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While colloidal silver might be tainted as a powerful cure-all in folk medicine, it still lacks strong clinical evidence and thus remains a controversial remedy. In addition, there are conflicting cell studies that both prove or disprove the effectiveness of colloidal silver. In this post, we review what science actually says about the health benefits of colloidal silver and why you should take its health claims with a grain of salt. 


Silver is a relatively safe metal that has some antimicrobial benefits. Historically, silver has been used as an antimicrobial in folk medicine. Presently, silver solution is still used as an antimicrobial and silver is often used as part of wound dressings and medical devices to reduce risks of infections [R, R].

Since the advent of antibiotics that are less expensive than silver, silver use for antimicrobial purposes has decreased. However, with the rising antibiotic resistance, colloidal silver is considered an alternative that may be able to overcome this major public health issue [R].

What Is Colloidal Silver?

Colloidal silver is a suspension of very small silver crystals that are between 10 and 100 nm in size. It can be prepared either by mechanically grinding metallic silver into very small particles or using an electrochemical reaction to convert silver salts into small silver crystals [R].

Many colloidal silver products are generated using green synthesis, where sugar or other plant-based substances are used to reduce the silver salt into silver nanoparticles [R, R].

It is important to distinguish between colloidal silver and silver salt solutions (Ag+ in silver chloride, silver nitrate, and silver oxide) because they are different things. Metallic silver and colloidal silver are much less toxic to both humans and germs than silver salts. Pure colloidal silver should not react with air and form silver oxide precipitates.

However, homemade or low-quality colloidal silver products may have a substantial amount of silver salt remaining in the solution. In addition, a small fraction of silver nanoparticles can be chemically converted back into a silver salt by substances in the body or the environment. It is possible that the small amount of silver ions may be responsible for the antimicrobial effects of colloidal silver. However, the silver salt is responsible for many of the colloidal silver’s side effects.

Health Benefits of Colloidal Silver

1) Colloidal Silver Is Antimicrobial

Historically, people have used silver for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. However, the FDA does not recognize colloidal silver as a safe antimicrobial agent [R].

How Does Colloidal Silver Work?

Colloidal silver permeates bacterial cells and damages the bacterial cells. Smaller particles (2 to 5 nm) seem to be more toxic to the bacterial cells than larger ones (>10 nm) [R, R].

In addition, silver may also kill the bacteria or inhibit their growth by increasing the oxidative stress in the bacterial cells [R,R].

Colloidal silver disrupts the cell membranes of fungi and stops reproduction [R].

Silver nanoparticles interfere with the HIV viral replication mechanism by blocking the development of virions, reducing the number of viruses in cell-based studies [R, R].

In a case report of a 12-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis lung disorder, colloidal silver supplement efficiently treated Pseudomonas aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa is a multi-drug resistant bacteria that causes pneumonia [R].


In various cell studies, colloidal silver and silver nanoparticles prevented the growth of:

  • Bacillus cereus [R]
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis  [R]
  • Salmonella typhimurium  [R]
  • Streptococcus pyogenes [R]
  • Staphylococcus aureus bacteria [R, R]
  • Hepatitis B virus [R]
  • Herpes simplex virus [R]
  • Candida albicans and Candida glabrata fungi [R]
  • Microsporum Canis [R]
  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes [R]
  • Microsporum gypseum fungi [R]

Colloidal silver has no effect against these viruses:

  • Reovirus [R]
  • Encephalomyocarditis [R]
  • Vaccinia virus [R]

Most studies that evaluate the antimicrobial effects of colloidal silver are cell-based studies. Others are studies that test colloidal silver for topical or external use. While it is truly a potent anti-microbial agent, it is possible that, when taken internally, colloidal silver may not reach sufficient concentration to have the same effectiveness as in these cell-based studies.

2) Colloidal Silver Helps Heal Wounds

Silver nanoparticles have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it effective in treating cuts, scrapes, burns, and other wounds. It also works in treating wounds that are infected by drug-resistant strains [R, R].

In one case study, topical application of colloidal silver ointment helped heal a patient’s skin wounds. The ointment’s antimicrobial activity worked with antibiotics to heal the wound faster and prevent skin infection [R].

Colloidal silver also stopped bacterial growth in human cells [R].

3) Colloidal Silver May Help with the Common Cold

The common cold is a viral disease that infects the upper respiratory tract. Colloidal silver and silver nanoparticles inhibit virus replication [R, R].

In a study of 100 children affected by the common cold, a combination of colloidal silver and carboxymethyl beta-glucan was more effective than applying salt water (saline) solution. Ninety percent of the children that used the colloidal silver solution had less inflammation in their ear and airways, while only 66% that used salt water solution had reduced inflammation [R].

4) Colloidal Silver May Help Treat Sinus Infections

In a sheep model of rhinosinusitis (sinus infection), topical colloidal silver treatment in their sinuses reduced bacterial growth. Colloidal silver also killed the bacteria and suppressed inflammation, which helped treat the infection [R].

However, in a 12-week study (randomized cohort) of 20 patients, 6 weeks of colloidal silver nasal spray and 6 weeks of salt water solution treatment did not help treat long-term rhinosinusitis. Even though it did not have any side effects, it was not powerful enough to treat sinus infections [R].

5) Colloidal Silver Kills Cancer Cells

In human breast cancer cells, colloidal silver may prevent cancer progression. Colloidal silver triggered apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells by activating the caspase pathway and inhibited cancer progression [R].

Colloidal silver also decreased lactate dehydrogenase levels in human breast cancer cells. It is an enzyme that helps with energy production in cancer cells [R].

Because these are cell-based studies, clinical studies would be necessary to confirm the safety and effectiveness of colloidal silver as a cancer treatment.

6) Colloidal Silver May Reduce Inflammation

In lung cells, silver nanoparticles inhibited the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-a, MMP-9, IL-1B, and IL-12) [R, R].

In pigs and mice with contact dermatitis (itchy rashes due to irritating substances), colloidal silver helped reduce inflammation [R, R].

Possible Other Benefits of Colloidal Silver

Silver nanoparticles have other health benefits. However, no experiments using colloidal silver have been performed on humans regarding these health effects.

Mice treated with silver nanoparticles had increased antioxidant activity (of glutathione peroxidase, and catalase enzymes) [R].

In streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats, silver nanoparticles lowered blood glucose levels by increasing glucose uptake and insulin production [R].

Side Effects of Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver may interact with and damage DNA [R].

Prolonged and Extreme Use of Colloidal Silver May Cause Argyria

Colloidal silver generally has no side effects. However, prolonged use of colloidal silver may lead to a condition known as argyria, from the small amount of silver ions that may arise from the silver nanoparticles. The silver ions accumulate in the tissues, causing the skin to turn blue-gray. Argyria is not a life-threatening condition, but it is irreversible [R].

In a case report, a diabetic patient who used a commercial colloidal silver product (Silver Zone) for 2 years developed an unusual darkening of the skin in the nail beds [R].

A 70-year-old chronic sinusitis patient who used colloidal silver (10% silver vetillinate) as a nasal decongestant experienced an unusual gray pigmentation in her nail beds and skin [R].

Colloidal Silver May Be Toxic to the Gut

Ingesting colloidal silver can be harmful to the stomach and intestines. In multiple rat studies, silver nanoparticles disturbed their gut flora. Damage to the gut flora can cause problems with the gut immune response [R, R].

Additionally, colloidal silver ingestion also damaged cut cells [R].

Limitations and Caveats

Few human studies are available regarding colloidal silver’s effects on health. More clinical studies are needed to determine its long-term effects on humans.

It is therefore not advised to take colloidal silver on a regular basis or in very high doses.

Drug Interactions

Taking silver products, such as colloidal silver, with an antibiotic is not advisable. Silver inhibits the absorption of antibiotics (tetracycline and quinolone), thus decreasing their potency [R].

Silver also interacts with drugs containing the inactive ingredient sodium thioglycollate. The thiol group decreases the antimicrobial potency of colloidal silver [R].


Since there are only a few human studies available, there is no recommended dosage of colloidal silver supplements. One clinical study used 10 to 32 ppm of silver particle solution without causing any toxicity [R].

User Experiences

One user stated that her son had a productive chronic cough and difficulties in breathing, but when he took 20 mL of colloidal silver, his situation improved tremendously.

Another user who had a tooth infection revealed that the moment she used colloidal silver as a mouthwash, her tooth infection disappeared.

A patient who had a sore throat also claimed that she got relieved when she took 20 ppm of colloidal silver orally.

A patient stated that he used colloidal silver as a therapy for allergy for 3 years until he developed an abnormal darkening of the skin in the nail beds. He visited the doctor and was advised to cease using colloidal silver solution.

Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick

At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.

That’s why I decided to create tools that will help others cut down the guesswork:

  • Lab Test Analyzer – a software tool that will analyze your labs and tell you what the optimal values are for each marker — as well as provide you with actionable tips and personalized health and lifestyle recommendations to help you get there.
  • SelfDecode – a software tool that will help you analyze your genetic data from companies such as 23andme and ancestry. You will learn how your health is being impacted by your genes, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage.
  • SelfHacked Secrets – an ebook where we examine and explain the biggest overlooked environmental factors that cause disease. This ebook is a great place to start your journey if you want to learn the essential steps to optimizing your health.
  • SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
  • Selfhacked Inflammation course – a video course on inflammation and how to bring it down
  • Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
  • Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
  • BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
  • SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics

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  • Yuri

    I cured my bronchitis for 14 days using a nebulizer and this after six months of unsuccessful antibiotic treatment with the same nebulizer. Colloidal silver will help you with IBD as well, but do not forget only to add Monolaurin and Kirkman Labs, Biofilm Defense.

  • Regina Mohr

    Say many one Experienced tingling in different parts of your body. Kind a like little needles when your feet go to sleep?

  • jason ledd

    Don’t worry about turning blue skinned. I’ve been using colloidal silver for over 25 years and I’m still not blue. All I know is that it works. When ever I get an infection, silver takes care of the problem. You can test it. Play with your cat, get both arms and hands scratched, then only spray on one arm, three times per day, and watch.
    I like Advanced Silver Company best, but whatever brand you get, make sure its 10ppm. More ppm is less, much less. Not what you’d normally think, but fact.

    Here is more info…
    10 ppm colloidal silver is more effective than 20ppm, or higher.
    Why? 10ppm solutions have much smaller size particles, resulting in greater overall surface area, and greater individual numbers of silver particles. How? The formula for Parts Per Million is, 1 ppm = 1 milligram / 1 liter. So, 20ppm colloidal silver has 20mg of silver per liter of water (20 parts per million), and its particle sizes average approximately .01 microns. The 10ppm colloidal silver has only 10mg of silver per liter, but particle sizes are approximately .001 microns. The result: 10ppm colloidal silver has particle sizes 10 times smaller than 20ppm solutions. Amazingly, this also results in 5 times more individual silver particles than a 20ppm solution. And, it also means 10ppm has 5 times greater absorption and excretion in and out of body than 20ppm.* More info: S.E. Foran, Therapeutic Properties of Silver: A Historic and Technical Review, Quanta, January 2009.

  • Dale

    I posted here some time ago and notice my post doesn’t appear. Not sure why? About colloidal silver, I have been using it for years and have yet to turn blue. Prescribed medications are the cause of many deaths annually. Colloidal silver was used in hospitals before the advent of penicillin. My MD even prescribes colloidal silver. Anything misused can cause problems.

  • sharon samtur

    As for the “blue” side effect – use only the colloidal silver that does not cause it. I know people who have taken it for decades and never ever have a cold. Like anything, moderation. An ounce of prevention and coloidal silver is small doses is prevention.

  • Bert Albronda

    I use colloidal siver in a nebulizer and it cured my Lyme disease! Applied it this way , it enters the blood-streem through the alveoli in he lungs and causes no developpement of bacterial resistencies like antibiotics do. It sterilizes all virissus ,bacteria and the bloodstream I don’t need a flu shot any more and i am not exposed to the neurotoxins ethyl- mercury or aluminium or polysorbates any moe, that are in these vaccins as adjuvents and are the cause the rise of lots of neuro-degeneratieve diseases, by passing the blood brain barrier and damaging the neurons in your brain. . It does not disturb your Gut Microbiome like anibiotics do and This Mirobioom is largely responsible for a good functioning immuunsystem The Gut Brain Axis in modern diseasis, is often caused by dysbiosis in this microbioom .

  • Pho

    I heard that there are two forms of silver that is found in “colloidal silver” products, colloidal silver and ionic silver. Many cheaper colloidal silver products contain a significantly higher % of ionic silver. Have you looked into the differences in benefits and side effects of actual colloidal silver and ionic silver?

  • bob

    I’ve used colloidal silver both commercial and home-made. I’ve used it as a nasal spray…eye drops…orally etc. I haven’t used it that much…just occasionally. Can’t really say that it had much of an effect…but might have worked to some extent.

    Most recent use was 1 TBS per day of Panasilver for 2 weeks end of last year. Actually probably felt worse after the 2 weeks…maybe a herx reaction Taking it for overall malaiase or whatever.

  • Max

    I didn’t receive the entire article. I’ve been hitting the colloidal silver for decades, all during the flu season I nebulize it through my nose. It’s keeping me out of the sickie zone and away from the doctors and all their paperwork and poisons…

  • Maurice Volaski

    Am I misreading or was the side effect profile left out?

    1. Helen

      Hi Maurice, the post is updated now

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