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Colloidal silver products consist of tiny silver particles
suspended in liquid. They are usually marketed as dietary
Over-the-counter colloidal silver products are not considered
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be
generally recognized as safe and effective for diseases and
The FDA has taken action against a number of colloidal
silver companies (such as Web sites) for making drug-like
claims about their products.
Colloidal silver can cause serious side effects. One is
argyria, a bluish-gray discoloration of the body. Argyria is
not treatable or reversible.
What are colloidal silver products?
Silver is a metallic element that is mined as a precious metal.
It has various industrial uses--for example, in jewelry,
silverware, electronic equipment, dental fillings, photographic
processing, and disinfecting water. People are commonly
exposed to silver, usually in tiny amounts, through the
environment (such as the air), drinking water, and food, and
possibly their work or hobbies.1 Silver has no known
biological function in living organisms.
Silver has had some medicinal uses going back for
centuries. However, more modern and less toxic drugs have
eliminated most of those uses. A few prescription drugs
containing silver are still available. For example, silver nitrate
can be used to prevent an eye condition called conjunctivitis
in newborn babies and to treat certain skin conditions, such
as corns and warts. Another drug, silver sulfadizine, can be
used to treat burns. These drugs are applied to the body
(i.e., they are not taken internally), and they can have
negative side effects.
Colloidal silver products consist of tiny silver particles
suspended in a liquid base. Sometimes other ingredients are
added, such as proteins, coloring, etc. The products are
usually taken by mouth (in which case the products are
considered dietary supplements; see the text box below).
Some other types are sprayed, applied to the skin, or
injected into a vein.
For what health purposes are colloidal silver products
Colloidal silver products are often marketed with various
unproven health-related claims. Examples include that they
benefit the immune system; kill disease-causing agents such
as bacteria, viruses, and fungi; are an alternative to
prescription antibiotics; or treat diseases such as cancer,
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, syphilis, scarlet fever, shingles,
herpes, pneumonia, and prostatitis (inflammation of the
Do colloidal silver products work?
Reviews in the scientific literature on colloidal silver products
have concluded that2-5:
Silver has no known function in the body.
Silver is not an essential mineral supplement or a cure-all
and should not be promoted as such.
Claims that there can be a "deficiency" of silver in the body
and that such a deficiency can lead to disease are
Claims made about the effectiveness of colloidal silver
products for numerous diseases are unsupported
Colloidal silver products can have serious side effects
(discussed further below).
Laboratory analysis has shown that the amounts of silver in
supplements vary greatly, which can pose risks to the
What are the risks of using these products?
Animal studies have shown that silver builds up in the tissues
of the body. In humans, buildup of silver from colloidal silver
can lead to a side effect called argyria. It causes a
bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, other organs, deep
tissues, nails, and gums. Argyria cannot be treated or
reversed, and it is permanent. While it is not known how
argyria occurs, it is thought that silver combines with protein,
forming complexes that deposit in the skin and are
processed by sunlight (as in traditional photography).6,7
Other side effects from using colloidal silver products may
include neurologic problems (such as seizures), kidney
damage, stomach distress, headaches, fatigue, and skin
irritation. Colloidal silver may interfere with the body's
absorption of the following drugs: penacillamine, quinolones,
tetracyclines, and thyroxine.5
Does the Government regulate dietary supplements
containing colloidal silver?
Yes, the Government regulates them, but differently than
drugs. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of
1994 places dietary supplements in a special category of
foods. This category is regulated differently than other foods
and than drugs. For example, manufacturers of dietary
supplements, unlike manufacturers of drugs, do not have to
prove their product's safety and effectiveness to the FDA
before it is marketed. If the product is found to be unsafe
after it is marketed, the FDA can take certain actions, such
as removing it from the marketplace. The FDA issued a
ruling in 1999 that no products containing colloidal silver are
generally recognized as safe and effective. The FDA and the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have sent warning letters
to the operators of many Web sites that market colloidal
silver with drug-like claims (i.e., that their product diagnoses,
treats, cures, or prevents disease).
What should people do who are considering or using
If you are considering or using a colloidal silver product, or
any type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM),
talk with all your health care providers. Discussing its use is
important for your safety and helps each provider make sure
that all aspects of your health care are working together.
This is especially important if you are pregnant, nursing a
baby, or considering treating a child. You can also learn
about FDA and FTC actions on misrepresentations for
The information above is extracted from NCCAM Online
Publication No D209. If you have any questions about silver
products, you should contact FDA, NCCAM or your doctor
Commercial Silver Products
Advertisements of silver products suggest that silver
products are designed to support the body's defense system
when under physical stress. They also claim that silver was
considered the first line of defense for immune threats,
before conventional therapies.
The serving size for most silver products is about 10- 30
ppm of silver.
The information above is for your reference only. You should
consult with your doctor before using any supplements.
1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ToxFAQs for
Silver. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Web site.
Accessed at www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts146.html on March 23, 2004.
2. Fung MC, Bowen DL. Silver products for medical indications:
risk-benefit assessment. Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology.
1996;34(1):119-126. 3. Gulbranson SH, Hud JA, Hansen RC.
Argyria following the use of dietary supplements containing colloidal
silver protein. Cutis. 2000;66(5):373-374. 4. FDA bans colloidal
silver products, cites lack of data. FDA Consumer. 1999;33(6).
Accessed at www.fda.gov/fdac/departs/1999/699_upd.html on
March 2, 2004. 5. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.
Colloidal silver. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web
site. Accessed at www.naturaldatabase.com/monograph.asp?
mono_id=779&brand_id= on March 23, 2004. 6. White JM, Powell
AM, Brady K, et al. Severe generalized argyria secondary to
ingestion of colloidal silver protein. Clinical and Experimental
Dermatology. 2003;28(3):254-256. 7. Hori K, Martin TG, Rainey P,
et al. Believe it or not--silver still poisons! Veterinary and Human
SOURCE NCCAM Publication No. D209 June 2004