What Is Colloidal Silver?

Is the natural remedy safe or dangerous?

Colloidal silver is a solution of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid base. It's marketed as a remedy for a range of health problems. It can be taken orally, but some products are sprayed, applied to the skin, or injected into a vein.

Silver was used in medicine for centuries. In the past, it was claimed to be a cure-all for everything from tuberculosis and arthritis to herpes and cancer.

Even today, some alternative practitioners believe colloidal silver offers health benefits. They say it can support immune function and prevent or treat infections.

side effects of colloidal silver

Verywell / Laura Porter

Despite the claims, colloidal silver has no known function in the body. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled in 1999 that colloidal silver products weren't safe or effective. They sued several manufacturers over false health claims.

After the FDA ruling, many drugstores stopped selling colloidal silver products. Since then, these products rebranded as dietary supplements or homeopathic remedies. That's because these don't need FDA approval.

This article goes over what colloidal silver is used for, potential benefits, side effects, and what to look for if you choose to buy it.

What Is Colloidal Silver Used For?

Manufacturers of colloidal silver claim their products can stimulate the immune system and help the body heal itself. Supporters believe the supplement can help:

  • Heal wounds
  • Improve skin disorders
  • Prevent or treat diseases like the flu, pneumonia, herpes, eye infections, shingles, cancer, and AIDS

Some test-tube studies back up a few of these claims. They show that colloidal silver has properties that fight against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and inflammation. What the studies don't show is what happens outside of the test tube.

When swallowed, colloidal silver can potentially be toxic. In rare cases, it can even lead to death. Moreover, little evidence shows that silver has the same antibacterial properties inside the body.

Ultimately, the human body has no need for silver. It's not an essential mineral and serves no biological function of any sort.

While silver toxicity is rare, silver can add up in the body over months and years. This can lead to severe disfigurement and cause harmful deposits in the liver, spleen, kidney, muscles, and brain.

That's not to say that silver offers no health benefits. When used topically (on the skin), colloidal silver can help heal and prevent infection.

Recap

Only test-tube studies have shown any benefits of colloidal silver. But there's actually no need for people to consume it and it can even be toxic.

Wound Healing

Several studies looked at the use of silver-containing dressings on skin ulcers and wounds. They found that the silver particles had antibacterial properties that help treat:

A 2018 study compared the effects of a skin cream containing silver nanoparticles (small particles) and regular skin cream. They concluded that the silver-based cream reduced skin inflammation during healing and helped skin re-grow faster than the regular cream.

This suggests that short-term use of silver-containing products on the skin may help treat skin infections and ulcers.

Possible Side Effects

People who take colloidal silver may not experience any immediate side effects. The concerns are related more to the long-term effects of colloidal silver use.

That's because particles accumulate in the body over time. They embed themselves in organs and tissues, especially the skin. Over time, this can lead to a permanent, disfiguring condition called argyria.

Argyria causes tissues to turn bluish-gray in color. It affects the gums first, followed by the skin, eyes, nails, and deeper tissue layers. Headache, fatigue, and myoclonic seizures (sudden muscle contractions) may also occur.

It's unclear how toxic silver is to internal organs. But animal studies show that unusually high levels can:

  • Interfere with kidney and liver function
  • Damage the central nervous system
  • Cause bones to release calcium

Research by the National Toxicology Program suggests that silver doesn't cause cancer. It's not known how silver affects reproduction or pregnancy.

Several deaths are linked with colloidal silver use, including a case report published in Neurology. In this case, a 71-year-old man died after he took a daily dose of colloidal silver for four months.

Recap

Long-term use of colloidal silver can lead to a serious condition that causes your tissues to turn bluish-gray. It may also affect organ function and even lead to death.

Drug Interactions

Colloidal silver can interact with several medications. It can either make them less effective, increase their side effects, or weaken liver function as your body metabolizes the drug.

Possible interactions include:

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs like Cordarone (amiodarone)
  • Antifungals like Diflucan (fluconazole) and Sporanox (itraconazole)
  • Levothyroxine, used to treat thyroid problems
  • Methotrexate, used to treat autoimmune disorders
  • Penicillamine, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Quinolone antibiotics, including Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Penetrex (enoxacin)
  • Statin drugs like Pravachol (pravastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin)
  • Tetracycline antibiotics, including Achromycin (tetracycline) and Minocin (minocycline)
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)

Other drug interactions are possible. Tell your healthcare provider if you're taking colloidal silver, even for short-term use.

Recap

Silver can interact with some medications and make them less effective or increase their side effects.

Dosage and Preparation

There's no safe dose of colloidal silver. Moreover, it isn't known at what point silver becomes toxic.

Part of the problem is that the concentration of silver particles can vary from one brand to the next. Some brands have as few as 15 parts per million (ppm), while others have more than 500 ppm. Your age, weight, and health status can also play a part.

Despite the FDA ruling against their safety, colloidal silver products are still available as dietary supplements. Most are in liquid form.

Colloidal silver is also available as:

  • Soaps
  • Mouthwash
  • Eye drops
  • Body lotions
  • Cough drops
  • Nasal sprays

Recap

There is no recommended effective dosage of colloidal silver. The maximum safe dose is also unknown. Colloidal silver is available in the form of dietary supplements, lotions, cough drops, and nose sprays.

What to Look For

Supplements don't go through the same research or safety tests as prescription or over-the-counter drugs. So, quality can vary a lot from one manufacturer to the next.

Few colloidal silver products are certified by an independent certifying authority like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International. For that reason, it's hard to know what a product contains or how safe it is.

If you decide to buy a colloidal silver product, choose a product that clearly shows the concentration of silver in parts per million (ppm) on the product label. Remember—less is more.

Summary

Colloidal silver is a solution made of silver that's suspended in a liquid. It's touted as having numerous health benefits, but there's no evidence for most of them.

Colloidal silver has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin and may be helpful for treating skin infections and ulcers. However, the FDA advises against consuming silver products because they're not safe or effective.

Don't be swayed by any unsupported health claims. In the end, colloidal silver has no known benefit when consumed, injected, or inhaled. And it may cause more harm than good.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it illegal to include colloidal silver in products?

    It’s not illegal to put colloidal silver in products. However, products can't make any claims that colloidal silver has any medicinal benefits. The FDA ruled that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective in treating any illness. But the FDA doesn’t tightly regulate supplements or homeopathic products. Colloidal silver is still used in those unregulated products.

  • Can colloidal silver help treat COVID?

    Some early research supports that silver nanoparticles may help prevent COVID infection. More research is needed, though. Even if there was a definite benefit, it would need to be weighed against the known risks of colloidal silver.

  • Is it okay to use skin creams with silver?

    Topical products (products used on the skin) that have colloidal silver may have some benefits. For instance, bandages and dressings with colloidal silver may help with burns, skin infections, or skin wounds. Talk to your doctor before using these types of products.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.