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.

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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. Jean Bienfang Avatar
    Jean Bienfang

    Good article; I’m thankful for the links to the abstracts. Some subtopics were covered that I had not read about before.

    On a personal level, I have used CS to protect myself from a bacterial infection. I did not contract the illness. In addition, the psoriatic condition I have started to clear up. I have read in other articles that the strep bacteria that causes strep throat is linked to psoriasis.

    Now I’m researching if or how CS is eliminated from the body over time.

    Have a blessed day!

  2. Dianne Mueller Avatar
    Dianne Mueller

    For what it is worth, here is my experience with Colloidal Silver:

    i had a terrible poison ivy/oak rash all over my body (face, chest, hips, thighs, and arms/hands). I was treated by an MD with a prednisone injection plus orals and topical cortisone plus Aveeno baths. After two weeks, I developed what I believe is a fungal infection which was worse than the rash. I felt like my skin had been removed and I had immense swelling to my hips and thighs. i gained 7 pounds of fluid along my hips and thighs. I could barely walk without painful rubbing of my thighs and scratching of my clothing on my skin. I could only sleep with Benadryl. Because of the holidays and weekend, i couldn’t see a doctor until Monday. I was so desperate and because I thought it was a fungal overgrowth, I looked for some Lotrimin but couldn’t find any in the cabinet. I did find some Colloidal Silver 10ppm that my husband had bought a couple of years ago. When he bought it, I was highly skeptical but I sprayed it on in desperation due to the pain and irritation. I used my forearm as a test site. In ten minutes my forearm was clearer and so I sprayed it again. I walked the dog for 15 minutes and the rash on my forearm was gone. I then sprayed it on my shoulders, hips, thighs, and knees with relief in about 30 minutes. Of course, the swelling has not subsided in this immediate period but, I am confident that it will be gone soon enough. I left my chest unsprayed as a test and it continues to be red, swollen, painful, and itching so now that I know the other sites didn’t clear up because of time or my shower or any other intervention, I will spray it on my chest also. Even though WebMD has poo pooed colloidal silver, my personal experience is that it has saved me from the pain and suffering I struggled with after following doctor’s orders. Thank you to Wellness Mama for giving a much more balanced review. And, please know, I don’t dislike doctors or have an axe to grind. My father practiced medicine for 50 years and my brother and niece continue the family tradition. I just know that they know they don’t know everything.

  3. Sheree Avatar

    I have a lot of experience with using Colloidal Silver over about 25 years and with many relatives, friends, and referrals who were sick in various ways. I would not use Meso-Silver that is advertised here as it’s only 20 ppm and the only cancer patient I’ve had whose son is a Chiropractor who insisted on his mother using that formulation, died. If you drop a mirror and it breaks into 10 pieces, those will be larger than if it breaks into 500 pieces. That’s the way with silver used in the body. You can use almost any formulation for exterior use and infections, but for internal use, the body does better with 500 ppm. There is a 1100 suspension, but it’s more expensive and never has been necessary. I’ve used silver for almost everything that can go wrong with the human body. Sometimes it has not been effective — especially with viruses. But it’s been effective and is the reason many cancer patients are still alive today; it will kill shingles both internally and externally; strep infections of every kind, sometimes sinusitis but not always, bacterial infection in a deep stab wound, hospital infections, infected teeth needing root canals (imagine how much money that saves!), athlete’s foot, diabetic rashes, lung infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, earaches (2 drops — gone), etc. There are many other conditions that aren’t coming to mind right now. My husband had malignant melanoma about 15 years ago and it is known that it causes tumors to build in the blood even after removed. So each year, I’ve had him use one 8 oz. bottle in a certain routine of not more than 1.5 tsp. per day and it usually lasts for about 40 days. Last year, I put the new bottle on his bathroom sink with a note to take the whole bottle but I thought he remembered the routine. He drank the entire bottle at once. If colloidal silver would turn you grey, he would have been looking like a ghost for the rest of his life. But his color never changed, so I would have to assume it is very safe. My family of 8 children, their spouses, 16 grandchildren, and 3 grest-grandchildren have relied on silver for nearly everything it could apply to. We’ve had 0 side effects and I can’t imagine how much money it has saved us all on doctor visits, prescriptions, and dealing with the side effects of antibiotics.

    1. Antonio Avatar

      I agree with Sheree on almost everything, I just want to say something about the ppm issue. I agree with what she reports. But it’s not easy to get those dilutions that indicate and have to be from a reliable source.
      In principle, homemade preparations are not reliable. Most people measure ppm with cheap equipment or without exact calibration before measurement and can give erroneous data – as happens when wanting to measure the alkalinity of water with high doses of hydrogen, it is not measured with homemade equipment!
      My advice is always to buy the product from a reliable source.
      Luckily in my country now they sell the product -Argenyl- of the Spanish laboratory Argenol, a world reference.
      The product that I consumed from them for my bronchitis has 120 ppm in 120 ml of water.
      Within minutes of taking it on an empty stomach, I noticed its effects on reducing coughs.
      There is a question always around, when does colloidal silver lose its properties?
      I asked the question to the Spanish laboratory, they told me that their product remains active for no less than 2 years, but they did an efficacy test and the activity was extended for more months. But, you have to take care of every light source, because like a roll of kodak you candles and deposits and is no longer useful.
      It can also be verified that it is still a colloid with the typical laser illumination.
      But we will only be sure of the ppm taking care of the product. Thank you all!

  4. Katie Avatar

    I used colloidal silver this past summer to help clear up a nasty swimmer’s ear for my 12-year-old daughter. It took a couple days of treatment but cleared as quickly as it would have if we’d done prescription antibiotic drops.

  5. TA Avatar

    I was getting reaccuring bad facial skin infections by doing the littlest of damage i.e. scratch, insect bite, even plucking hairs from my eyebrows if i was a bit heavy handed and drew a little spot of blood, after months of ongoing visits to my gp and various forms of antibiotics, i was finally given a skin swab (i had to do myself) and the results were that i had staphylococcus aureus, so was told to immediately stop the antibiotics i had been prescribed as it was resistant to them, given topical eye ointment (?) Told it was ok to use all over, however it didnt work! When i requested something else to try, my gp just said – not much point, you have had it such a long time and nothing has worked so far. (I then changed my doctor) so i investigated online and csme across colloidal silver gel antimicrobial, wasnt cheep – 20 something pounds for a 100g tub (natures greatest secret – amazon), i used this gel twice daily after gentle cleansing with cold cream on cotton wool, for just a few days, and healed my own infection in my face, that was a couple or so month ago, and my face has been infection free since then, considering ive had this problem for almost a year with no promise or sign of improvement, id say it definately did work for me! And the amount i used was so minimal you could hardly notice any missing from the jar at all. Thumbs up from me.

  6. Yanda Avatar

    For all your apparent desire to give accurate information it is a pity that you don’t take the care to be accurate.
    [1] NO responsible manufacturer uses grinding to make colloidal silver. At least not in the past 25 years. Before hundred years ago they did for no other choice.
    [2] For several decades already colloidal silver is made by electrolysis.
    [3] When properly done colloidal silver by electrolysis particles are a lot smaller than what you wrote above. They are only 8 nanometers.
    [4] By the actual inbody use taking 8 nm true quality colloidal silver at the recommended dosages is has been proven there practically zero chance of argyria.
    [5] It is effective vs flu & measles
    [6] The most recommended usage is by inhaling a mist of the colloidal solution.
    [7] It has been proven to be very effective vs MRSA!!

  7. Jays Avatar

    I used silver for an extreme case of thrush while nursing my baby. I was in shear pain, distress and could not feed my baby. It was excruciating pain and doctors kept stating to put a warm compress and misdiagnosing me with a blocked milk duct. It was a life safer! For those that do not know thrush is a yeast infection in your milk ducts and it feels like glass particles are cutting through your chest. Nursing Moms if this ever happens to you get silver! Sovereign is a reputable brand and has great reviews.

  8. Diana George Avatar
    Diana George

    Is Coloidal silver useful to fight foot fungus.. Is it taken internally/orally or externally on the foot?

  9. April Avatar

    Thanks for this great analysis! Have you read any studies on using it in ears? What about if the ear drum is perforated or the person has ear tubes?

  10. Keith Moeller Avatar
    Keith Moeller

    I agree that on the really serious infections you should use the antibiotics. I also agree that most of the time you do not need to use the antibiotics, just use the nano silver. However, what you may not know is that you can use the silver and the antibiotics together. We published an international medical paper showing that using the ASAP silver added to 19 different antibiotics had either additive or synergistic action between the silver and the antibiotics in 94 of 96 tests. In simple words using the ASAP with the antibiotics made the antibiotics as much as 10 times more effective at killing the deadly bacteria. Three of the seven strains of deadly bacteria tested were multi drug resistant strains, the really bad ones. I found a copy on another independent site at: http://nanotechsilversolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SWD.pdf . Just in case you want to check the accuracy of what i just told you. I found a bunch of our other studies posted on that website as well.

  11. Hernán Avatar
    Hernán

    Hello, first of all this article has a gross error and I am trying to minimize the error!
    Today colloidal silver is done through electrolysis. It takes me 1 hour to make a quart of Colloidal Silver of about 10 to 15ppm. This is a mix of ionic and colloidal. It has the color of water, that is no color. There is no pathogen that can live once it has made contact with silver water or colloidal silver.

    To the author of this article I would invite her to research better before writing half truth and plainly old lies. Not that this person is lying, but in a sense he or she is lying but just repeating without investigating more in depth.
    Thank you.

  12. Keith Moeller Avatar
    Keith Moeller

    The Fungus is easy enough. The Silver Biotics Armor gel product is FDA cleared with claims to eliminate fungus within a few minutes. It is a water based silver gel. If you know what type of fungus it is I probably have data on it. It is also approved to kill stuff like yeast and also really bad bacteria like MRSA etc.,. The SB cream will also do it in about 10 minutes and is very soothing to the skin. The safety studies also show that it would have no negative impact on a kid if he/she accidentally ate the stuff. I use a lot of it, but then i get it for free because I make it. If you need it and could not buy it, I would send you some for free, just contact us.

  13. Diana Avatar

    Hi Katie! I’ve never suffered from stye eye as much as I have this year. Not sure what all of a sudden brought it on. Never even knew what it was. Anyway I was contemplating making eye drops from CS. what ratio do you use? Would CS help my 8 yr old son with fungus all over giant torso?

  14. Noola Avatar

    Hi, I can see you use Higher Nature for external use only? I have used it internally but I think it gave me stomacache and my acid reflux got worse… I phoned the company and they said they’re not allowed to say it can be used internally. Do you think this one shouldn’t be used internally? Which brand can you suggest to use internally? Thanks 🙂

  15. Lesley findley Avatar
    Lesley findley

    My friend gave me a bottle to use on my maltipoo dogs eyes wipe everyday she said….I can’t say I’ve noticed any change in her tear stains or watery eyes. Is it safe ? If so I will keep using it.

  16. Keith Moeller Avatar
    Keith Moeller

    The real and scientific answer to AJ’s question is that no matter what you think or what you have been told, silver is not a heavy metal. Sorry to burst some bubbles. If you disagree it does not change anything. Heavy metals are defined as those metals that cause nephropathy (damage to the kidneys). Silver does not. If you do not believe me just go to the MERCK Manual Eighteenth edition. Turn to page 2021, full list page 2022 (second paragraph). It will show that metals like gold, copper, lead, iron (yes iron) etc., are all heavy metals and can do damage to your kidneys, silver does not, so it will not be listed there. Some people make that mistake because silver nitrate can be listed, but it is not because of the silver, it is because of the nitrate. hope I cleared that up. Have a nice day.

  17. Sindy lowther Avatar
    Sindy lowther

    I have found collidal silver is effective in healing cuts burns and cold sores i haven’t found any side effects whilst using collidal silver..i have also found spraying collidal silver directly on a gum boil very effective in rapid healing with no stinging and no ill effect ,in sensible usages collidal silver really is gold medicine ,with no major infections i would higly recommed using collidal silver before using pharam antibiotics !!!

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