Colloidal Silver: Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on April 18, 2024
9 min read

“Colloid” means that something is dissolved in another substance. Colloidal silver is made up of tiny particles of silver in water. It’s the same kind of silver used in jewelry and silverware. The bits of silver are so small they stay afloat in the liquid. 

Colloidal silver is not safe to eat. It can cause dangerous side effects like kidney damage and seizures. It can help with some skin wounds, but there is no evidence that it helps with any other health conditions. Never swallow it. 

The history of colloidal silver

Colloidal silver has been used to prevent and treat infections since ancient times. The first use of colloidal silver for medical reasons was by a surgeon in 1891, who used it to clean wounds. In the years that followed, doctors mainly used it to treat skin infections. Some doctors believed that if you swallowed colloidal silver, it could cure a range of conditions like stomach ulcers, mental illness, colds, and epilepsy. It got more popular until the 1940s, when doctors started using antibiotics instead. Today, you’ll see it marketed and sold as a dietary supplement.


Many products use colloidal silver, including:

  • Colloidal silver liquid
  • Colloidal silver soap
  • Colloidal silver nebulizer (inhaled mist)
  • Colloidal silver creams 

Most have 10-30  parts per million of silver, plus added ingredients like gelatin or sodium hydroxide. But it’s hard to be sure, because these products aren’t well-regulated. A lot of them don’t actually contain the amount of silver shown on the label. One study measured the amounts of silver in 22 colloidal silver sprays. Less than a third had the amount they said they did, ranging from 20 times less to twice as much. 

Because of this, it’s easy to accidentally take more silver than you realize. These doses can easily pass the limits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Over time, this puts your skin at risk of turning blue. But even smaller amounts could cause side effects.

The only safe colloidal silver products are the ones you use on your skin, like creams and medicated bandages. There are some topical products that contain silver that are approved by the FDA for wound care and infections; however, these are not the same as colloidal silver. 

What is the difference between colloidal silver and silver hydrosol?

They’re the same thing. Colloidal silver is made of tiny silver particles dissolved in a liquid. Meanwhile, a hydrosol is a colloid that’s specifically dissolved in water. 

It isn’t safe. It can cause problems like blue skin, organ damage, and seizures. It also isn’t effective, according to the FDA. The European Union agrees; it has banned colloidal silver products that are meant to be swallowed. 

There is one exception: Colloidal silver can be safe for skin wounds. Some creams, bandages, and wound dressings have colloidal silver. It can help prevent and treat minor skin infections. It also can soothe skin irritation and burns. But if you notice redness or inflammation after using colloidal silver on your skin, stop and call your doctor. 

Get your doctor’s advice before putting anything with colloidal silver on your skin.

Colloidal silver makes it hard for your body to take in antibiotics and other medicines. On top of that, it builds up in your body. In rare cases, it can cause side effects like:

  • Blue skin
  • Burning pain in hands and feet
  • Damage to the kidneys, heart, liver, nerves, muscles, and bone marrow
  • Stomach trouble
  • Headaches
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

The FDA considers colloidal silver to be a dietary supplement (like multivitamins). This means that it doesn’t have to follow the same rules as medicines. Because of this, companies don’t have to prove that their colloidal silver products are safe and effective. They are not allowed to lie about colloidal silver’s health benefits, but many do. In fact, many have gotten in trouble with the FDA for making misleading claims about their products.

Although it’s not against the law for businesses to sell colloidal silver, there’s no good way to know how safe a product is before you buy it. You also won’t know how much is in the product.

Colloidal silver blue skin

Too much colloidal silver can cause argyria. This is when silver builds up in your body and turns your skin a bluish-gray color. It mostly affects areas that get a lot of sunlight. But it can turn your eyes, internal organs, nails, and gums blue, too. The discoloration isn’t dangerous, but it’s usually permanent.

The WHO says that your skin might turn blue if you swallow more than 6.5 micrograms of silver per kilogram of body weight each day. But the EPA thinks that the number is closer to 5 micrograms. However, that doesn’t mean smaller amounts are safe. You could still get other side effects, like organ damage, before your skin turns blue.

Colloidal silver poisoning

A small amount of colloidal silver won’t put you in immediate danger, but its effects can add up over time.

Silver poisoning is rare, but it can be serious. The most obvious symptom of silver poisoning is blue skin. But in severe cases, it also can cause kidney and liver damage. In addition, colloidal silver can sometimes be contaminated with other toxic substances. 

If you swallow colloidal silver or get it in your eyes, call Poison Control (800-222-1222) or use their online tool. This free hotline is open all day, every day.

Colloidal silver interactions

It makes it harder for your body to absorb some medicines, like antiobiotics and levothyroxine. This means that these medicines won’t work as well. For example, if you are taking antibiotics for a bacterial sinus infection, colloidal silver will make it harder for the medicine to work. 

Does colloidal silver build up in the body?

When you take colloidal silver, about 2-4% of it stays in your body. It builds up in your skin, gums, eyes, and internal organs. This might not sound like a lot, but over time, it adds up. Eventually, it turns these body parts blue-gray. This change can take months or years and is usually permanent.

Who should not use colloidal silver?

No one should swallow colloidal silver. In particular, you should never take colloidal silver when you’re pregnant because it can harm your baby.

Can you use colloidal silver on dogs?

You should not give colloidal silver to your pet. The FDA hasn’t approved it for use in animals because there’s no proof that it’s safe or effective for any animal health condition.

Silver is antimicrobial. When it’s wet, the metal releases tiny particles called ions. These ions kill bacteria. Scientists think they damage bacterial cell walls, then get inside the bacteria to finish the job. It also destroys some proteins. How well this works depends on the size, shape, and amount of silver particles in the liquid. But over time, bacteria can learn to survive silver.

The problem is, silver doesn’t just kill bacteria cells -- it kills human cells too. 

Silver can help prevent minor skin wounds from getting infected. But if you swallow it, it does more harm than good.

But many companies market colloidal silver supplements as cure-all products. They say that it’s an essential mineral, which isn’t true. Your body doesn’t need silver. They claim it can boost your immune system and ease chest congestion. 

They also claim that it can treat:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Lyme disease
  • Shingles
  • Herpes
  • COVID-19
  • Eye problems
  • Acne

But these statements are not backed by research. There’s no proof it works.

Here’s what scientists know about certain claims of colloidal silver's benefits for:

  • Cancer. The claim that silver can help treat cancer comes from the belief that it is able to kill cancer cells and prevent their growth and spread. In scientific tests though, colloidal silver was not able to kill any cells or stop them from spreading.
  • HIV and AIDS. There is no evidence that colloidal silver can treat HIV or AIDS. The most effective treatments are antiretroviral medicines that attack and kill the virus.
  • Immune system. There’s no proof that colloidal silver boosts the immune system.
  • Diabetes. There’s no evidence that it can help with diabetes.
  • COVID-19. There’s no evidence that it can prevent or treat COVID-19.
  • Sinus infections. Some studies have shown that colloidal silver nasal spray doesn’t help chronic sinus infections.

The only safe and effective use for silver is on your skin. It’s an ingredient in some bandages or creams that treat burns wounds, or skin infections.

Does colloidal silver kill fungus?

Silver can kill bacteria, plus some fungi and viruses. In particular, it can limit the growth of candida, microsporum, and trichophyton fungi. However, scientists caution that too much silver can be toxic for human cells. Because of this, they need to research how to use it safely in medicines.

Is colloidal silver effective for acne?

Some research suggests that colloidal silver can help acne. One small study found a gel that contained silver and benzoyl peroxide to be just as effective as a gel that contained clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide. But more research is needed to be sure.

Scientists aren’t sure how much colloidal silver you can take before it becomes dangerous. The World Health Organization says that if you take more than 6.5 micrograms of silver per kilogram of body weight each day (by any route, for example by mouth or intravenously), you may have visible adverse effects. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that as little as 5 micrograms of silver per kilogram of body weight each day taken orally can be fatal, and research has shown that 50 milligrams or more taken by IV can be deadly. You can, however, get other side effects before those that you can see, like blue skin. 

Scientists are researching colloidal silver as a treatment for bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. Others are concerned, though, that it may actually cause bacteria to become resistant. Studies have shown that bacteria can learn to survive silver. So it’s not the safest option to protect or improve your health. Scientists aren’t sure how much you can safely take.

If you’re living with a medical condition, follow the treatment plan your doctor gave you. If you’re looking to keep your immune system strong, there are many safe, effective options: exercise, get plenty of sleep, stay at a healthy weight, and eat lots of fruits and veggies.

It is not safe to swallow colloidal silver. Although it can be used in creams to prevent and treat skin infections, there is no proof that it can help with any other health problem. Swallowing too much silver can cause your skin to turn permanently blue.

  • What can colloidal silver be used for? The only safe and effective use for colloidal silver is in creams that prevent and treat skin infections.
  • Does colloidal silver speed up healing? Colloidal silver creams can help treat burns and skin wounds, but it is not safe or effective for any other health problem. Never swallow it. 
  • What are the side effects of colloidal silver? Too much colloidal silver can turn your skin permanently blue, damage your kidneys and other organs, and cause seizures.
  • Is colloidal silver good for skin care? Some studies suggest that it can help with acne, but more research is needed.