National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health

Follow NCCIH Subscribe to our email update Subscribe to the NCCIH RSS feed Follow NCCIH on FacebookRead our disclaimer about external links Follow NCCIH on TwitterRead our disclaimer about external links

Menu

Colloidal Silver: What You Need To Know

On this page:

The Bottom Line

How much do we know about colloidal silver?

There are no high quality studies on the health effects of taking colloidal silver, but we do have good evidence of its dangers.

What do we know about the effectiveness of colloidal silver?

Claims made about the health benefits of taking colloidal silver aren’t backed up by studies.

What do we know about the safety of colloidal silver?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.

Top

What Is Colloidal Silver?

  • Colloidal silver consists of tiny silver particles in a liquid.
  • It’s sometimes promoted on the Internet as a dietary supplement, but evidence supporting health-related claims is lacking.
  • It can be dangerous to your health.

Top

What the Science Says About the Safety and Side Effects of Colloidal Silver

  • Colloidal silver can cause serious side effects. The most common is argyria, a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is usually permanent.
  • Colloidal silver can also cause poor absorption of some drugs, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency) and possible kidney, liver, or nervous system problems.
  • In 2009, the FDA warned about the risk of argyria from taking colloidal silver.
  • The FDA also warned in 1999 that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.
  • The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products.

Top

More About Argyria

  • Silver can build up in the body’s tissue, causing a bluish-gray discoloration of large areas of skin, especially those exposed to the sun.
  • People have developed argyria from using homemade and commercial colloidal silver products.

Top

What the Science Says About the Effectiveness of Colloidal Silver

Scientific evidence doesn’t support the use of colloidal silver dietary supplements for any disease or condition.

  • Silver has no known function or benefits in the body when taken by mouth.
  • Silver is not a nutritionally essential mineral or a useful dietary supplement.
  • People may be exposed to silver, usually in tiny amounts, through air, water, and food, and in certain activities such as jewelry-making or soldering.
  • Colloidal silver products are sometimes sold as homeopathic remedies. For more information on homeopathy, see nccih.nih.gov/health/homeopathy.
  • Topical silver (used on the skin) has some appropriate medical uses, such as in bandages and dressings to treat burns, skin wounds, or skin infections. It’s also in medicines to prevent conjunctivitis (an eye condition) in newborns. However, there are no legally marketed prescription or over-the-counter drugs containing colloidal silver that are taken by mouth.

More to Consider

  • Colloidal silver and other complementary products or practices that have not been proven safe and effective should never be used to replace conventional medical care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, see NCCIH’s Time to Talk campaign.

Top

For More Information

NCCIH Clearinghouse

The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-644-6226
TTY (for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers): 
1-866-464-3615
E-mail: 

PubMed®

A service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA oversees the safety of many products, such as foods, medicines, dietary supplements, medical devices, and cosmetics. Its series of consumer updates includes the publication FDA 101: Dietary Supplements and Tips for Dietary Supplement Users.

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-463-6332

MedWatch

MedWatch, the FDA's safety information and adverse event reporting program, allows consumers and health care providers to file reports on serious problems suspected with dietary supplements.

To report adverse events: 1-800-332-1088 or online at www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/HowToReport/

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-888-463-6332

Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC is the Federal agency charged with protecting the public against unfair and deceptive business practices. A key area of its work is the regulation of advertising (except for prescription drugs and medical devices).

Toll-free in the U.S.: 
1-877-382-4357

Top

Key References

Acknowledgments

NCCIH thanks John (Jack) Killen, Jr., M.D., NCCIH, for his technical expertise and review of the content update of this publication.

This publication is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.

NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

* Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free Adobe Reader.

NCCIH Pub No.: 
D209
Date Created: 
May 2004
Last Updated: 
September 2014