The business of preserving has been around for thousands of years. Methods were often stumbled upon without scientific knowledge of exactly why such things as silver platters, silverware, copper pots, and clay basins prevented food from spoiling.
To consider the use of various methods of preserving, it helps to begin with an understanding of why we preserve. What is it that causes food, water, lotions, and other products to require a form of preservative to ensure they are safe and uncontaminated for longer use? And what type of preservative is safe if ingested or used on the skin?
Although there are different needs and therefore different types of preservation, such as moisture retention, non-coagulation, and anti-oxidation, what we understand now (something that the Romans and Greeks did not yet know since they did not have the microscope and did not understand that bacteria and other microorganisms were the cause of spoilage) about preserving food and water, is focused on fending off microbes and mold.
In today’s world, there are plenty of dangerous chemicals that can stop microbial and mold growth, but these are not exactly what we want to be putting into our bodies. If we are to adhere to a healthy regiment, which should include abstaining from as many of these chemicals as possible, alternative methods must be used in the products that we eat and use on our bodies.
Of the most popular and safe options, we may rely on silver, which has been used for thousands of years to preserve such things as water, wine, and food. Colloidal silver is often chosen for use in natural skin-care products and many home food producers use it during the canning process for preventing food borne bacteria and mold. A recent article in the Nature Reviews Microbiology journal expounds on the antimicrobial properties of certain metals and how they have been used for millennia to prevent food spoilage and infection:
Vessels made of Cu (Copper) and Ag (Silver) have been used for water disinfection and food preservation since the time of the Persian kings. This practice was later adopted by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Settlers of North America dropped Ag coins into transport containers to preserve water, wine, milk and vinegar, and a similar strategy was used by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War to prevent the spread of dysentery…
The importance of using a safe method for preserving food and natural products without having to introduce strong chemicals is important in more than just the natural skin care industry. After years of using iodine to clean the water systems and provide drinkable water, NASA has declared their use of silver to decontaminate water supplies. The ability to provide a source of clean water to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, with the use of colloidal silver, clearly indicates the powerful and safe use of this method of decontamination and preservation.
Colloidal silver used in lotions has a two-fold benefit. It not only helps to preserve lotions from contamination, but it is also healing to the skin. Silver was used extensively as a biocidal before the introduction of antibiotics. Scientific American has recently published an article describing how silver taken with antibiotics is boosting the killing power by up to a 1000 times. It is also used in hospitals to aid the healing of skin for those with severe burns. In a paper written by Dr. J Wesley Alexander of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, he writes of how silver was the treatment of choice before antibiotics were introduced:
Crusius used silver nitrate for the treatment of burn injuries in the 1890s, well before its recent rediscovery. Vonnaegele realized that the antibacterial effects of silver were attributable primarily to the silver ion, and did systematic studies that led to the finding that silver was an effective antimicrobial agent for almost all unicellular organisms (at least 650 species)…
With more natural and safe methods of preservation and biocidal agents available to us, it is important to investigate them for our own use. Silver may very well be one of those natural resources that proves to be far more imperative to our survival (especially with the onset of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria) than we were previously made aware. It seems that nature has a way of providing us with what we need with little intervention needed on our part, short of trusting that its intelligence is enough.
Alexander, J. Wesley. “History of the Medical Use of Silver.” Surgical Infections 10.3 (2009): n. pag. Silver Edge Health. 2009. Web. 3 July 2017.
Birmele, Michele, LaShelle McCoy, and Michael Roberts. “Disinfection of Spacecraft Potable Water Systems by Passivation with Ionic Silver.” NASA Technical Reports. NASA Kennedy Space Center; Cocoa Beach, FL, United States, 17 July 2011. Web. 3 July 2017. 41st International Conference of Environmental Systems; 17-21 Jul. 2011; Portland, OR; United States
Correspondent, Fiona Macrae Science. “Silver Really COULD Be the New Weapon against Superbugs: Adding It to Antibiotics Boosts the Effectiveness by 1,000 Times .” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 19 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2017.
Lemire, Joseph A., Joe J. Harrison, and Raymond J. Turner. “Antimicrobial Activity of Metals: Mechanisms, Molecular Targets and Applications.” Nature News. Nature Publishing Group, 13 May 2013. Web. 03 July 2017.