What Is Colloidal Silver?

Is it safe or dangerous?

Colloidal silver is used for wound healing, improving skin disorders, and preventing certain diseases. However, it is not approved for medical use by the FDA and should not be consumed, injected, or inhaled. Use of colloidal silver can result in short-term and long term side effects.

This article explains what colloidal silver is, its potential benefits, side effects, and what to look for if you buy it.

side effects of colloidal silver

Verywell / Laura Porter

Supplement Facts

Active ingredient(s): Colloidal silver

Alternate name(s): Ag, Argentum, Silver

Legal status: Not generally recognized as safe or effective, misbranded (FDA) (United States)

Suggested dose: There is no known standard dose. Dosing depends on the condition, dosage form, and other patient-specific factors.

Safety considerations: Argyria, ocular argyrosis, and discolored fingernails

What is Colloidal Silver Used For?

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.

Silver, slightly different from colloidal silver at the molecular level, has been 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. Silver was also used as an antimicrobial for wounds.

Modern colloidal silver products are sprayed or applied to the skin. Some colloidal silver products are meant to be taken orally (by mouth) or injected into a vein. However, colloidal silver has no known function in the body. In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that colloidal silver products aren't safe or effective. The FDA sued several manufacturers over false health claims.

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

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

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

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

Some studies show preliminary evidence supporting a few of these claims. They show that colloidal silver may have properties that fight against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and inflammation. However, more research needs to be done before colloidal silver can be confirmed as safe and effective for use in humans.

Wound Healing

According to one review article, several studies have examined the use of silver-containing dressings on skin ulcers and wounds. They found that the silver particles had antibacterial properties that helped treat diabetic ulcers.

However, it should be pointed out that this review article does not specifically reference colloidal silver. Further studies using colloidal silver would need to be made before making firm conclusions about its use for wound healing.


One prospective cohort study looked at colloidal silver for resistant chronic rhinosinusitis in 20 participants. Researchers compared a topical nasal spray containing colloidal silver to a topical nasal spray containing saline. After six weeks of therapy, colloidal silver showed no clinically meaningful improvement in rhinosinusitis symptoms.

A study also looked at the safety and efficacy of colloidal silver in people with chronic rhinosinusitis. Researchers compared a nasal spray containing colloidal silver to oral antibiotics. After 10 days of therapy, colloidal silver showed no difference in the improvement of symptoms compared to oral antibiotics. No severe side effects were seen with colloidal silver.

Colloidal silver's effectiveness for rhinosinusitis doesn't seem great given the outcomes of the studies. Further studies using colloidal silver would need to be made before making firm conclusions about its use for rhinosinusitis.

What Are the Side Effects of Colloidal Silver?

People who take colloidal silver by mouth may not experience any immediate side effects, and there is limited research into what the short-term effects might be. Most concerns are related to the long-term effects of colloidal silver use.

Over time, silver particles accumulate in the body. They embed themselves in organs and tissues, especially the skin. This can lead to a permanent, disfiguring condition called argyria.

Argyria causes tissues to turn bluish-gray. It affects the gums first, followed by the skin, eyes, nails, and deeper tissue layers.

Argyria is the most reported side effect after long-term use of colloidal silver. Other common side effects associated with the long-term use of colloidal silver include: 

  • Ocular argyrosis
  • Discolored fingernails

It's unclear how toxic silver is to internal organs. Animal studies show that silver has been associated with:

Some anecdotal evidence points to the possible long-term dangers of taking colloidal silver. For example, a 72-year-old male taking colloidal silver as an oral nutritional supplement for over 10 years developed acute myeloid leukemia.

A case of kidney injury associated with colloidal silver has also been reported. It involved a 47-year-old woman taking colloidal silver to treat her cancer.

Additionally, one case of death has been linked to colloidal silver use. The case report involved a 71-year-old man who developed myoclonic status epilepticus and died. He had taken a daily dose of colloidal silver for four months before his death.

It is essential to point out that these reports only suggest an association between colloidal silver and the development of cancer, kidney injury, and death. They cannot prove colloidal silver was the cause of such severe outcomes.

Is Colloidal Silver Safe?

Topical products containing colloidal silver may be helpful for treating wounds, burns, or skin infections. However, colloidal silver is considered unsafe to ingest, inject, or inhale.

In 1999, the FDA ruled that over-the-counter (OTC) drug products containing colloidal silver aren't safe or effective.

Due to a lack of research, there's no known safe or effective oral dose of colloidal silver. Moreover, it isn't known at what point colloidal silver becomes toxic.

The concentration of silver particles can vary from one product to the next. Some products have as few as 10 parts per million (ppm), while others have more than 300 parts per million.


Colloidal silver may interact with some medications, such as thyroxine and specific antibiotics. It may weaken the way your body absorbs these drugs.

Tell your healthcare provider if you take colloidal silver, even for short-term use.

It is essential to carefully read a supplement's ingredient list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

Alternative to Colloidal Silver

If you're looking for a product with antibacterial properties, honey is a good alternative to colloidal silver. Studies have found that applying honey to an infected wound may help clear the infection and speed healing. Honey is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

How to Store Colloidal Silver

Keep topical colloidal silver preparations in a cool place and make sure the bottle or tube remains tightly sealed. Discard colloidal silver supplements according to the expiration date listed on the packaging.

Keep colloidal silver out of reach for children or pets in your home.

What to Look for in Colloidal Silver

Many people promote colloidal silver as a dietary supplement, meaning they recommend taking it orally to support your health. However, no colloidal silver product is considered safe for ingestion regardless of its silver concentration.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States; the FDA does not approve colloidal silver or other supplements for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed and sold.

Because it is not regulated, it can be hard to verify that the colloidal silver you purchase is safe or even that the package contains what is claimed on the label.

If you use colloidal silver topical products, you might ensure the product you buy meets some standards if you choose a product tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. Keep in mind, though, that even these products are not guaranteed to be safe for all or effective.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before you use colloidal silver as a supplement.


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

Silver has been associated with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin and has been used for treating skin infections and ulcers. However, the FDA advises against oral consumption of colloidal 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 claim 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. As such, colloidal silver is still used in unregulated products.

  • Can colloidal silver help treat viruses like COVID?

    Some early research supports that silver nanoparticles may help prevent COVID infection. However, this study was not conducted in humans. Therefore, more research is needed before recommending its use for preventing COVID-19. Even if there were a definite benefit, it would need to be weighed against the known risks of colloidal silver.

  • Is it OK to use skin creams with silver?

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

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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 Maddy Baysden, PharmD, MBA
Maddy Baysden, PharmD, MBA, is a pharmacist with expertise in drug information and evidence-based practice.

Originally written by Cathy Wong