Colloidal silver, also known as silver proteins or colloidal silver proteins, is a suspension of tiny silver particles in liquid. Although silver has been used for medicinal and health purposes for thousands of years, colloidal silver has recently become popular amongst wellness enthusiasts hoping to boost their overall health.
Although colloidal silver is often touted as an “all-healing” remedy, there’s no evidence that colloidal silver is effective for improving any aspect of human health when taken orally and it may lead to dangerous and even deadly side effects if misused.
Here's everything you need to know about colloidal silver, including its potential benefits, health risks, and whether or not it’s safe to use.
Benefits of Colloidal Silver
Even though colloidal silver is promoted as a natural cure for everything from AIDS to certain cancers, it’s important to understand that there’s no scientific evidence that ingesting colloidal silver improves health in any way or that colloidal silver has any healing benefits when taken orally.
Silver-based medicines were commonly used before the 20th century for ailments like epilepsy, sexually-transmitted diseases, and colds, but they were later replaced with safer medicines, like antibiotics.
The only potential medical benefit of colloidal silver has to do with its antibacterial effects, but it’s currently only recommended to use colloidal silver topically, and for specific skin ailments.
Silver has been used for antibacterial purposes for thousands of years. In ancient Greek and Roman times, silver was used as a treatment for wounds, like burns, and to preserve water and food.
Silver has been used in the medical field since ancient times because it’s effective against disease-causing bacteria. In the 1970s, a compound called silver nitrate was commonly utilized as an antibiotic, but it was phased out after the invention of antimicrobial medications. However, certain silver-based treatments are still used in medicine today for wound care and burns.
Colloidal silver has been shown to have antibacterial effects against multidrug-resistant bacteria such as E. coli, S. aureus, S. epidermidis, and Enterococcus species. Silver has the ability to bind to sulfur atoms in proteins and enzymes located on the surface of bacteria and deactivate enzymes necessary for the bacteria to survive.
Colloidal silver has also been shown to help enhance the activity of antibiotics against harmful bacteria. For example, studies in animals have shown that colloidal silver may help improve the effectiveness of antibiotics like ampicillin, tetracycline, and chloramphenicol against E. coli, a bacteria that causes a number of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Keep in mind that colloidal silver has only been proven effective for topical treatment in humans. No evidence supports its antibacterial use when taken orally.
Could Help Promote Wound Healing
Colloidal silver-based dressings are sometimes used in the medical field to support wound healing. Silver particles help reduce inflammation and stimulate new cell growth, which can help speed skin healing.
Studies show that colloidal silver-containing sponges could be helpful for stimulating wound healing and reducing post-surgical complications after oral surgeries, like tooth extractions.
Silver dressings may also be used to treat other wounds, such as burns.
However, keep in mind that silver-based therapies are only used by medical experts in certain situations. It’s not recommended to use colloidal silver to treat wounds at home. Although colloidal silver and other silver-based treatments may be effective for healing some wounds, silver products may actually impair wound healing when used improperly. In high concentrations, silver can be toxic to fibroblasts, which are special cells that play critical roles in wound healing.
This means that you should avoid using colloidal silver on wounds like cuts and burns at home. If you have a wound that’s not healing well, contact a healthcare provider for proper treatment.
Should You Use Colloidal Silver?
Colloidal silver should not be taken orally. Unlike minerals such as magnesium and zinc, silver doesn’t serve any physiological purpose in the body, meaning you don’t need to ingest silver to stay healthy.
You shouldn’t ingest colloidal silver and you should not use colloidal silver topically unless it’s specifically recommended by a licensed healthcare provider.
Ingesting colloidal silver or using it in an inappropriate way on your skin can lead to serious side effects, some of which can be life-threatening.
Is Colloidal Silver Safe?
Colloidal silver has not been proven safe or effective for oral use.
In 1999, the FDA warned that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any health condition.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have taken action against colloidal silver supplement manufacturers for making false claims about colloidal silver, including promoting it as a way to treat and prevent diseases like COVID-19.
Even though the sale of commercial colloidal silver products isn’t banned in the US, companies aren’t allowed to claim that colloidal silver supplements benefit health in any way or are effective in treating or preventing any health condition.
You should never take colloidal silver orally because it can lead to health issues. Silver can build up in your system over time, leading to argyria (a bluish-gray coloring coloring of the skin that’s usually permanent). Oral colloidal silver supplements have also been linked to side effects like seizures, kidney issues, blood vessel inflammation, and nerve damage.
Colloidal silver should never be used by pregnant people because it can harm the fetus by causing developmental abnormalities.
Potential Drug Interactions
Colloidal silver has the potential to interact with some commonly-prescribed medications, such as:
- Antibiotics: Colloidal silver can interfere with the absorption of antibiotics, which can lead to increased risk of infection and medical complications.
- Thyroid medications: Taking colloidal silver with thyroid medications like levothyroxine can reduce your body’s ability to properly absorb the medication, which can negatively impact thyroid health.
Colloidal silver may interact with a number of medications, which is one of the reasons why colloidal silver should not be taken orally.
Can You Take Too Much Colloidal Silver?
Yes, you can take too much colloidal silver. Silver builds up in the body and can reach toxic levels over time. If you take too much colloidal silver orally, it can lead to a condition called silver toxicity.
Silver toxicity is caused by silver buildup in tissues, which has toxic effects on organs like the kidneys and liver. The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) has given a Reference Dose (RfD) of 5 μg per kg of body weight per day for chronic oral silver exposure. RfD is the highest oral dose of a toxic substance that’s unlikely to result in health issues. However, the RfD for silver is based on the highest dose unlikely to cause argyria, which some experts argue isn’t a sensitive marker of toxicity.
Unfortunately, most colloidal silver products contain very high amounts of silver, which makes it relatively easy for a person to exceed the RfD for oral silver.
If a person ingests high amounts of colloidal silver or takes colloidal silver for a long time, it can lead to silver toxicity, which can be fatal.
Side Effects of Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver products have been linked to a number of side effects. There have been documented reports of significant health issues caused by both intentional and accidental overdose of colloidal silver.
Here’s some reported side effects related to consuming colloidal silver:
- Argyria: Taking too much colloidal silver can cause your skin to turn a bluish-gray color. Although this condition is usually harmless, it's considered a permanent skin condition.
- Seizures: Colloidal silver has been linked to myoclonic seizures, a type of seizure that causes brief spasms of muscles.
- Kidney damage: Silver can build up in the kidneys over time, which can injure the glomeruli or the blood-filtering mechanisms of the kidneys.
- Nerve damage: There have been reports of neuropathy or nerve damage in the eyes, hands, and feet of people taking colloidal silver supplements.
- Psychosis: Chronic ingestion of colloidal silver can lead to toxic blood levels of silver, which can cause psychosis, a mental condition where people lose touch with reality.
In rare cases, silver toxicity can be fatal. Because colloidal silver supplements can be dangerous when misused, it’s not recommended to take colloidal silver for any health reason. If you’re interested in using colloidal silver for a topical reason, it’s important to contact a healthcare provider first as silver can be absorbed through your skin and may cause complications.
A Quick Review
Colloidal silver has some uses in the medical field, but it’s not recommended as an at-home remedy.
Colloidal silver has not been proven safe or effective for treating or preventing any medical condition. Plus, taking too much colloidal silver can be dangerous and cause serious side effects.
For these reasons, it's not a good idea to ingest colloidal silver. If you have questions about colloidal silver or are interested in using it for topical reasons, contact a healthcare provider for advice.
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