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Is Colloidal Silver Safe To Use

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: April 9, 2020
Is Colloidal Silver Safe To Use

The suspension of microscopic metallic particles of silver in colloidal base is termed as colloidal silver. It is commercially sold and touted as a topical wound dressing or an antibacterial agent. It usually contains pure silver flakes in a suspension of de-mineralized water or some other liquid. Some claim that it is very effective in curing cold, improving the healing process and even treating HIV or cancer. With little scientific study to back up this evidence, there is doubt over the question is colloidal silver safe to use? Does it actually strengthen the immune system? Read this oneHOWTO article if you are thinking about using colloidal silver.

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  1. History of Using Silver
  2. How colloidal silver supposedly works
  3. Claimed uses of colloidal silver
  4. Recommended Dosage of Colloidal Silver
  5. Risks associated with overuse of colloidal silver
  6. FDA ruling on colloidal silver and related forms to avoid
  7. Does colloidal silver work the same for all?
  8. Conclusion

History of Using Silver

Silver is often used in folk medicine as an antimicrobial agent. According to a once popularly held belief, people who eat with silver utensils are less likely to get ill. Silver was often used as a medicine even before antibiotics were invented. While silver was commonly used in some forms of medicine, several alternative health practitioners claim colloidal silver as a perfect cure-all remedy. But have you ever wondered is it safe or not and are its positive effects accurate?

Conventional medicine previously recognized silver to have some antimicrobial benefits. For instance, numerous medical devices were coated with silver to keep bacterial biofilm away. Newborns were given silver nitrate eyedrops in hospitals to prevent eye infections. Silver gauze and silver solutions were also used for treating wounds from burns. However, there is little to no scientific evidence to support these claims. Efficacy studies for silver coated medical devices are both rare and controversial[1], with scant evidence to support its benefits. There is evidence to show that silver nitrate used in the eye can cause irritation and even temporary vision problems[2].

How colloidal silver supposedly works

Colloidal silver is used to kill germs with some effectiveness. However, it is still uncertain just how exactly they work as well as what potential side effects may arise[3]. It is believed that silver nano-particles bind to the cell wall of bacteria, some of which react to body substances and turn into silver salt. This end product is known to be an effective antimicrobial agent. Silver salt is toxic to bacteria, thus killing germs. When combined with water, silver salt binds up proteins, disrupts respiration of bacteria and causes DNA damage. Since silver ions can cause silver toxicity in humans, overuse of colloidal silver may cause argyria. This is when the question whether colloidal silver is safe to use or not arises.

While nano-particles of silver are perhaps useful in killing bacteria, they have been shown to be toxic in larger organisms, of which we humans are one example. Additionally, a large problem is that doses of silver nano-particles need to be exact. This isn't simply overtreating. Using too little can actually boost bacterial growth instead of killing it, according to Pedro J.J. Alvarez the chairman of Rice University's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department[4]. Alvarez does not claim silver nano-particles are useless, but does state that it is “good for the environment, business, and society that we care cautious”.

Claimed uses of colloidal silver

Colloidal silver is often used in the making of soaps, with the claim that it is able to kill and remove 99.99% of bacteria on the body. It is used in a number of other ways wit various claims, including:

  • Making an antibacterial gel by combining aloe vera gel and colloidal silver
  • Making antibacterial bandages to dress wounds
  • Making an antibacterial spray for throat
  • Making immunity drops to promote immune system
  • Spraying on sunburns to speed up healing
  • Making a tonic for fighting infections

Many alternative or herbal medicine proponents claim several benefits of applying colloidal silver on skin. They believe it helps in healing skin wounds and treating acne or preventing conjunctivitis. If using colloidal silver in limited amounts, it is unlikely it will pose much risk to your health condition. However, it is not proven to benefit it, nor is it healthy in large doses.

Is Colloidal Silver Safe To Use - Claimed uses of colloidal silver
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Recommended Dosage of Colloidal Silver

NASA has used silver for water purification purposes, as it is believed to be effective in space station usage. This use, however, is in very carefully monitored microbial form. Many defenders of colloidal silver claim that NASA uses it and therefore it is safe. This is a perversion of the truth as NASA does not use it in the quantities which are present in colloidal silver treatments. They themselves have claimed that colloidal silver use in humans has possible toxicity issues and that, at the very least, the levels need to be tested regularly when being used[5].

Silver is not a mineral or vitamin that body naturally produces. So, you don’t need to do anything extra to receive the needed amount of silver in your everyday life. The oral, topical and environmental form of silver you receive everyday should not exceed more than 5 mg per kg of your body weight. Colloidal silver is available in the form of liquid tincture or topical powder in many food stores. However, as you are naturally exposed to the recommended dosage of silver through your environment, any silver that you take in the form of colloidal silver would likely be surplus. Taking colloidal silver in supplemental form would therefore exceed the recommended daily dosage.

Risks associated with overuse of colloidal silver

Oral use of silver is not recommended by the FDA. Over time, silver may build up inside your body tissues. As a result of which your skin and mucous membranes can turn blue or grey in appearance. This is a condition medically termed as argyria. Although this is not a necessarily life threatening condition in itself, you would not welcome any skin discoloration on your body parts. It is also irreversible and has caused great psychological pain in those suffering from it in the public eye[6].

Excess colloidal silver may also interfere with the way your body absorbs certain drugs, including antibiotics and medicines to cure thyroid deficiency. So, if you are taking antibiotics to fight an infection, consumption of colloidal silver may prevent the medicines from working efficiently. Such a situation will slow down your healing process and you will suffer from your sickness for longer than normal. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are not recommended to use colloidal silver for treating flu or cold, since its safety is not yet proven.

FDA ruling on colloidal silver and related forms to avoid

Silver is considered to be safe by some when it is used in small doses for microbial purposes. Certain forms of silver can be harmful for human health, such as silver citrate, silver nitrate, mild silver protein and silver chloride. For colloidal silver, the FDA issued a proposal in 1996 to study its use as an over the counter drug. They issued a request for information and comments, receiving 251 in total and making a final ruling in 1999. The FDA's final ruling staying that:

‘Adequate safety and effectiveness data have not been provided to establish general recognition of the effectiveness of colloidal silver or silver salt ingredients for any OTC [over the counter] drug uses’[7]

Particles of silver are large and a protein like gelatin is required to keep the particles suspended. Anyone can check this without the need of any lab test. Simply shake the solution, and keep an eye on it. If foam forms, and if it dissolves soon, then it is safe to use. But if the foam does not dissolve within a few seconds, then it has protein that should be used for the sake of safety. Inferior quality silver is darker in color due to the larger size of particles in it. So, avoid these silver forms at all costs.

Does colloidal silver work the same for all?

Since every human body is unique, the way colloidal silver works for one may not be the same for others. While one person may experience beneficial effects of this product, another person may not see any notable difference. As far as you choose a good quality colloidal silver product, it should not have any serious side effects in small doses. However, as there is not yet enough evidence to support its benefits in the human system, the beneficial effects may only be placebo.

While studies have shown relatively low risk for nanoparticle silver effects, these are not the same as using colloidal silver. However, one of the most recent studies has warned that even nanoparticle silver treatments for water supplies pose potential danger and more research needs to be considered before it is deployed extensively[8].


Colloidal silver does not have sufficient evidence to back up significant health benefits when it is ingested in these supplemental ways. There is documented evidence that it can be damaging in the high percentages colloidal silver supplements offer. More than this, the quality of over the counter medication has been deemed by the FDA to be of such varying quality and amount that you don't know what you are taking. There is confirmed risk of skin discoloration and the potential for it to damage organ function and affect the effectiveness of other drugs which have undergone proper testing.

Many people may claim that colloidal silver has benefited their health, but you would be hard pressed to prove that these benefits are any more than psychosomatic. Taking something which has little to no proven health benefits when taken in this form is unwise, potentially dangerous. At the very least, it needs to be investigated more before any concrete conclusions can be drawn. Taking it before this time is a completely unnecessary risk.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Is Colloidal Silver Safe To Use, we recommend you visit our Drugs & supplements category.

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