Colloidal silver: Does it work and is it safe?
Many people use colloidal silver to cleanse the gut, boost the immune system, and combat inflammation.
However, official bodies, such as the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), state that colloidal silver can cause serious side effects and that there is no strong scientific evidence for its effectiveness as a home remedy.
Silver is antimicrobial, meaning that it can kill harmful microbes. This is why manufacturers use silver in bandages. However, no scientific findings suggest that it can kill microbes when swallowed.
This article gives an overview of colloidal silver, including its potential risks and how people use it as a homeopathic remedy.
What is it?
Colloidal silver is a liquid consisting of suspended particles of silver.
Image credit: Silverliving, 2015.
Colloidal silver is a solution that consists of very small silver particles suspended in a liquid. A "colloid" is a liquid that evenly distributes certain particles within it.
Some people take colloidal silver by mouth as a dietary supplement. Many internet-based sources claim that colloidal silver has a range of health benefits.
However, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims, and ingesting silver may have mild to severe health consequences.
Safety and risks
According to the NCCIH, regularly taking colloidal silver can cause severe side effects, including the following:
- argyria, which causes a person's skin or eyes to take on a permanent silver-blue tone
- a reduced ability to absorb certain medications, such as antibiotics, which can treat bacterial infections, and thyroxines, which can treat thyroid deficiencies
- fatal poisoning
The Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals reports that animals repeatedly exposed to silver may develop anemia, which is an iron deficiency. The authors note that the animals also experienced enlargement of the heart, stunted growth, and harmful changes to the liver.
Scientists have conducted very little research into colloidal silver, which means that there may be additional risks. Also, humans may experience different effects from animals.
Without conducting further research, scientists are unable to determine the safety of regular exposure to colloidal silver. Researchers also do not know whether it interacts with any medications.
People should take the established risks seriously. Anyone interested in taking colloidal silver should speak to a doctor first. It is always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before taking a natural remedy for the first time.
Uses and alleged benefits
Colloidal silver is popular as a natural remedy, though no research supports its use.
Many websites and news outlets claim that colloidal silver has a range of health benefits, including the ability to prevent certain diseases.
However, because there has been so little research, it is not clear whether it has these effects.
Some people use colloidal silver as a natural remedy. The purported benefits include:
- cleansing the gut
- boosting the immune system
- treating fungal infections
- improving skin health
- preventing the flu
- preventing shingles
- preventing herpes
- preventing certain types of cancer
Because of the lack of evidence, in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that products containing colloidal silver could not claim to be safe or effective.
According to the NCCIH, there are no known benefits to taking silver orally, and it is not an essential nutrient for the body.
Silver does have some medical uses. It is an effective antimicrobial when applied to a person's skin, meaning that it can kill harmful microbes. This is why some manufacturers use silver in their bandages.
However, little evidence suggests that taking it orally has any benefit to humans.
How does it work?
Silver can kill microorganisms by binding to their cells, without necessarily damaging human cells. Researchers are still looking into the mechanisms behind silver's antimicrobial properties.
However, there is no evidence that colloidal silver has beneficial antimicrobial effects when ingested by mouth.
Very little evidence supports claims about the health benefits of colloidal silver. Taking large doses may carry significant risks.
Until researchers have conducted more tests, a person should take other medications, ensuring that they are backed by substantial evidence.