This post may include affiliate links. See our affiliate policy for more details.
Colloidal silver is one of the more controversial natural supplements. Some people swear by this dietary supplement for any number of health ailments. Then, some people feel it’s not safe. So what’s the reality? Probably somewhere in between as is often the case with many homeopathic remedies.
Below, we break down everything you need to know about colloidal silver solutions before trying this alternative therapy.
What is Colloidal Silver?
Colloidal silver is an alternative supplement with tiny, suspended silver particles. They’re so small that filtering wouldn’t remove them. Some are so small in fact that they’re called nanoparticles. A nanoparticle is less than 100 nm, and you can’t see it with the naked eye.
Before the invention of modern antibiotics, this type of silver was popular for all kinds of infections, illnesses and ailments. Primarily, it was for antimicrobial properties.
In recent decades, its popularity has once again grown in natural health circles.
When taken orally or used on a wound, proponents feel it can have antiseptic and antibacterial effects. The reasons why this might be the case aren’t entirely understood. Some research indicates it may be due to the ability of the silver particles to attach to bacteria cell walls and damage their cell membrane.
Potentially, based on this research, the ingestion of colloidal silver with nanoparticles may be able to damage the DNA of bacteria and interfere with its metabolic processes. That would cause the cell to die.
Typically, when taken as a supplement, this type of silver is suspended in a water solution. The amount of silver it contains is written as milligrams of silver per liter of water, or mg/L.
Silver is not an essential mineral, so it’s not something you need to get regularly.
Colloidal Silver Benefits
Some people claim silver nanoparticles can help with fungal, viral, and bacterial infections, although research and clinical studies are mixed. Potential benefits often touted include:
Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Effects
Probably the biggest reason people say they use silver is as an antibacterial treatment for bacterial infection. Silver particles have a long history of this. Before antibiotics were discovered, colloidal silver was often used.
In test-tube studies, silver can kill different types of bacteria. You’ll often use it in topical products as a result. For example, it’s used for wound dressings and creams. Silver is also used to make medical equipment because of its antibacterial properties.
We don’t know as much about the risks of taking silver orally, however, and there’s limited research on whether or not that would have antibacterial effects for humans.
Right now, the potential of colloidal silver to have antiviral effects may be of particular interest to some people as a natural remedy.
Some studies have found that the nanoparticles can kill viruses, but there have also been studies showing it’s not effective for this.
The results are mixed overall.
For example, there was a study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine that found nanoparticles could reduce viral infectivity by blocking the interaction of the virus in the cells. Smaller particles in that study were better able to prevent the effects of viruses than larger ones.
In some research, silver can help suffocate viruses from herpes, shingles and warts, but most of the evidence on the topic is anecdotal.
Probably one of the more universally accepted uses of silver is for wound healing.
Silver in colloidal form can stimulate skin and soft tissue healing. It may help with conditions like ringworm, which is caused by fungus. Some people use it to speed up healing from burns, and it may help with eczema and psoriasis.
Another folk remedy use for silver in colloidal form is to treat pink eye, perhaps because of the antibacterial and antiviral effects. Pink eye occurs when the mucous membrane around the eyeball and the eyelid lining is inflamed, and it can be viral or bacterial.
Colloidal silver may help with you apply it to your affected eye.
Some researchers think the silver colloids can collect infected cells and send them to your bloodstream so your body can then remove them.
More research and scientific studies are needed on the topic.
Silver colloids may help with a fungal infection, as has been demonstrated in some test-tube studies. However, there aren’t any currently available human studies that replicate the use of silver particles as an antifungal.
Along with generally trying it for potential antiviral effects, people often turn to silver to help with pneumonia or combat bronchitis.
Pneumonia is challenging to treat, even with modern medicine. Antibiotics may be given, but they aren’t helpful if it’s a viral form of pneumonia.
Colloidal silver has shown some benefits in helping with pneumonia and bronchitis. You can take it orally, but even better in some people’s opinions, is to breathe it in directly into your lungs. The easiest way to get silver into your lungs is usually a nebulizer.
Typically, with a nebulizer, you would add about a teaspoon and breathe it in two to three times a day, for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If you don’t have a nebulizer, you could breathe it in the steam of boiling water.
Some people have tried, under the supervision of a health care provider, nebulizing silver for other conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Inflammation is a root cause for many of the illnesses we experience today. There is evidence that nanocrystalline silver has anti-inflammatory effects, which may be why it can heal and potentially reduce symptoms of some diseases.
Some studies have found taking an enhanced colloidal silver might help reduce the time a sinus infection lasts. There are silver spray formulations, so you can put them directly into your nose rather than taking it orally. It may also be helpful for chronic rhinosinusitis.
Help with Cold/Flu
Some people claim colloidal silver is great for the flu, but like so many of the other possible benefits, this is purely anecdotal in most cases.
There have been a few studies that have looked at the benefits of silver nanoparticles on the cold or the flu.
For example, the NIH took 100 children under the age of 12 with the common cold and nasal congestion in 2011. They put them into two groups.
The first group received a combination of colloidal silver and beta-glucan. The second group received saline solution.
Ninety percent of people in the colloidal silver group completely recovered.
There was also a study published in the Journal of Virological Methods showing that nanoparticles had an inhibitory effect on H1N1 influence A virus activity, especially during the early stage of the virus.
There have been a number of studies looking at the potential anti-cancer effects of silver nanoparticles. For example, in one study, silver improved the anti-leukemic effects by increasing oxidative stress. The researchers concluded that something like silver nanoparticles could enhance the effectiveness of traditional cancer medicines in leukemia therapy.
Some silver compounds are as toxic to cancer cells as the cancer drug Cisplatin, which is platinum-based.
In another study, colloidal silver had dose-dependent effects on killing certain human breast cancer cells.
We want to make a note here—many people are dealing with cancer, and there are some great supportive therapies out there, which you should discuss with an experienced holistic health care practitioner. However, a lot of the studies we mentioned aren’t done in humans. Instead, they’re often test-tube studies, which may or may not have the same effects in humans. It’s helpful to have the information, but it’s not a replacement for information from your health care provider.
Colloidal Silver Side Effects and Risks
There are limited human studies that look at the benefits or potential risks of using silver in supplemental form. There are possible risks to be aware of, usually if you’re using high doses for an extended period, leading to silver toxicity.
For example, if you take silver supplements by mouth for months to years, it can create a blue-gray discoloration of your skin. It can also cause this discoloration to your nails, gums, and eyes. This is called argyria, and it may not be reversible once it happens.
Rarely, fatigue, headache or myoclonic seizures are other adverse effects with long-term use of colloidal silver supplementation.
There are possible drug interactions with oral colloidal silver. Interactions include some antifungals, the thyroid medicine levothyroxine, and methotrexate, which is to treat autoimmune disorders.
How Do You Use Colloidal Silver?
If you’re going to use colloidal silver, you would typically buy it as a liquid tincture. You can take that orally, or you can use it topically.
You should not take it for more than 14 days in a row. There’s no scientific research that can tell us whether it’s safe or unsafe for long-term use.
If you’re going to use it on your skin, you can typically apply two to five drops directly to the affected area.
You can use it directly in your eye for pink eye.
Some people also spray silver directly into their nose, or they might add five drops to a neti pot.
When choosing a product, look at the colloidal silver ingredients, and ensure you’re choosing a reputable brand. One of our favorites, if you are going to use a colloidal silver product, is Sovereign Silver Bio-Active Silver Hydrosol.
Colloidal silver is controversial among supplements. There are potential antiviral and antimicrobial benefits. There are also risks. If you are considering using a silver supplement, we advise that you speak with your doctor or you talk to a holistic practitioner first, who can advise you on interactions and dosing.
You should not use any silver for more than two weeks—long-term use is associated with an increased risk of side effects.