Colloidal silver supplement health benefit information, side effects, risks and research
May 17 2015 by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Throughout history silver has been used as a preservative and to fight infections. Colloidal silver is a suspension of the element silver in a solution, usually water. Silver, like mercury, was used as a medicine starting in the late 1800s. Its primary application was as a topical antiseptic. Use of silver, in the form of silver nitrate solution, is still required by law in most states to be used in newborns as a topical eye drop to prevent eye infections.

Benefit of Colloidal Silver
I find it difficult to form an opinion on colloidal silver and I do not claim to be an expert on this topic. I have come across several people who swear that colloidal silver -- when used as eye drops 1-2 drops 3 to 4 times a day-- quickly healed their conjunctivitis or sty, or reduced the severity of pharyngitis when gargled in water. Perhaps colloidal silver is effective against viruses and some bacteria. So, considering all factors, if I were to make a decision, I would say colloidal silver is worth a try for a few days in cases of conjunctivitis or sty or perhaps other mild infections, but it should not be used for longer than one week at a time. It's use should be done under medical supervision by a health care provider who is familiar with its properties. I, personally, have not used it with patients.

Colloidal Silver 10 ppm, 2 fluid oz (60 cc) dropper top
Sovereign Silver
Natural-Immunogenics Corp




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Colloidal silver side effects and potential toxicity
Argyria is a condition of excess silver in the body. The estimated amount of silver accumulation over a one-year period that is required to produce argyria is 1 to 5 grams. This amount is very large compared to the 50 mcg typically recommended and consumed by people using over the counter colloidal silver products. Using the most conservative figure, 1,000 mg (1 gram) of silver corresponds to the silver content in 100 liters of 10 ppm colloidal silver. PPM stands for parts per million.

The use by the general public of colloidal silver can lead to side effects, namely blue-gray hyperpigmentation. Argyria was common in the past when oral medicines contained silver. However, since colloidal silver supplements have become more popular, colloidal silver ingestion should be considered as a cause when a patient present to the doctor's office with blue-gray hyperpigmented skin.

Myoclonic status epilepticus following repeated oral ingestion of colloidal silver.
Neurology. 2004.
The authors report a case of a 71-year-old man who developed myoclonic status epilepticus and coma after daily ingestion of colloidal silver for 4 months resulting in high levels of silver in plasma, erythrocytes, and CSF. Despite plasmapheresis, he remained in a persistent vegetative state until his death 5.5 months later. Silver products can cause irreversible neurologic toxicity associated with poor outcome.

Argyria associated with colloidal silver supplementation.
Department of Dermatology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Int J Dermatol. 2003.
A 65-year-old male presented for skin examination and was incidentally noted to have discoloration of the fingernails. These findings were completely asymptomatic. The patient had been taking colloidal silver supplementation (Silverzone 140 ppm silver Gifts of Nature, St. George, UT, USA) for 2 years as therapy for diabetes. He first noticed the onset of nail discoloration 1 year ago. His past medical history included type II diabetes and hypertension. His current medications were metformin, glyburide, and benazepril. Physical examination revealed slate-gray discoloration involving the lunulae of the fingernails (Fig. 1). The skin, mucous membranes, and sclerae were unaffected.

An argyria case reported.
A 16-year-old boy developed blue-gray pigmentation of his entire body after ingesting a silver-containing dietary supplement for a year. The product, packaged so that it was identical to bottled water, was touted as a preventive for everyday infections. [Wickless SC, Schwader TA. Medical mystery -- The answer. New England Journal of Medicine 352, 2004] This is at least the tenth such case reported in the United States within the past five years. [Barrett S. Colloidal silver: Risk without benefit. Quackwatch Web site, revised 11/30/04]

Colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent: fact or fiction?
Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2014. Colloidal silver: a novel treatment for Staphylococcus aureus biofilms? Colloidal silver is an alternative medicine consisting of silver particles suspended in water. After using this solution as a nasal spray, the symptoms of a previously recalcitrant Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus)-infected chronic rhinosinusitis patient were observed to have improved markedly. The aim of this study was to determine whether colloidal silver has any direct bactericidal effects on these biofilms in vitro. S. aureus biofilms were grown from the ATCC 25923 reference strain on Minimum Biofilm Eradication Concentration (MBEC) device pegs, and treated with colloidal silver. Concentrations tested ranged from 10 to 150 μL colloidal silver diluted to 200 μL with sterile water in 50 μL cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) broth. Control pegs were exposed to equivalent volumes of CSF broth and sterile water. The sample size was 4 biomass values per treatment or control group. Confocal scanning laser microscopy and COMSTAT software were used to quantify biofilms 24 hours after treatment. Significant differences from control were found for all concentrations tested bar the lowest of 10 μL colloidal silver in 200 μL. At 20 μL colloidal silver, the reduction in biomass was 99%. A maximum biomass reduction of 99.8% was reached at both 100 and 150 μL colloidal silver. It appears colloidal silver directly attenuates in vitro S. aureus biofilms.

J Wound Care. 2004.
Colloidal silver preparations are marketed on the internet as omnipotent antimicrobial agents, but scientific support for these claims is lacking. This study reports the results of in vitro tests of colloidal silver's antimicrobial activity against several pathogenic or non-pathogenic microorganisms. METHOD: Three samples of colloidal silver were tested: one available commercially on the internet (silver concentration of 22 ppm) and two samples (concentrations of 403 and 413 ppm) which were prepared in our laboratory using standard chemical methods. In an agar-well diffusion assay none of the three colloidal silver solutions had any effect on the growth of the test organisms. All tested bacterial strains were sensitive to ciprofloxacin. Colloidal silver 22 ppm showed no bactericidal activity in phenol coefficient tests. As the tested colloidal silver solutions did not show any antimicrobial effect in vitro on the microorganisms, claims of colloidal silver's antimicrobial potency are misleading and there is no place for it as an antiseptic.

Over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Public Health Service (PHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Final rule. Fed Regist. 1999.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is issuing a final rule establishing that all over-the-counter (OTC) drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts for internal or external use are not generally recognized as safe and effective and are misbranded. FDA is issuing this final rule because many OTC drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts are being marketed for numerous serious disease conditions and FDA is not aware of any substantial scientific evidence that supports the use of OTC colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts for these disease conditions.

Silver products for medical indications: risk-benefit assessment.
J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1996. Fung MC, Bowen DL. Center of Drug Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Maryland.
Legitimate medicinal use of silver-containing products has dramatically diminished over the last several decades. Recently, however, some manufacturers have begun to enthusiastically promote oral colloidal silver proteins as mineral supplements and for prevention and treatment of many diseases. Indiscriminate use of silver products can lead to toxicity such as argyria. To assist health care professionals in a risk versus benefit assessment of over-the-counter silver-containing products, we herein examine the following issues: historical uses, chemistry, pharmacology, clinical toxicology, case reports of adverse events in the literature, and the recent promotion of over-the-counter silver products. Other sources of silver exposure (including environmental and dietary) and EPA exposure standards are discussed. A list of currently available silver products is provided for easy reference and screening. We emphasize the lack of established effectiveness and potential toxicity of these products.

Q. I appreciate your write up on Colloidal Silver this year, it is much needed given the confusion around the product. There are many ongoing studies of Colloidal Silver being used now with Medical devices such as catheters showing reduced bacteria and a lot of consumer chatter on its benefits yet the statement by the FDA regarding it’s safety is confusing given it references Colloidal Silver products that were submitted for “Drug” Approval which is very different than the use as a “Supplement” under the Supplemental Act. Colloidal Silver by Sovereign Silver has a child dose recommendation - what are your thoughts about children taking it short term? You stated in your write up that you would recommend a consumer to try Colloidal Silver for a few days for conjunctivitis or pharyngitis. Can you tell me more about how you came to this decision? From your research, do you see any harm coming to an adult or child taking 1-2 doses?
   A. As I mentioned above, I am not an expert on this topic. I am not familiar with its use or safety in children. It appears from feedback from many users that short term use has not shown any problems hence I am comfortable in its use for a few days.

I've recently been diagnosed for the 2nd time with lyme disease ... was bitten by an infected tick in November 2003 and then lightning struck twice and was bitten by another infected tick in September 2005. Symptoms are dismal joint pain and memory loss. Am 34 and have had the traditional anti-biotic treatment to no apparent avail. Do you know if colloidal silver would be helpful for lyme disease? And if it is, have you any idea how much would be needed or what type of colloidal.silver product would be most beneficial.
   We have not seen much research regarding the relationship between lyme disease and colloidal silver, so not much can be said at this time.

I suffer from severe blepharitis. Can i use colloidal silver directly in my eyes for this problem?
   We have not seen any research with over the counter commercially available colloidal silver products and blepharitis treatment so we can't give any such advice at this time.

Is colloidal silver supplement good for Hepatitis C infection?
   I have not come across any studies administering colloidal silver to patients with hepatitis C.

I am emetophobic (fear of vomiting) so food poisoning is like a death sentence for me. because of this, i cannot go out and eat with friends because my anxiety will sky rocket wondering if I got food poisoning or not for the next few days until i am 'in the clear". i was wondering if any studies have been done to see if colloidal silver was effective against salmonella or e coli poisoning? i am not interested in taking the colloidal silver as a supplement even though some of my friends do. My only interest is prevention for when i go out and eat. i was also wondering if colloidal silver has been tested a as a prevention method against viruses like Norwalk virus? Little less of a concern since you can prevent it by washing your hands, but still.
   Hardly any human studies have been done with colloidal silver as a prevention against acquiring food borne illnesses, so it is not easy to know. Plus, there may be vast differences in different colloidal silver products.

I found your website when doing a search for colloidal silver and found myself looking at Stephen Barrett's website. It stated that colloidal silver, in a nutshell, was really bad for you. However not trusting just one person's opinion I did a search on this guy and came up with your website. Boy am I glad I did! Anyway, I was wondering what you thought of colloidal silver? I need something to protect me against this swine flu that is going pandemic, and I refuse to take Tamiflu or Relenza or whatever its called. I know its a conspiracy of some kind and those drugs really just do more harm than good in my opinion (and then there is the contaminating it with the live virus that happened not too long ago. I want to go the natural route (I'm actually a fledgeling herbalist) and was referred to colloidal silver. I really have no clue about the use of these and I have heard mixed things on all of them. I just want something to help prevent me from getting it, and help me recover should I get it. I read about the flu strain and that it kills healthy immune systems. Is there a way to prevent that or lessen the effect without compromising the immune system itself?
   I am not aware of any studies regarding natural supplements that prevent someone from getting swine flu or help to treat it. There is no evidence at this time, Aprll 2009, that the swine flue epidemic is a conspiracy.

I'm wondering if you have any knowledge of studies that used colloidal silver to help with primary adhesive capsulitis. This is a very mysterious affliction that I've developed in my left (August 2008) and right (June 2009) shoulders. Doctors have no idea what causes it, and no real idea how to cure it, other than surgery. Most all of the pain is gone away, but there are still a number of very distinct blocks to my shoulders' and arms' motion. For instance, I cannot do a full external rotation. I've made some notes from a shoulder surgery textbook. Do you know if colloidal silver will affect? Do you know of any studies regarding colloidal silver to help with
primary adhesive capsulitis? I've tried numerous doctors, alternative treatments, and supplements. But so far, the motion to my shoulder is still just as limited as when I started.
    We are not aware of any studies with the use of this natural supplement and adhesive capsulitis.

Does colloidal silver have any effect on this mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria?
    We can't find any human studies regarding the effect on mycoplasma pneumoniae.

I was reading something about colloidal lead against cancer. Is this the same thing as colloidal silver?
   Colloidal lead is different and I cannot find any studies in humans.

What's the difference between CS and colloidal gold?
   One company claims, "MesoGold is a true colloidal gold mineral supplement and has the highest particle surface area for maximum effectiveness. Improves motor skills for better sports performance." Another company claims, "Gold has a balancing and harmonizing effect on all levels of body, mind, and spirit. It is used to improve mental attitude and treat unstable mental and emotional states such as depression, melancholy, sorrow, fear, despair, anguish, frustration, suicidal tendencies, seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), poor memory, poor concentration, and many other imbalances in mind and spirit." I cannot find any published studies that prove these claims. There are studies mentioned on the internet but I could not find any that were peer-reviewed and published in medical journals. At this time I do not see any advantage of colloidal gold over other more studied natural supplements for the treatment of medical conditions. Long term safety, risk and side effects are not clear.

My 78 year old mother is in fair health. It used to be really good until she caught a nasty bug and now she has a horrible cough. We've been working with two good doctors. My question is, is there any data about colloidal silver being able to help ease coughs and "gunk" in the lungs? Is there any data about CS interactions with prescription medications?
   I am not aware of such research at this time.

I have hip replacements and wonder if the sovereign silver would be safe to take with titanium metal in hips? would the metals react Is it safe to take it with a basic multi vitamin?
   I have no reason to think a simple basic multivitamin would interfere with it, or with a hip replacement but there are no studies that have tested these combinations.

Press release from Source Natural received 2007
It's come to our attention that Sovereign Silver (also known as Hydrosol) has been mentioning the Source Naturals Colloidal Silver product. They've been distributing photographs that supposedly demonstrate Source Naturals Colloidal Silver particle size is too large and agglomerated while their particle size is smaller and homogeneous. this is our viewpoint: 1) The electron microscope photos they're showing people would have to have been taken after the product has dried, and therefore would not be representative of what the true particle size and homogeneous nature of the product is. 2) The most accurate method of measuring particle size in colloidal suspension is the laser light scattering technique. 3) We had an independent lab conduct a laser light scattering test on both Source Naturals Silver and Sovereign Silver. 4) These independent tests conclude that our mean particle size is around 0.3352 um (microns) and the competitor's product is 1.8383 um. Source Naturals particle size is about 18% of their particle size! Additionally, based on the graphs of the particle size distribution, one can conclude that our particles are more evenly distributed than the competitors.
   Comments by Dr. Sahelian: I don't know how to interpret this dispute. The only way to tell for sure which product is better is to do a clinical study comparing them.