Colloidal Silver: What You Need To Know
What is colloidal silver?
Is colloidal silver safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. Additionally, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products.
Colloidal silver can cause serious side effects. The most common is argyria, a build-up of silver in the body’s tissues causing a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is usually permanent.
Colloidal silver can cause poor absorption of some drugs, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency). There is also some evidence that it can cause kidney, liver, or nervous system problems.
Is colloidal silver effective?
Silver has no known functions or benefits in the body when taken by mouth, and it is not an essential mineral.
What is colloidal silver used for?
Colloidal silver was used to treat infections and wounds before antibiotics became available.
There is no clinical evidence supporting the use of colloidal silver to prevent or treat COVID-19. Furthermore, no alternative remedies or dietary supplements have been shown to prevent or cure COVID-19.
A few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of colloidal silver nasal spray to treat chronic sinus infections, but they did not demonstrate meaningful improvements.
More To Consider
Colloidal silver and other complementary products or practices that have not been proven safe and effective should never be used as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
Colloidal silver products are sometimes sold as homeopathic remedies. For more information on homeopathy, see Homeopathy: What You Need To Know.
Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.
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- Chung I-S, Lee M-Y, Shin D-H, et al. Three systemic argyria cases after ingestion of colloidal silver solution. International Journal of Dermatology. 2010;49(10):1175-1177.
- Kumar A, Goia DV. Comparative analysis of commercial colloidal silver products. International Journal of Nanomedicine. 2020;15:10425-10434. Erratum in: International Journal of Nanomedicine. 2022;17:553-554.
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- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus update: FDA and FTC warn seven companies selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19. March 9, 2020. Accessed at www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-update-fda-and-ftc-warn-seven-companies-selling-fraudulent-products-claim-treat-or on December 2, 2022.
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- National Institutes of Health. COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines—Supplements. Accessed at https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/therapies/supplements on December 30, 2022.
- Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplements in the Time of COVID-19: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Accessed at ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/COVID19-HealthProfessional on December 30, 2022.
- Ooi ML, Richter K, Bennett C, et al. Topical colloidal silver for the treatment of recalcitrant chronic rhinosinusitis. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2018;9:720.
- Rhee D-Y, Chang S-E, Lee M-W, et al. Treatment of argyria after colloidal silver ingestion using Q-switched 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser. Dermatologic Surgery. 2008;34(10):1427-1430.
- Scott JR, Krishnan R, Rotenberg BW, et al. The effectiveness of topical colloidal silver in recalcitrant chronic rhinosinusitis: a randomized crossover control trial. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. 2017;46(1):64.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumer advisory: dietary supplements containing silver may cause permanent discoloration of skin and mucous membranes (argyria). U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. October 6, 2009. Accessed at www.fda.gov/food/recallsoutbreaksemergencies/safetyalertsadvisories/ucm184087.htm on May 20, 2014.
NCCIH thanks D. Craig Hopp, Ph.D., and David Shurtleff, Ph.D., NCCIH, for their review of the content update of this publication.
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