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Introduction

Colloidal silver is a supplement that consists of extremely small silver particles that are microscopically dispersed within a liquid solution.

Although the thought of ingesting silver sounds quite far-fetched, humans are regularly exposed to trace amounts of silver through our food and the environment – ranging from 0.5-27ug per day depending on the country.

Colloidal silver is claimed to have medicinal properties, with silver ions, which are released from the silver particles when they contact body fluids, thought to be “biologically active”.

Although the history of this product is not well known, it is now being promoted on the internet as a dietary supplement.

Recently, the products popularity has begun to rise with many extravagant health claims surrounding its use. Common claims are that colloidal silver can eliminate toxins, poisons, and fungi from the body whilst strengthening the bodies defenses against potential infections.

Internet reports are even claiming it can replace antibiotics or other medical therapies to treat these infections.

Surprisingly, product reviews for colloidal silver on multiple sites are relatively positive, despite the scarcity of evidence supporting its use.

What Are The Reported Health Claims?

Below we’ve listed all the health claims we’ve found being made about Colloidal Silver:

1. May Be Anti-Bacterial 

Silver has been claimed to be an anti-bacterial compound within the human body. This is mainly because colloidal silver was a popular antibacterial treatment before the release of prescription antibiotics.

A few lab studies, utilizing test-tubes, have also indicated that colloidal silver can kill a wide range of bacteria [1]. However, these studies are performed outside of the human body, and may not have the same effects when examined in clinical studies.

Although the data is inconclusive, some research suggests that silver can attach to the proteins on bacterial cell walls and cause damage to their protective structures [2].

Theoretically, this could allow silver ions to pass into harmful cells, damage their DNA, and result in the cells death – therefore being protective against dangerous infections.

For these reasons, some healthcare products contain colloidal silver in wound creams, wound dressings and medical equipment. It is unknown whether they are having a positive effect, and their results are largely judged subjectively.

Based on the fact that colloidal silver is considered a dangerous substance to consume, it is also unlikely that any clinical trials within humans will take place in the future.

2. May Be Anti-Fungal

Colloidal silver is also said to be capable of treating fungal infections.

The same test-tube study that reported antibacterial effects also showed that it may stop the growth of some strains of fungi [3].

However, most types of fungi are easily removed in lab settings by a wide variety of substances, and this should not indicate that the same effects will be seen in fungi present within humans.

As there is no reliable research within humans, it is far too early to claim that colloidal silver is an effective anti-fungal treatment.

Are There Likely To Be Any Health Benefits At All?

The scientific research studying colloidal silver indicates that there are no apparent benefits for its use.

From a biological perspective this is not surprising, as silver has not been defined as a trace metal, and is not essential, or important, for any metabolic process.

In fact, across various mammal species the physiological need for silver is extremely low, with  absorption rates of just 0-10% [4] (hardly a substance that the body craves!).

Safety and Side Effects

A huge issue with silver consumption is that it seems to remain present within the body for extremely long periods. Scientific analyses have detected the substance in numerous tissues following oral administration:

  • Skin: Retained constant physiological levels for 30 weeks after the initial intake [5].
  • Eyes: Deposition of silver granules in the eyes a year after oral administration [6].
  • Brain: Localized to glial cells and neurons, showing it can cross the blood-brain barrier [7]. Other evidence suggests it does not cross the blood-brain barrier but is deposited in its lining [8].
  • Intestines: Silver nanoparticles can damage the intestinal cells after just 21 days [9].
  • Liver: Signs that silver nanoparticles can cause inflammation of the liver [10].

Future evidence is necessary to analyze silvers effects on all body tissues after its deposition to give a clearer indication of its health and safety risks.

Worryingly, there have been many accidental, and self-inflicted poisonings that have occurred with the use of colloidal silver.

In most cases, these poisonings are manifested as argyria – a bluish-grey discoloration of the skin (usually permanent).

Other reported side effects of silver ingestion are retarded growth rates [11] and significant losses in bodyweight – which are concerning issues for tempted individuals seeking weight loss supplements [12].

Colloidal silver use also raises large concern for cardiovascular health. Animal studies have shown significant increases in serum cholesterol [13], along with a deposition of silver within the kidneys that can increase blood pressure and result in heart enlargement [14].

Importantly, the Food and Drug Administration have not recognized any supplement containing colloidal silver as being safe for internal or external use. They continue to state that these products are misbranded and are being marketed to treat numerous diseases without substantial scientific evidence [15].

For these reasons, colloidal silver is not recommended for use in any individual in any situation. This is especially important for pregnant women, as there have been observations that silver can cross the placental barrier and be transferred from mother to offspring following an oral dose of silver nanoparticles [16].

This being said, the topical use of colloidal silver to the skin carries less safety risks than ingesting it through a dietary supplement – provided the nanoparticles are even small enough to be absorbed through the skin [17]. However, even in this scenario, colloidal silvers use is not recommended, and people should look for safe alternatives to their problems.

Conclusion

Colloidal silver is a supplement that consists of extremely small silver particles that are microscopically dispersed within a liquid solution.

This product is claimed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, however no solid evidence suggests these claims are true.

More importantly, colloidal silver has not shown to be safe as it can be deposited within the skin, eyes, brain, intestines, and liver for long periods where its effects are either dangerous or currently unknown.

Shaun Ward MSc BSc SENr Anutr
Shaun Ward MSc BSc SENr Anutr
Staff Writer & Fact Checker at DietProbe
Shaun is a registered nutritionist, and sport and exercise nutritionist, with experience in coaching professional endurance and strength athletes.
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Fact Checked


This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.