What does colloidal silver do for the body?

Colloidal silver is a solution of microscopic silver particles suspended in liquid. It has been used as a health supplement and alternative medicine treatment for decades. Proponents claim that colloidal silver can boost the immune system, fight infections, heal wounds, and more. However, the benefits and risks of colloidal silver remain controversial.

How is colloidal silver used?

There are a few main ways that people use colloidal silver:

  • Taken orally as a dietary supplement
  • Applied topically to treat skin conditions
  • Inhaled into the lungs
  • Installed into the eyes/ears to treat infections

Colloidal silver supplements typically come in liquid drops or gel capsules that are taken by mouth. The silver particles are small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream after ingestion. Topical colloidal silver products include creams, gels, soaps, moisturizers, and bandages/plasters infused with silver nanoparticles.

What are the claimed benefits of colloidal silver?

There are many purported benefits and medicinal uses of colloidal silver. However, most of these applications are unsupported by scientific evidence. Here are some of colloidal silver’s most common proposed uses:

  • Immune system support – Colloidal silver is claimed to help stimulate and improve the immune system.
  • Antimicrobial properties – Silver does have well-documented antimicrobial properties against many types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, these effects are greatly diminished in the body.
  • Wound/burn healing – Evidence on colloidal silver enhancing wound healing is very limited. It may help reduce infection risk.
  • Skin conditions – Colloidal silver is sometimes used to treat skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, acne, and other conditions. Evidence is lacking.
  • Sinusitis – Colloidal silver nasal sprays and drops may help relieve sinus congestion, but effects are not well studied.
  • Pink eye – Putting colloidal silver in the eyes may help mild viral or bacterial conjunctivitis by reducing inflammation/irritation.
  • Ear infections – Ear drops with silver may help speed recovery and prevent recurrence of swimmer’s ear or middle ear infections.
  • Cold/flu – Colloidal silver is promoted to shorten colds and flu, but it does not appear effective for this use.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions – Colloidal silver is sometimes used for ulcers, gastritis, and related gut issues, but benefits are unproven.

Is colloidal silver safe to use?

In small doses and for short periods of time, colloidal silver is likely safe for most healthy adults. However, there are some important safety considerations:

  • Long-term use – Prolonged colloidal silver intake can cause a condition called argyria, which is permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skin/eyes.
  • Kidney damage – Silver buildup in the body over months/years may also damage the kidneys.
  • Interactions – Colloidal silver may interact with some medications, especially antibiotics and thyroxine (thyroid hormone).
  • Pregnancy/breastfeeding risks – Colloidal silver is possibly unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to potential toxicity risks.
  • Allergic reactions – Some people may be allergic or extra sensitive to silver compounds.

High doses or prolonged use of colloidal silver supplements may be unsafe for these reasons. Topically applied colloidal silver creams, gels and other products are likely safer than oral formulations when used appropriately.

Does colloidal silver have any side effects?

Possible side effects of colloidal silver include:

  • Argyria – bluish-gray discoloration of skin/eyes
  • Neurological problems – seizures, headaches, dizziness, lethargy
  • Kidney damage – proteinuria, creatinine elevation
  • Liver toxicity
  • Stomach upset – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Skin irritation – rashes, swelling, redness
  • Allergic reactions – hives, itching, airway constriction
  • Drug interactions – especially with antibiotics like penicillins, tetracyclines, quinolones

The discoloration effect of argyria is permanent in most cases. Fortunately, argyria is fairly rare and only occurs after months or years of high dose colloidal silver intake. Mild diarrhea is the most common side effect reported with short-term oral use.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are no standard dosing guidelines for colloidal silver due to the lack of quality clinical research. Many manufacturers recommend taking up to 1-2 tsp orally per day. Applied topically, creams can be used as needed on affected areas.

It’s important not to take large doses of colloidal silver for long periods due to safety concerns. Using colloidal silver products for longer than 14 days in a row is not advisable unless under medical supervision.

How does colloidal silver work?

The proposed benefits of colloidal silver stem from the antimicrobial properties of silver particles. Silver has a long history of medical use as an antiseptic and disinfectant. When silver nanoparticles come into contact with bacteria and fungi, the silver interferes with their cell membranes, enzymes, and protein structures.

However, when ingested, the body greatly reduces and limits the antimicrobial actions of silver. Most colloidal silver particles that enter the bloodstream become bound to proteins and chloride, forming inactive compounds. Only a tiny fraction of the original silver dose retains antimicrobial properties in the body.

This is why, in general, the health claims around colloidal silver are exaggerated and not supported by rigorous clinical evidence. The tiny silver concentrations that reach tissues and organs after ingestion or topical use are likely insufficient to provide significant antimicrobial activity.

Are there any proven benefits of colloidal silver?

Despite widespread claims about colloidal silver’s health benefits, there is very little reliable scientific research demonstrating effectiveness for specific conditions. However, a few potential benefits show some promise according to limited studies:

  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis) – Applying colloidal silver drops/gel may help relieve minor viral or bacterial pink eye infections. But more research is needed.
  • Ear infections – Eardrops containing silver may help speed recovery in children with middle ear infections. More studies are required.
  • Skin wounds/ulcers – Adding silver nanoparticles to wound dressings may help reduce infection risk and promote healing. But effects are variable.
  • Sinusitis – Some small studies found colloidal silver nasal sprays helped relieve sinus infection symptoms more quickly. More research is warranted.
  • Cold sores (herpes) – Early research found that a colloidal silver and beta glucan cream reduced cold sore size and duration somewhat. Additional studies are needed.

For most other alleged uses, there is simply not enough reliable evidence to know if colloidal silver is effective. Claims that it can cure serious viral infections like HIV, herpes, hepatitis, and flu are unsupported.

What should you look for in a colloidal silver product?

If choosing to use colloidal silver, here are some tips for selecting a quality product:

  • Purchase from a reputable manufacturer following good manufacturing practices (GMP).
  • Avoid products that make unrealistic health claims.
  • Select a product standardized for silver content (e.g. 10-30 ppm).
  • Choose smaller particle sizes for better absorption (ideally <10 nm).
  • Use dark glass bottles to limit light exposure.
  • Topical products should list all other ingredients.
  • Ask for current third-party testing results.
  • Oral forms should be swallowed, not held in mouth.

Always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplements like colloidal silver, especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications.

Can colloidal silver be harmful or toxic?

At typical doses for short periods, colloidal silver is likely safe for adults. However, there are some potential risks with prolonged use or in high doses (more than 4-5 ppm daily):

  • Argyria – With long-term intake, colloidal silver can permanently turn skin, eyes, and nails blue-gray.
  • Neurotoxicity – High silver levels may cause seizures, dizziness, headaches and lethargy.
  • Kidney damage – Proteinuria and kidney degeneration have been seen when silver accumulates in the body.
  • Liver toxicity
  • Gut flora imbalance – Colloidal silver may kill beneficial gut bacteria long-term.

Topical use on the skin, eyes, etc. rarely causes systemic toxicity. But oral colloidal silver supplements may build up over time. Seeking medical advice before using high doses or for more than 2-4 consecutive weeks is recommended.


In summary, colloidal silver is marketed for many health conditions and antimicrobial benefits, but there is little solid scientific evidence to support most of these uses. Moderate short-term oral use or topical application is likely safe for healthy adults in appropriate dosages. But higher doses or prolonged intake raises the risk of toxicity and side effects.

More rigorous clinical studies are still needed to better evaluate colloidal silver’s effectiveness and safety profile for different applications. While some early research shows promise, especially for certain topical uses, the overall evidence remains limited. As with any supplement, it is wise to exercise caution and consult a doctor before using colloidal silver.

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