10-gauge wires of 99.99% silver, what's known as "fine silver," for the creation of each batch of his silver colloid. The use of sterling silver, which contains copper, can be poisonous, he warns.
"In Whole Foods, you can buy an ounce and a half of silver colloid for about 13, 14, 15, 17 dollars. [Considering those prices,] you can make a couple a thousand dollars worth of the same quality silver colloid as what's sold in Whole Foods, for pennies, in your home, in an hour."
Sloan-Kettering's website reports that the purported uses of colloidal silver include immunostimulation and treatment of AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and infections. The site cautions:
Whereas silver compounds are still used in external preparations as antiseptics, there has been a growing interest in using the collodial form of silver orally as an alternative medicine. In vitro studies indicate antitumor effects, but no human clinical data support the use of oral colloidal silver.
Garnos says he's been ingesting the substance in massive quantities for years to detoxify, prevent disease, and promote health of his digestive tract. The suggested dose is about two teaspoons, but Garnos believes that more is better.
"I've drank over a gallon a day for a number of days in a row, and I think the people who turn blue turn blue because they were drinking silver colloid made of sterling silver, and the copper in sterling silver got into their bodies."
He's referring to a condition called argyria, which Sloan-Kettering's website explains thusly:
Long term use can cause silver deposition in the skin and mucous membranes leading to an irreversible condition called argyria, characterized by bluish-gray to gray-black pigmentation.
To date, there have been no conclusive human studies on the effects of colloidal silver consumption. Garnos himself has a non-believing friend in the medical field in California whom he's attempted to goad into conducting some rudimentary clinical trials, to no avail.
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"I challenged him, I called him up and I said, 'Why don't you go to a lab, down there in Palo Alto, and get the nastiest fucking shit you have, bacteria-wise, put a few drops of silver colloid on it, and see what happens.' And he wouldn't do it. Why wouldn't he do it? 'Cause nobody in Palo Alto will take him seriously if he tries. He cares more about his reputation, being taken seriously, than he does finding something else that works. Who can hold him to blame for that."
The silver colloid debate won't be settled until large-scale clinical trials confirm its benefits, risks, or both. Garnos says he doubts such studies will come to pass any time soon because no well-funded agencies stand to gain anything by conducting them. In the meantime, he suggests that the curious try silver colloid, and other alternative medicines, for themselves.
"Go have your own experience, rather than taking someone else's word for it. Nobody knows everything. The people that claim to know everything have all the power anyway," he says.