Colloidal silver is a liquid-based solution of water and suspended silver particles in ppm(parts per million). Colloidal silver has been marketed for a long time as a medical miracle cure. Various claims made by the manufactures state that colloidal silver benefits and cure almost diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, cancer, bacterial or viral infection, herpes, etc. However, no sound studies have seconded these health claims in reputable medical journals.

Many websites and medical e-commerce sites promote colloidal silver as a must-have product, but you must be aware of how it can affect you in a longer run. FDA claims that there is no scientific evidence supporting colloidal silver (1).

Let us go through every aspect of this controversial colloidal silver drug.

What is colloidal silver?

Colloidal silver is a suspension of microscopic silver particles in a liquid base. It is available in the market as dietary supplements. Also, colloidal silver products are available in the form of spray, topical application and even in the form of injection.

Silver nanoparticles in a colloidal solution have a specific size, electron configuration, a particular magnetic resonance and specific ph. They have a specific electromagnetic frequency and specific structural effect upon the water molecules.

The mechanism of action of colloidal silver is multifaceted, including electrical, magnetic, electromagnetic, chemical and resonant frequency (2).

You may encounter three kinds of colloidal silver products in the market.

Ionic Silver

The silver content in these products consists of both silver ions and silver particles of which 90% of the silver content is in the form of ionic silver. The remaining 10% of the silver content is present in the form of silver particles.

The vast majority of products labelled and sold as colloidal silver fall into this category due to the low cost of production. However, ionic silver products are not true colloidal silver products and are not effective as such.

Silver Protein

Silver protein products consist of a combination of metallic silver particles and a protein binder. They are produced by simply adding water to silver protein powder. These products have very large silver particles. Protein binders are used to keep these large silver particles suspended.

But, even this version is not as useful as a true colloidal silver product.

True Colloidal Silver

As the name suggests, true colloidal silver contains the majority of the silver content is in the form of silver particles. True colloids will include more than 50%-80% particles while the balance will be 20% to 49% silver ions. True colloidal silver is a scarce variant and is costly owing to its high silver content.

Mechanism of action of colloidal silver

FDA and medical fraternity have bluntly rejected any claims which indicate colloidal silver benefits on health. But if you go back in history, then you will find numerous references where silver usage suggested a range of benefits.

Royal families ate food in silver utensils. Also, it was a common practice to drop a silver coin in the milk to avoid spoilage. Greek and Romans preserved perishable things in silver containers.

Silver has a potent property to kill bacteria and fungus. This fact was neither questionable before nor it is in the current times. Although, the effectiveness of silver killing all kinds of virus and bacteria is doubtful.

The silver particle adheres to the surface of cell wall and membrane of the bacteria and pick them up topically from infected wounds or cuts or directly from the bloodstream where they are acted upon by antibodies.

The silver particles penetrate inside the bacterial cell and damaging the intracellular structures such as mitochondria, vacuoles and ribosomes. It also acts on the biomolecules like protein, lipids, and DNA of the bacterial cell (3).

The suspended silver particles have proven to induce cellular toxicity and oxidative stress when in contact with the bacteria. The action occurs by the generation of reactive oxygen species and free radicals which directly act on the bacterial species.

Suspended silver particles modulate the immune system of the human cells by orchestrating inflammatory response, which further aid in the inhibition of microorganisms.

Colloidal stability of silver particles has also been suggested to regulate signal transduction pathways in bacteria. The particles alter the phosphotyrosine profile of the proteins, which leads to growth inhibition in bacteria (4).

Scientifically proven colloidal silver benefits

1. Helps in conjunctivitis or pink eye

Colloidal silver possesses enhanced bactericidal potential against drug-resistant Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A study conducted by Larry C. Ford, MD documented 650 different disease-causing pathogens that were destroyed when exposed to small amounts of silver.

When applied to the infected eye for patients with conjunctivitis or pink eye, the silver nanoparticles adhere to the bacteria. It is either sent to the bloodstream or eliminated on contact (5).

2. Helps in chronic rhinosinusitis

A study was conducted on sheep model for proving the effectiveness of colloidal silver on chronic rhinosinusitis due to Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. The results showed a significant decrease in the biofilm mass on topical application of colloidal silver (6).

3. Heal burns and wounds

Silver possesses wound-healing properties. The silver nanoparticles found in colloidal silver have shown rapid healing and improved cosmetic appearance in a dose-dependent manner (7)

Suspended silver nanoparticles also possess antimicrobial properties preventing the wound from getting infected. It helps in reducing inflammation in burns and aids in the modulation of fibrogenic cytokines.

Colloidal silver gel (Ag-gel) have shown effectiveness in the wound dressing. A proper choice of dressing material inhibits the bacteria to reinfect the wound time and again (8).

4. Anti-inflammatory

A research study was conducted on inflamed pigskin by the National Centre of Health. The study showed a marked decrease in the inflammation of the bovine skin within 72 hours (9).

The study concluded that the nanoparticles of the silver show increased inflammatory cell apoptosis, decreased expression of proinflammatory cytokines, and also a decrease in gelatinase activity. Colloidal silver has shown a marked reduction in inflammation in contact dermatitis in another study conducted on mice.

5. Anti-fungal

In vivo studies over plants have shown potent antifungal properties of silver nanoparticles. Colloidal silver nanoparticles have shown to possess broad antifungal spectrum combating yeast infection, candidiasis.

Silver has a fungitoxic effect which proved efficient in mycelial growth inhibition against some strains of pathogenic yeasts, including Candida and Cryptococcus (10).

6. Disinfectant

NASA and the World Health Organization have approved the use of colloidal silver as a drinking water disinfectant.

What are the side effects?

  • Long-term use of colloidal silver preparations can lead to argyria. It is a condition in which silver salts deposit in the skin, eyes, and internal organs, and the skin turns ashen-grey. Localized argyria can occur as a result of topical use of colloidal silver, while the ingestion, inhalation can result in generalised argyria.
  • Colloidal silver reacts with some antibiotics such as tetracycline rendering them less useful. Colloidal silver can lead to poor absorption of some drugs, such thyroxine which is used to treat thyroid deficiency (11).
  • Excessive use of colloidal silver has shown kidney damage and heavy metal toxicity, with neurological symptoms such as seizures.
  • The use of colloidal silver by pregnant women is not recommended due to the risk of developmental abnormalities.
  • A study conducted on ingested colloidal silver found that it can damage the gut cells and the gut flora.

Enforcement actions against colloidal silver

In October 1996, the FDA proposed to ban the use of colloidal silver or silver salts in over-the-counter products. The ban applies to any nonprescription colloidal silver or silver salt product which claims to be effective in preventing or treating any disease.

During 2000, the FDA issued warnings over 20 companies whose websites were making illegal therapeutic claims for colloidal silver products.

Over to on colloidal silver benefits

In recent years, silver-containing products are marketed with claims that are stating their efficacy against AIDS, cancer, infectious diseases, parasites, chronic fatigue, warts, haemorrhoids, enlarged prostate, and many other conditions.

Though in vivo studies have shown a therapeutic potential of colloidal silver, no results of extraordinary cure were obtained from the in-vitro studies and clinical trials.

Colloidal silver benefits of health remains a severe controversy as the risks outweigh the curing potential.