What You Need to Know About Colloidal Silver

colloidal silver for immune health
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What is Colloidal Silver?

Marketed as a remedy for a range of health problems, colloidal silver is a solution of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid base. It's typically taken orally, but some products are sprayed, applied to the skin, or injected into a vein.

Although ready-made colloidal silver products are available in stores, consumers can also purchase devices (called colloidal silver generators) to make their own solutions at home.

Uses and Claims

Manufacturers of colloidal silver claim that their products can act as an alternative to antibiotics, stimulate the immune system, help with wound healing and skin conditions, and prevent or treat diseases and conditions like cancer, AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye infections, pneumonia, and the flu.

The Science Behind Colloidal Silver

Although laboratory studies suggest that colloidal silver preparations possess antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, there is a lack of human research on the safety and effectiveness of oral colloidal silver preparations.

A number of laboratory and human studies have examined the use of topical silver-containing dressings on skin ulcers. Some of them have found that the silver nanoparticle-containing dressings exhibited antibacterial effects and were effective against diabetic ulcers, leg ulcers, other types of ulcers, and skin graft donor wounds.

One study found that an alcohol-based hand gel was most effective for immediate bacteria reduction after a one-minute application, while a gel containing silver nanoparticles was more effective for reducing bacteria after a 10-minute exposure. Further, high-quality human research on the safety and effectiveness of topical silver nanoparticle dressings is needed.

Safety

Silver-containing products and formulations may lead to a permanent condition called argyria (characterized by bluish discoloration of the skin, deep tissues, nails, and gums). It has been suggested that nanoparticles of silver may have lower toxicity in body, however, there is still a lack of information on the safety of nanoparticles of silver in humans. 

Dietary supplements containing colloidal silver (purchased online or over-the-counter) and preparations made at home using a colloidal silver generator pose an additional concern because there is no established safe dosage of oral colloidal silver and because dietary supplements are largely unregulated and may deliver doses that differ from the specified or desired amount.

Use of colloidal silver is associated with a number of other adverse effects, such as liver and kidney damage, headache, fatigue, skin irritation, and neurologic problems. It may also interfere with the absorption of medications like penicillamine and tetracycline.

There have been case reports involving illness and death associated with the use of oral colloidal silver products. According to one report published in Neurology, a 71-year-old man died after daily ingestion of colloidal silver for four months. Other case reports describe argyria after regular use of colloidal silver.

The safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. Learn tips for using supplements.

Boosting the Immune System

If you're considering using colloidal silver, make sure to talk with your doctor first to discuss the potential risks. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

If you're looking to increase your defense against colds and flu, there are a number of natural remedies that have been shown to stimulate immunity. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing your stress may also boost your immune system.

Sources

Furtado LM, Norman BC, Xenopoulos MA, Frost PC, Metcalfe CD, Hintelmann H. Environmental Fate of Silver Nanoparticles in Boreal Lake Ecosystems. Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Jul 21;49(14):8441-50. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b01116. Epub 2015 Jun 30.

Lansdown, A. B. Silver in health care: antimicrobial effects and safety in use. Curr Probl.Dermatol 2006;33:17-34.

Marquez H, Boyer ML, Grove MK, and Samson MC. Necrotizing fasciitis: 100% sodium carboxymethylcellulose (NA CMC) with ionic silver helps to address painful dressing changes. J WOCN 2008;35(3S):S17.

Mirsattari, S. M., Hammond, R. R., Sharpe, M. D., Leung, F. Y., and Young, G. B. Myoclonic status epilepticus following repeated oral ingestion of colloidal silver. Neurology 4-27-2004;62(8):1408-1410.

Pour SM. Use of negative pressure wound therapy with silver base dressing for necrotizing fasciitis. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2011 Jul-Aug;38(4):449-52. doi: 10.1097/WON.0b013e31821e43f1.

Schlicher, M. L. A randomized controlled study of the efficacy of a novel silver nanoparticle gel against artificially seeded bacterial hand flora. University of Washington. 2008; Ph.D: pages unknown. 2008.

Van Hasselt P, Gashe BA, Ahmad J. "Colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent: fact or fiction?" Journal of Wound Care 2004 13(4):154-5.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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