Is Colloidal Silver Safe and Effective? (& When Not to Use)

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Is Colloidal Silver Safe and Effective? (& When Not to Use)

Natural supplements and holistic remedies that offer proven health benefits are big in my house. One that I always keep on hand is colloidal silver. This sometimes controversial supplement was used before antibiotics existed for bacterial infections and to support the immune system.

Colloidal silver products are still often used today and many holistic health experts say that it’s a highly beneficial cure-all. On the flip side, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of colloidal silver for any health purpose, and other health care experts like doctors from Mayo Clinic also do not believe that it is safe.

Despite this, with the rise of antibiotic resistance, silver is making a comeback as a powerful broad-spectrum antimicrobial. Many swear by colloidal silver for everything from pink eye to ear infections.

So is colloidal silver really a safe and useful natural remedy?

What Is Colloidal Silver?

Colloidal silver is made when silver nanoparticles are synthesized and suspended in a solution of simple sugars and ammonia. These particles are so small that they aren’t visible to the eye and can be as tiny as one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. That’s extremely tiny!

Modern medicine still relies on silver for antibacterial benefits:

  • Many medical companies coat their devices with silver to avoid bacterial biofilms.
  • Hospitals treat newborns with silver nitrate drops to prevent gonorrhea eye infections.
  • Silver solutions or gauze are used to help treat burn wounds.

Colloidal silver is generally considered safe to use, but it is important to be informed about what studies say with respect to its safety and effectiveness, and whether excessive use may harm us or the environment.

The size of the colloidal silver particles is the most important thing that determines if they have health benefits or not, with smaller particles and lower concentrations being most effective against harmful antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

How Does Colloidal Silver Work?

Scientists have observed that silver kills germs, but they still don’t completely understand how. A lack of strong scientific evidence means the use of colloidal silver is still somewhat controversial.

The general idea is that silver nanoparticles bind to bacteria cell walls. A fraction of these nanoparticles may react to substances in the body or the environment and become silver salt, which is antimicrobial.

Although most colloidal silver is made from silver salts, they are different things. Silver salts are a lot more toxic to both humans and bacteria than colloidal silver. Silver salts have a positive charge that binds up proteins, cause DNA damage, and disrupt the respiratory processes in bacteria. Silver nanoparticles may be neutral or negatively charged, depending on how it is synthesized.

Silver ions are more likely to cause silver toxicity or argyria in humans than the colloidal version. However, because a fraction of colloidal silver may become silver salt, overconsumption of colloidal silver can still cause silver toxicity when taken at very high doses.

Since it is potent, it’s important to be careful when using this supplement.

Benefits of Colloidal Silver

Silver is a metal and a non-essential element in the body. It is much safer to a human body than other heavy metals like lead and mercury. We can accumulate much more silver in our bodies before it becomes toxic.

Research suggests that colloidal silver works for:

  • Killing and preventing bacterial growth, including bacteria that is antibiotic-resistant.
  • Treating burn infections as a topical antimicrobial
  • Killing some strains of pathogenic yeasts, including Candida and Cryptococcus
  • Preventing certain viruses, like HIV/AIDS and RSV, from entering human cells
  • Reducing inflammation from contact dermatitis and irritating rashes in animal studies
  • Disrupting bacterial biofilm (a slimy shield that allows bacteria to hide from antibiotics) in sinus infections in sheep
  • Being toxic to certain cancer cells
  • Effectively fighting bacteria that can cause deadly diarrhea (Vibrio cholera and a dangerous strain of E. coli).
  • Fighting fungal infections on the skin.

A Note About Bacteria, Viruses, and Yeasts

To date, all studies that test the effects of colloidal silver with bacteria found that it is effective. There are mixed reviews when it comes to yeasts and viruses.

A comprehensive study by naturopathic doctors in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that it is only effective against some strains of yeasts but not others. That same study found that colloidal silver is not effective against viruses.

Another in vitro study in the Journal of Wound Care tested 3 different market brands and found no effectiveness whatsoever.

Colloidal silver is a powerful antimicrobial. However, its effectiveness as an antiviral or antifungal can vary depending on the particular infection and quality of the product itself.

Is Colloidal Silver Safe?

Natural remedies are appealing, but safety is an important issue.

There have not been large studies done in humans to truly examine whether colloidal silver is safe or effective. Most tests are done in vitro, meaning that they’re done in test tubes or Petri dishes. This allows researchers to understand how it behaves in isolated situations. But the human body isn’t isolated, and having a whole-body understanding is different from in vitro studies.

A human body is a lot more complex than a Petri dish! Just because something kills germs in a Petri dish doesn’t mean we should take it to prevent or treat an infection. We still need to understand how silver affects the rest of the body, and whether it can travel to where we need it most if taken internally. More studies are needed to understand how it works in our bodies (in vivo).

With the evidence that we do have, though, we can make some conclusions:

Gut Changes

As with many supplements, colloidal silver can affect other parts of the body that go beyond the reason it’s being taken. Two animal studies independently looked at how the gut bacteria balance of mice and rats was affected by being fed colloidal silver. The results found a disruption in gut flora.

Another study that examined digestive tissue after the ingestion of colloidal silver found that it can damage gut cells. Yet a newer study in Nanotoxicology that looked at mice found no changes to gut bacteria or cell structure.

So, there are mixed reviews.

It’s also not known how effective colloidal silver is outside of the gut, elsewhere in the body. When colloidal silver is taken internally, the small intestine can absorb around 10 to 18% of silver nanoparticles into the bloodstream. The remaining silver nanoparticles pass through the gut.

In the blood, nanoparticles bind to a protein called albumin as it gets carried around the body. Silver proteins are a lot less effective against germs than silver alone, so we really don’t know how it behaves throughout the body.

Skin Discoloration (argyria)

It is possible to get too much silver build-up in the body. This condition is called argyria or argylosis, where silver accumulates in tissues and turns the person blue or gray… permanently! When this happens, the silver does not usually cause health problems in other ways, although it can be traumatic to have discolored skin.

Antibiotics

Colloidal silver might seem like a promising option over antibiotics, but it still has some of the side effects of antibiotics. For this reason, I’ve always exercised caution and not over-used it, as evidence shows it may be harmful if used regularly or over a long period of time.

Gut bacteria can also become resistant to colloidal silver, just like with antibiotics. This is especially true when it has been used for several generations.

Environmental Issues

Silver nanoparticles cause some environmental concerns. Currently, silver nanoparticles are present in the environment at concentrations that are about one thousand times the dose that would be toxic to fish and other marine animals.

Silver nanoparticles are also found in sewage sludge that is used in landfills. This presents a risk of it getting reabsorbed back into the food supply. While it is somewhat known how colloidal silver affects human gut bacteria, it is still not completely clear how it affects the health of bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms in the environment.

Since the health of our soil is closely linked to the health of the gut, we need to be careful about messing it up.

Pregnancy

Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacteria that is commonly found in humans, but during pregnancy it can represent the risk of infection for the baby during the birthing process. Antibiotics are given to prevent complications. Mothers wanting to avoid antibiotics might wonder if colloidal silver is a safe alternative.

Colloidal silver has not been studied specifically for GBS or generally for pregnancy. Because it can be toxic—and because supplements in pregnancy can have unknown effects on the developing baby—it’s important not to use supplements to self-medicate during pregnancy, either internally or topically.

Cautions for Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is a natural remedy that has been used for thousands of years. Does that mean it should still be used today? There is reason to be careful about using it.

  • Colloidal silver is marketed as a dietary supplement and is relatively unregulated. Only the manufacturer is responsible for the safety and effectiveness of their products. A random test of colloidal silver products for sale found several that were ineffective or even contaminated with bacteria. Yuck!
  • While colloidal silver might be safe and effective when used externally, or when targeting pathogens in the gut, it can also have unintended consequences. Because colloidal silver does have some side effects, research suggests using it carefully rather than liberally.
  • Colloidal silver can mess with or enhance the effects or side effects of some medications. Always check with your doctor before starting it or using it alongside anything else.

As discussed above, the safest use based on studies is external application to wounds and as a sinus rinse.

Colloidal Silver Products

If you choose to buy colloidal silver, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a pure product. Colloidal silver ingredients should only include silver and water. There should not be anything else in it.

When choosing your product, you also want to keep the particle size in mind. This refers to how big (or small) the nanoparticles of silver are. The concentration of particles per unit of water is listed in parts per million, or PPM. Basically, how many silver particles are collected per serving of water.

When you’re looking at buying colloidal silver, higher PPM is not better. Supplements are considered to be safest when they are between 10 and 20 PPM. Taking in too much colloidal silver can result in becoming toxic or having other complications, like the graying of skin.

If you choose to use colloidal silver, be sure to buy from a reputable brand. There are many available, but this is the brand I keep on hand for external use and as a sinus rinse.

How to Use Colloidal Silver

While we’ve covered some concerns, there are lots of ways to use colloidal silver safely as a part of your natural medicine cabinet.

Check out the ways that you can use colloidal silver:

  • Nasal rinse: Add a few drops to distilled water (don’t combine with salt!) and use your neti pot as usual to rinse the sinus cavity.
  • Ear infections: Use 2-3 drops in the ear, a few times a day, until symptoms subside.
  • Pink eye: Add 2-3 drops directly to the infected eye, 3-4 times daily or until symptoms go away.
  • Skin fungus or ringworm: Treat patchy skin infections with a few drops applied directly 2-3 times per day. Let dry on the skin to get the full effect.
  • Toenail infections: Add 2-3 drops to the top of the infected toenail. Use 3-4 times a day until symptoms clear up.
  • First aid disinfectant: Use as you would other antibacterial creams for minor cuts, scrapes, or bug bites.
  • Acne: Add 1-2 drops to acne breakouts 3-4 times a day.
  • Gingivitis: Add 1 teaspoon to purified water and swish in the mouth, 2-3 times per day.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

What’s your experience with colloidal silver? Please share in the comments below.

colloidal-silver-infographic
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

222 responses to “Is Colloidal Silver Safe and Effective? (& When Not to Use)”

  1. janet Avatar

    hi wellness mama ( this is really a note for you, personally)

    there are many many studies done on silver it is just that the Pharmacomafia doesn’t want the info out there. Dental offices use silver to disinfect their instruments, most don’t know that even. They put a “disk” in their machine. well, the disk is silver. Anyway, many many studies are available. One that I love is first demonstrated here, the application process at the USPTO patent office back in 2006. It is now full swing on the market.
    see point 5c in particular :

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7,135,195.PN.&OS=PN/7,135,195&RS=PN/7,135,195

    I used to be a research lab tech and had access to the NIH and other medical laboratory filings of experiments. For an easier go of it, you can access the data base at the silver edge. (steve barwick)
    I enjoy your site,
    regards, Janet

  2. Tara Avatar

    Thanks so much for this post Katie!! I have seen the words “Colloidal Silver” a few times on various blogs but had NO idea what it was! I think your opinion is correct. It seems that using it very moderately, and mostly externally, seems to be the safest way for it to be used until more studies can be conducted. Love the infographic too! Blessings your way!

  3. Rebekah Avatar
    Rebekah

    Please help!!!Have you ever put CS in your toddlers ears to get rid of ear infection? If so how much?

    1. Victor Avatar

      I can share my experience: I used it effectively on myself and my daughter since she was 3yrs old. The protocol for ear infections that I found and used was 3 drops in the ear while laying on one side, and staying that way for 7 minutes. Then turn over to let the CS drip out as you do the other ear for 7 minutes. Then turn again to let the CS drip out. Worked perfectly for me. We haven’t had anymore ear infections for at least several years now.

  4. Janet Avatar

    I’m prone to UTIs because of a medical condition I have. It normally takes 4 days of antibiotics before I see any improvement, and 6 or 7 days of antibiotics to completely wipe out a UTI (even on cipro). Then 2-3 weeks later I get a UTI again. My body gets used to antibiotic so I can’t take the same antibiotic twice to treat it. It’s awful. With my 6th UTI in 4 months, I opted to try a natural remedy first because I’ve lost faith in antibiotics. Silver completely wiped out my UTI within 48 hours. Mayo Clinic can take their opinion about silver and shove it. Silver works!

    1. Felicia Avatar

      How much did you take and how often? That is great news for you!! I am so glad.

  5. Dori M Avatar

    My father in law has made his own CS for about the past 30 years and drinks a shot or two on a daily basis with no side effects, in fact, he is 89 and rarely ill. Then my husband starting drinking about one shot (shot glass type shot) every day and that has been going on for about 15 years with no side effects and rarely is ill. I naturally am a pretty healthy person, so it was not until I started getting UTI’s about every 10 weeks, starting about 5 years ago that my husband told me to start drinking the CS for it. I was taking anti-biotics every time. then I started getting gall bladder issues every time I took an anti-biotic.

    I don’t know if one has anything to do with the other, but I was terrified of taking another anti-biotic and ending up with another gall bladder attack. so then I developed another UTI, and decided to start drinking our CS. I will drink quite a bit for about two – three days, like maybe a pint or two each day, and it clears out the UTI in about two days. then I back off to a shot in the morning, and a shot in the evening. no one has turned ashy or blue, no other known side effects from drinking it daily for such a long time, and very rarely ill. so other than it clearing up my UTI’s that I have been prone to over the years, I have not seen any other issues. We have a generator and make it in quart mason jars from pure silver rods. we do not have a meter to read the counts, but just let it go for about six hours. never gotten sick from it.

  6. Jessica Avatar

    I’ve experienced – for 9 years and 3 kids – fast acting and wonderful results by flushing and spraying colloidal silver using a glass dropper or glass spray bottle to clear up pink eye or other eye ailments.

  7. Keith Avatar

    To answer your question directly i use Silver Biotics. It has hundreds of scientific reports testing almost every aspect of that product directly including: safety and efficacy data, peer review medical papers etc.,. I have used it for almost 20 years at levels of 5-10 ounces per week. Never had a problem at all. It also helps that it is about half the price of most other quality products. You also need to know that i am biased.

  8. TESS C Avatar

    My husband had eye infection. Tried every over the counter product we found find and nothing worked until he used silver drops. Cleared it right up. He also had a large scrape from a fall on his arm that was not healing. Put the silver on a bandage and put it on the arm and it really helped to clear up faster.

  9. Mic Avatar

    I have read other articles claiming colloidal silver ‘does’ work against viruses and bacteria . It took one day ( but gave for 3 days 2bsure ) to clear up the pink eye that 3 in my home contracted . Incidentally , the doctor we went prescribed antibiotics and replied , when asked about silver , ” Silver willl not touch pinkeye .”
    Katie , all of your references come from GOV postings . I do not understand how one can use government science at a time when government collusion and corruption in medical/health industry is as obvious as a painful red and em flamed zit at the end of ones nose .

  10. Katie Avatar

    Do you know where one can find a good list of safe colloidal silver brands? And have you heard anything about it being damaging to the kidneys or liver? Thank you!

  11. Keith Moeller Avatar
    Keith Moeller

    You have to know i am biased for Silver Biotics. The top two products on the market would be Sovereign and Silver Biotics. They are different types of silver. Sovereign is what would be defined as a regular ionic silver liquid. The Silver Biotics is a patented coated nano silver particle semi-bound to the liquid. Ionic silvers work because they are missing one electron and they want it back. So each silver ion can steal one electron from the cell wall of a bacteria or fungus and if they steal enough of them, the bacteria or fungus dies. but each silver ion can only steal one then it is done, it is like a single shot, one and done. The nano silver has whats called a multi-valiant silver oxide coating on the pure silver particle, each molecule can steal 8 electrons in stead of one. Then the electrons are pulled into the core of the particle and it can do it all again, it is called a catalytic action. Also for some reason, the ionics are very expensive, and it is not because they have more testing or are harder to make. Sovereign is very limited in products you have a gel and a liquid. Silver Biotics has a supplement liquid, prescription gel, OTC gel, cosmetic gel, wound wash (10 ppm), lotion, cream, toothgel, personal lubercant (Cn), and a new silver lozenge. Hope that info helps.

  12. Marty Avatar

    I am 60 years old and was diagnosed with an the on set of pneumonia. I am normally a pretty healthy guy who doesnt get sick. My doctor gave me the standard “Z” pac of antibiotics but it didn’t clear it up so he gave me a stronger antibiotic that I had to take for an additional 10 days. The pneumonia cleared up but I had a persistent cough that he diagnosed as allergies. Never had allergies in my life. He instructed me to take a nasal spray and saline solution before bed. The cough persisted for the next 2 weeks. A friend of mine sent me a bottle of “silver” and after just 4 days of 1 ml. a day my cough was gone. Not sure but I will contribute my losing my cough to the use of silver.

  13. Keith Moeller Avatar
    Keith Moeller

    To answer the question on virus, Certain types of silver will for sure take out virus. I have no data that ionic silver (regular colloidal silver) can do it but the colloidal nano silver will in fact inhibit the ability of virus to spread. They claim that virus are not alive so you cannot kill them but you can neutralize there ability to infect new cells, so more or less you can say they are dead. I have a number of published studies on the ability of the ASAP/Silver Biotics to neutralize virus. One I would think you would be most interested in is a published study on the treatment of human aids patients with the 10 ppm liquid. The study is an independent, published, human study and clinical trial. it showed that AIDS patients who drank two ounces daily, in three divided doses, had an average of a 39.54 % increase in their white cell count (the cells that AIDS kills) in just 4 months. No negative side effects were recorded at all. CNBC ran the article on the trial. http://ablasia-silver.com/downloads/CNBC%20ABL's%20HIV%20Study%20Press%20Release.pdf

    1. Felicia Buchanan Avatar
      Felicia Buchanan

      Ugh! I am reading TONS of info and I am wondering what brand you would recommend? Everyone keeps recommending different ones and I can not decide!

  14. Janae Avatar

    I woke up this morning with a blood shot, runny and puffy left eye. In case it was viral, I stayed home from work. I placed a warm washcloth on my eye and then placed two drops of colloidal silver in my eye. It started to get better within the hour. 4 hours later from the original application, I dropped 2 more drops into my eye. It’s almost all cleared up. It’s amazing! So happy I didn’t have to get any ointment or deal with the doctors office!

  15. Fiona Avatar

    AJ, are you connected to Rosemary Jacobs in any way? You are certainly more polite and less blusteringly angry than she is but your message is the same.

  16. Cat Avatar

    I’ve used CS for nearly 20 years. Mind you not as a daily supplement so I’m not blue ?? Bc as a child I always wondered “if shirts can be blue and people can be other colors why can’t I be blue?” Anyway, while your article mostly makes sense, what I find inconsistent is the fact you keep mentioning possible side effects but list none, apart from being blue. So it makes me skeptical to think that it’s not 100% safe. Furthermore I’ve used it for all kinds of illness and ailments. I am very allergic to many “standard” antibiotics and CS has healed me countless times. For example, I had swine flu back in 2008… using CS, black seed and echinacea/goldenseal, I was only down for four days! So in that case I’d say it DOES work on viruses. Same as any time I feel the slightest of a sniffle or itchy throat I dose myself and never end up sick. Those common colds are also viruses. So I hope my anecdotes help others decide to use the magic of CS. ?

    1. AJ Avatar

      Cat, are you in great health overall? If you have any health conditions, would you mind telling us what they are and what age you started using CS. Thanks

  17. Mircea Avatar

    you didn’t said a clear explanation of what is the negative effect of coloidal silver if you use it …. also can actually happen to you if you use the recomended dosage for the rest of your life and not exceed it at all ?

  18. Richard Avatar

    I have used colloidal silver to eliminate sinus infection that plaqued me for over thirty years. Mixed with xylitol, then flooded sinuses for six minutes. Repeated weekly for three weeks, over five years ago. Have not had a sinus infection since. Many sinus infections are fungal, which antibiotics are not effective against (see Mayo Clinic study)

  19. kate Avatar

    We have had issues ,with boils. Several different antibiotics,no cure. I had colloidial silver in liquid form for poison ivey…put it directly on boil and put bandaid on. Within hours the pain was gone,inflamation subsided and by day 3 it was gone. We dressed it twice a day.

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