Nevertheless, people’s deep faith in colloidal silver speaks to how the uncertainty of COVID-19 has fueled a desire for alternative remedies. Crises such as the current pandemic are a prime time for sham cures, fraud experts told me, because people are isolated, afraid, and willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves.
More so now than normally, people feel let down and ripped off by medical professionals. There’s no proven treatment for the coronavirus, and advice about how to stave it off seems to shift from week to week. Some people now look at “natural” remedies such as silver and think, At least this won’t hurt me.
In April, Alyss H. had spent weeks gasping for breath, and she was desperate for relief. Alyss, a 34-year-old who lives in Oklahoma City, had been following the spread of the novel coronavirus since it was first identified in China in December. (She asked me to use only her first name and last initial to protect her family’s privacy.) She learned about the R0 number, and understood that quarantines were a possibility in the United States. She was worried about her family.
Her nightmare, it seemed, had come true. Alyss had body aches, a bad sore throat, and a persistent burning in her chest, and antibiotics weren’t working. She started researching colloidal silver in medical journals, and she began corresponding on Facebook with a British man, Jim Ryan, who appeared to have a lot of information on the subject.
She followed the instructions for making colloidal silver the way Ryan suggested. She placed two strands of silver wire in a flask of water on top of a hot plate set to 160 degrees. She hooked a battery to the silver, and kept the wire submerged until the water turned urine yellow. This process, Ryan said, releases the silver particles into the water. Then, Alyss drank the water, making sure to keep it in her mouth for a few minutes and sloshing it under her tongue.
Two days later, she told me, she felt better. She still drinks about 20 milliliters of colloidal silver two or three times daily—five times a day if she’s feeling sick. Alyss seems to understand why the FDA is cracking down on colloidal-silver manufacturers. But, she said, what other options are there? She’s still not sure whether she had COVID-19, but doctors sent her home to convalesce alone for weeks. “My recommendation is to fight it,” she said. “Fight it with everything you have.” Including silver.
Ryan, the man who taught her about the silver, has been into colloidal silver for more than two decades. A 48-year-old tattoo artist and a helicopter pilot from Devon, Ryan blasted me with a torrent of silver’s glories during our phone call. “It doesn’t actually kill the virus,” he explained, sounding like a rapid-fire Ozzy Osbourne. “It literally stops, it prevents the bacteria or the virus from doing its job, which is to cause that chest infection that leads to pneumonia.”