Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver

Common Names

  • Silver Proteins
  • Colloidal Silver Proteins
  • Colloidal Silver Water

For Patients & Caregivers

Colloidal silver cannot cure cancer, AIDS, or diabetes. Taking too much colloidal silver by mouth can cause skin discoloration, seizures, and kidney damage.


Colloidal silver is a suspension of tiny silver particles in a liquid. Silver compounds are used externally to stop or prevent infections but recently, many people have started taking colloidal silver as an alternative medicine. It is being promoted as a cure for cancer, diabetes, and AIDS although there is no proof it works in humans. Our body does not need silver to function normally. Silver actually denatures proteins and can make many enzymes lose their effects.

Long-term oral use of silver can make the skin turn bluish-gray or gray-black in color. It can also cause seizures and kidney damage. Pregnant women should not consume colloidal silver as it has harmful effects on the fetus.

  • Immune system stimulant
    No scientific studies support this use.
  • Diabetes
    There are no data to support this use.
  • AIDS
    There is no scientific evidence to support this use.
  • Cancer
    This use is not supported by scientific studies.
  • Infections
    Silver compounds have been used as topical antiseptics but there are no scientific studies to support the oral use of colloidal silver for infection.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory about the risk of argyria, permanent skin and mucous membrane discoloration, associated with use of dietary supplements containing colloidal silver.

  • You are pregnant (colloidal silver can cause developmental abnormalities in the fetus).
  • Reported (Oral): Accumulation of silver in the body causes argyria, a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is typically permanent.
  • Reported (Oral): Myoclonic seizures were reported in a 75-year-old man following self-medication with silver.
  • Reported (Topical): Topical use of silver nitrate for burns may cause methemoglobinemia.
    Exposure to high concentrations of silver, such as in an industrial setting, leads to systemic toxicity.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Colloidal silver consists of silver particles suspended in a liquid. It is often produced by home-made generators. The use of silver medicinals to treat disorders such as epilepsy, gonorrhea, and colds was not uncommon until the mid-20th century. However, silver was replaced by safer therapies in the recent decades. Silver is not an essential mineral and does not serve any physiological function in the body. It denatures proteins by binding to their reactive groups and can inactivate some enzymes by forming hemisilver sulfides with sulfhydryl groups of the enzymes (1). Whereas silver compounds are still used in external preparations as antiseptics, there has been a growing interest in using the colloidal form of silver orally as an alternative medicine. In vitro studies indicate antitumor effects (8), but no human clinical data support the use of oral colloidal silver. However, despite lack of evidence, it is being promoted as a cure for AIDS, cancer, and diabetes.

When taken orally, silver can interact with and reduce the effectiveness of tetracycline, quinolone, and penicillamine. Long term use can cause silver deposition in the skin and mucous membranes leading to an irreversible condition called argyria, characterized by bluish-gray to gray-black pigmentation (7). Other adverse effects include seizures (6) and kidney damage. Pregnant women should not consume colloidal silver as it can cause developmental abnormalities in the fetus (1).

  • AIDS
  • Cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Immunostimulation
  • Infections

Silver is unstable in suspension form and can bind to proteins. Silver compounds form hemisilver sulfides with sulfhydryl groups that leads to inactivation of enzymes. Silver also has the ability to bind amino, carboxyl, phosphate and imidazole groups (1). Studies have shown that silver accumulates in rat liver and binds with various tissues and basal membranes. It also affects the activities of lactate dehydrogenase and glutathione peroxidase and the peroxidation of membrane lipids (4).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a consumer advisory about the risk of permanent skin and mucous membrane discoloration known as argyria, associated with use of dietary supplements containing colloidal silver (7).

Pregnant women should not use colloidal silver as it can cause developmental abnormalities in the fetus (1).

  • Reported (Oral): Accumulation of silver in the body causes argyria, a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is typically permanent (2)(3)(7)(9)(10)(11)(12).
  • Reported (Oral): Myoclonic seizures were reported in a 75-year-old man following self-medication with silver (13).
  • Reported (Topical): Topical use of silver nitrate for burns may cause methemoglobinemia.
    Exposure to high concentrations of silver, such as in an industrial setting, leads to systemic toxicity (1)(5).

  1. Fung MC and Bowen DL. Silver products for medical indications: risk-benefit assessment. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 1996;34(1):119-126.

  2. McKenna JK, et al. Argyria associated with colloidal silver supplementation. Int J Dermatol 2003;42(7):549.

  3. Fung MC, et al Colloidal silver proteins marketed as health supplements. JAMA 1995;274(15):1196-1197.

  4. US FDA. Consumer Advisory: Dietary Supplements Containing Silver May Cause Permanent Discoloration of Skin and Mucous Membranes (Argyria). October 6, 2009. www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/SafetyAlertsAdvisories/ucm…. Accessed February 10, 2014.

  5. Franco-Molina MA, Mendoza-Gamboa E, Sierra-Rivera CA, et al. Antitumor activity of colloidal silver on MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Nov 16;29:148.
  6. Brandt D, Park B, Hoang M, Jacobe HT. Argyria secondary to ingestion of homemade silver solution. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Aug;53(2 Suppl 1):S105-7.
  7. Chang AL, Khosravi V, Egbert B. A case of argyria after colloidal silver ingestion. J Cutan Pathol. 2006 Dec;33(12):809-11.
  8. Kim Y, Suh HS, Cha HJ, et al. A case of generalized argyria after ingestion of colloidal silver solution. Am J Ind Med. 2009 Mar;52(3):246-50.
  9. Chung IS, Lee MY, Shin DH, Jung HR. Three systemic argyria cases after ingestion of colloidal silver solution. Int J Dermatol. 2010 Oct;49(10):1175-7.
  10. Stepien KM, Morris R, Brown S, Taylor A, Morgan L. Unintentional silver intoxication following self-medication: an unusual case of corticobasal degeneration. Ann Clin Biochem. 2009 Nov;46(Pt 6):520-2.
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