The Uses of Gold and Silver in Medicine

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Although much more popular for visual and status appeal, both gold and silver have been used in medicine since ancient times. The idea that gold and silver possess medicinal properties it thought to stem chiefly from superstition, with accounts of its use as medicine replete in Persian, Arabic, and European alchemical texts.

The origin of the belief in the therapeutic benefits of gold stemmed from the alchemists and physics (that is, physicians) of the bygone eras: Gold was believed to be a panacea or cure-all, with their logic being that nothing as wonderful and seemingly permanent as gold could possibly bode ill for the body. Gold was consumed as a food and beverage to this effect, with gold leaf being applied to fruits and whole entrees, as well as being added into liquors and other beverages. The practice of the consumption of gold for gaudy show or medicinal purposes was known to several cultures - for example dating as far back as the Tang Dynasty of China.

The idea that gold and silver possess therapeutic properties stems from the ancient belief that these metals possessed and inherent power all of their own. This was furthered by the belief that wearing accessories made from gold or silver conferred protection to the wearer. In fact, many esoteric healing practitioners still attribute a divine or aural power to both gold and silver.

In ancient cultures, the idea of sympathetic magic – that is, like cures like, was the mainstay of much of the esoteric medicine practiced during the time. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians placed much stock in gold, attributing many healing properties to it. Silver was considered the perfect amuletic material, capable of warding off any malignant spirits that was said to bring illness. Gold was also thought of as a powerful rejuvenator, capable of conferring vigor and strength to wearers, hence its restricted use to the nobility of the time. This belief in the healing properties of gold and silver as something purely magical can even be found in the myths and legends of many cultures – among the most well noted is the Golden Fleece, which was said to possess the power to resurrect the dead, and of course those notorious silver bullets so commonly employed in horror movies.

The belief in the therapeutic abilities of gold ran rampant during the 17th to 18th century, where it was added to foodstuffs and beverages by the elite in the hopes of curing sundry diseases that ailed the body and mind.[1] While this practice later fell out of popularity due to the expensive nature of gold and its relative scarcity, as well as the incapacity of the masses to follow suit with the expensive practice, the use of gold and gold compounds in medicine is surprisingly experiencing a comeback in this present age.

Beyond magical and shamanic practices however, the use of gold and silver in medicine has a long history. Silver is well known to possess considerable antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria.[2] This knowledge was well known in Ancient Rome, where silver vessels were used to store vinegar and wine to prevent spoilage. Silver is even said to be able to purify water or stave off any off taste, which is why silver goblets and cups were commonplace in some richer cultures of the past. Due to its resistance to tarnishing and rust, gold and silver have also been used since the latter part of the High Middle Ages as replacement for teeth – a practice that would later develop into the fillings that we now know today. In fact, a typical modern teeth fillings still contains trace amounts of gold or silver, as it is non-reactive, non-toxic, and durable! The antiseptic qualities of silver have also been employed to help prevent the infection of wounds, usually by the application of silver dust to the wounded area.[2]

One of the better known medicinal uses of gold and silver nowadays comes in the pseudoscientific ‘cure-all’ or panacea known as colloidal gold and silver. These patent medicines, meant to be consumed orally are usually composed of minute gold or silver particles suspended in water. Despite the attributed benefits of these medicines, very little scientific proof is there to back it up. Colloidal silver is also known to accumulate in the body, lending a leaden hue to the skin overtime if taken overmuch.

Some recent scientific studies have indicated that gold may possess some therapeutic properties: The earliest mention of the use of gold compounds for the treatment of disease in the modern era dates back to the early 1900s as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis[3] - and injections of gold particles have been shown to provide relief for individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, although its practice is still somewhat limited.[4]

Gold and gold compounds have now been classified as ‘metallo-drugs’, a list of metallic compounds and substances that have therapeutic potential.[5] Gold compounds are usually injected into a major muscle in its pure diluted form (usually by filing the gold into a very fine powder then mixed with a liquid as a suspension), or it can be injected intravenously. Some scientific studies have shown that gold compounds are not only useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, but also in boosting the overall health of the body, as well as in giving the immune system an added boost.[6]

The implementation of gold compounds as medicine is a relatively ‘new’ idea that doesn’t quite sit well with every sector of the medical world, however, a number of studies have found out that injectable gold compounds may even be helpful for patients who suffer from HIV as it has been shown to strengthen the immune system to a certain extent.[7] Injectable gold compounds have also been employed as a last resort in treating some types of cancer.[7] The unique action of gold compounds in the human body has yet to be clearly defined, although it is known that imbibing gold will only result in it being ejected by the body through the normal means. In conclusion, it appears that the practice of using metals for their reputed therapeutic properties is slowly encountering a comeback, as evidenced by the growing popularity of gold salts, colloidal gold and silver, and even ormus.[8]

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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