The Antimicrobial Properties of Precious Metals
Jan 28th 2021
Gold, silver, and copper make up some of our most beautiful jewelry, but they can be powerful antibacterial and antiviral agents as well. For centuries, people have used these types of metals to combat powerful illnesses and restore health.
Remarkably, these precious metals have stood the test of time, and researchers are still finding new ways to incorporate them into our healthcare.
Gold nanorods are tiny bits of elemental gold that human eyes can’t see. Even though they’re virtually invisible, gold nanorods might be exceptionally powerful when it comes to fighting diseases. The secret lies in our body’s RNA. Gold nanorods can actually prompt a robust immune response throughout RNA, telling our body that it’s time to fight disease.
How Does It Work?
Gold is biocompatible, which means that it works positively with our living tissues to prompt a response. When gold nanorods interact with our bodies, they work to shield our RNA from decomposition and help us fight disease more effectively. This makes it vital for antiviral work.
Gold nanorods can also help us to fight virus mutations. Since viruses often mutate to attack human hosts, this precious metal is a vital safeguard for our bodies, and the medical possibilities are endless. We haven’t been able to adequately address many viruses, simply because they keep mutating. Gold nanorods can aid us in this process.
Right now, scientists are studying gold nanorods to see if they can help fight off the common flu.
Gold In Traditional Medicine
Modern scientists and researchers are far from being the first people to discover the medicinal power of gold. For thousands of years, gold has been used in prominent cultures, including people in Egypt and India.
Ancient Chinese doctors used gold to treat measles, smallpox, and skin lesions. People ingested gold in Japan, where they sprinkled gold flakes into their teas and food to promote their health. Many of today’s sake varieties still contain gold flakes.
In addition to its medicinal value, many ancient people understood the importance of gold as a precious substance, making ceremonial jewelry out of it and offering it to various gods.
Antimicrobial silver can be a tremendous topical medicine and is a fantastic tool to treat burn survivors. It can help prevent infections and even prompt rapid healing in many patients. Silver is often incorporated into hospital tools and dressings, as well as catheters.
How Does It Work?
Silver’s incredible healing powers come from one source; the ionic composition of the element. These ions help repair enzyme damage and can be excellent antiseptics. If you add electricity, silver gets even more powerful.
Silver ions are toxic to dangerous fungi and bacteria, eradicating these invaders on the spot. Topically, silver can eliminate bacteria. If used internally, patients experience far fewer infections due to the cleansing effects of the metal itself.
Silver In Traditional Medicine
Silver has a prominent place in traditional medicine, and we’ve been using it for over 2,000 years to safeguard our health and stave off diseases. The ancient world loved silver and often stored their wine in silver jugs to help keep it fresh. Hippocrates, considered the titan of modern medicine, noted that silver had remarkable anti-disease properties and studied the substance’s effect on healing wounds.
Even customs were affected by silver. In the Middle Ages, babies born to wealthy families were given silver spoons. These gifts were meant to protect them from diseases. Today, we use the term “silver spoon” as a slang term for “rich person.” Given what we know about silver and what it can do, the folks from the Middle Ages weren’t too far off!
Although copper is not as prestigious as gold or silver in the jewelry world, this metal is certainly powerful medicinally. Today’s researchers and scientists don’t work as much with copper as our ancient ancestors did, but there are a few people who think we should delve more into this metal.
Copper might be responsible for staving off cholera. In 1852, French physician Victor Burq studied 200 people who worked at a copper plant and survived three cholera epidemics. Although his findings were never totally conclusive, there are other examples of people who survived similar outbreaks, and they all had one thing in common; their proximity to copper.
How Does It Work?
Copper is antiviral, and it can kill bacteria swiftly. It could even help combat certain illnesses like noroviruses or E. coli. Like silver, copper ions are what allows it to kill bacteria and viruses immediately. Copper ions destroy microbes, meaning that these viruses can’t survive on copper surfaces.
This could open up some investigation into whether copper tools could be useful for hospitals and prompted a few cities to install copper in their hospitals, schools, and transportation systems.
Copper In Traditional Medicine
Although we don’t explore copper’s medicinal properties today, copper was enthusiastically embraced by the ancient community. Greeks and Egyptians used it to cleanse wounds and even help eye-related issues.
As with gold and silver, copper was used frequently to make ceremonial jewelry and even vessels for offerings. We’ve excavated copper from all over the world, with some of the earliest finds dating back to the Neolithic period.
Ancient Thai people used copper to create massive Buddha statues, many of which are still around today. Similarly, the Egyptians put copper in their pharaohs’ tombs as gifts to send them through to the afterlife. These metals are “precious” in multiple senses of the word.
The Future of Precious Metals in Medicine
New research into the medicinal effects of gold, silver, and copper seems to be ramping up. This is particularly timely since we live in a world where unpredictable and dangerous new diseases are about. It looks like we will continue to find new applications for these metals, especially as they pertain to hospital equipment and surfaces.
By blending old and new traditions, we may be able to harness the secrets of the ancient world to tackle our modern-day challenges now.