Colloidal silver has a long history of use as a natural antibiotic. Historically, when penicillin entered the scene, ushering in the eventual development of many more prescription antibiotics, use of colloidal silver faded into the background. Renewed interest in this natural alternative has risen, however, especially because so many bacteria are becoming resistant to prescription antibiotics, including deadly SARS and MRSA bacteria.
But is colloidal silver effective and safe? There are conflicting reports on both of these issues from a range of experts, but when used properly, numerous studies have reported that it appears to be a safe, effective choice when dealing with certain health situations.
What is colloidal silver?
If you go shopping for colloidal silver, you may find three different types, so be sure to get the correct one. Ionic silver and silver protein may be marketed as colloidal silver, but they typically contain little or no colloidal silver. Both of these should be avoided. The third type is true colloidal silver.
True colloidal silver consists of sub-microscopic silver nanoparticles that are suspended in a liquid, typically water. These particles can be produced by grinding silver and then suspending them in water, or by reducing silver salt using a chemical reducer. Another method, called green synthesis, involves the use of a biologically-generated substance to break down the silver salt.
True colloidal silver for oral use should contain only silver particles and deionized or pharmaceutical grade water-nothing else. Silver content is typically at least 50 percent silver particles with the balance being silver ions. True colloidal silver is never clear like water because of the particle content.
Colloidal silver also is available in creams, salves, and sprays, and these products will contain other ingredients as well.
Health benefits of colloidal silver
The reported health benefits of true colloidal silver include the following:
- Helps eliminate certain bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bacteria such as streptococcus and staphylococcus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA)
- When used along with some conventional antibiotics, it can significantly boost the antibiotic activity of these drugs against some bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, among others
- Treats ear infections, which can be caused by a variety of bacteria and even fungi, all of which colloidal silver can address
- May help eliminate Candida and other yeast infections
- Accelerates wound healing and can be applied to bandages
- Used to treat pink eye (conjunctivitis) and a scratched cornea
- May support immune system functioning
- Unlike prescription antibiotics, colloidal silver does not create resistance to the bacteria or other pathogens it kills
Reinfection of wounds from dressings/bandages is a critical issue, which is why finding an effective way to prevent it is important. A recent study involved the use of dressings that contained a colloidal silver gel used to inhibit the growth of bacteria in mice. The dressings completely inhibited S. aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Acinetobacter baumannii, but not two MRSA strains.
How to use colloidal silver
According to Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, the following doses are appropriate when using true colloidal silver. Note that you should never use it for more than 14 days in a row.
- One to two drops into eyes for conjunctivitis
- Two to five drops when applied directly to the skin for conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
- One to two drops directly on a bandage for wounds or sores
- One eyedropper taken orally to help support the immune system
- Five drops sprayed into the nose or into a neti pot
Caveats concerning colloidal silver
Because choosing the wrong colloidal silver can result in health problems, such as discoloration of the skin, you should use this supplement only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health practitioner. Silver can accumulate in the body’s tissues, resulting in a condition called argyria or argylosis, which irreversibly turns a person’s skin, gums, internal organs, and nail beds blue.
However, “with normal responsible usage,” says Jeffrey Blumer, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Drug Research, “silver supplements are entirely harmless to humans.” In addition, using true colloidal silver, rather than ionic silver or silver protein, does not result in argyria.
You can determine whether you are consuming an amount of silver that has been deemed to be safe by the Silver Safety Committee, which consists of physicians, chemistry professors, and experts in health-freedom advocacy. The Silver Safety Council website offers consumers an easy formula to determine how much of any colloidal silver product you can take to remain within the safety guidelines. The calculation is based on your body weight and the particles per million of silver in your chosen supplement.
Colloidal silver reportedly also may alter your body’s ability to utilize certain drugs, including some antibiotics and thyroxine, which is used to treat thyroid conditions. The Food and Drug Administration states there are no safe or effective uses for colloidal silver supplements, although it does acknowledge that “Silver has some appropriate medical uses, such as medicines, bandages, and dressings used to treat burns, skin wounds, or skin infections, and as medicines used to prevent the eye condition called conjunctivitis in newborn infants.”
Food and Drug Administration. Consumer advisory. Dietary supplements containing silver may cause permanent discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. 2009 Oct 6
Morrill K et al. Spectrum of antimicrobial activity associated with ionic colloidal silver. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2013 Mar; 19(3): 224-31
Panacek A et al. Silver colloid nanoparticles: synthesis, characterization, and their antibacterial activity. Journal of Physical Chemistry B 2006 Aug 24; 110(33): 16248-53
Shahverdi AR et al. Synthesis and effect of silver nanoparticles on the antibacterial activity of different antibiotics against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine 2007 Jun; 3(2): 168-71
Tran PL et al. The ability of a colloidal silver gel wound dressing to kill bacteria in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Wound Care 2017 Apr 1; 26(sup4): S16-S24