Colloidal silver is a commercially sold product that contains microscopic flakes of pure silver. Usually the flakes are suspended in demineralized water or another liquid.

Colloidal silver is often touted as an antibacterial agent and a topical wound dressing. Some people claim it can cure a cold faster, heal the body better, and even treat cancer or HIV.

But does colloidal silver really strengthen your immune system? Is it actually safe for everyday use? Keep reading if you’re considering using colloidal silver.

Colloidal silver is a popular product in holistic health circles. But in 1999 (and again 10 years later), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release stating that there was no evidence to suggest a clear health benefit for colloidal silver. Rather, there’s evidence of some risks associated with using colloidal silver.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that people taking colloidal silver may be actually risking their long-term health for a product that doesn’t improve immunity or promote healing.

Clinical trials are ongoing into the use of colloidal silver, as well as the use of “negatively charged silver nanoparticles.” It could be possible that the medical community reverses their opinion at some point.

The use of silver taken by mouth can’t be recommended. Over time, colloidal silver can build up in the tissues of your body and give your mucous membranes and skin a grayish appearance. This is a symptom of a condition called argyria.

Agyria isn’t reversible. Argyria by itself isn’t dangerous, and is defined as being “medically benign.” Of course, any skin discoloration isn’t exactly a welcome side effect. Colloidal silver also interferes with your body’s absorption of certain drugs. These include antibiotics and thyroid deficiency medication.

If you’re prescribed an antibiotic for a cold or flu, taking colloidal silver might prevent that prescription from working effectively. That means taking silver would actually keep you feeling sick for longer.

Nursing and pregnant women who try colloidal silver as an alternative to some cold and flu drugs should keep in mind that no trial has ever proven colloidal silver to be safe for a developing baby. When things aren’t proven safe, they can’t be recommended for use.

There’ve been some benefits from applying silver ointments to the skin. Health claims of colloidal silver include:

  • antimicrobial properties
  • help heal skin wounds
  • possible treatment for acne
  • aid in conjunctivitis treatment in newborns

Colloidal silver products claim that it’s an antimicrobial, germ-fighting agent. At least one clinical study indicates that this claim can’t be proven.

Colloidal silver is also claimed to promote healing of skin wounds. According to one study, silver-containing wound dressings are a more effective barrier against infection than other products that make similar claims. The NIH also supports the idea that colloidal silver can be an effective wound dressing.

Colloidal silver is an ingredient in some acne treatments and cosmetics. It’s also sometimes used in an eye drop formula to prevent conjunctivitis in newborns.

As long as colloidal silver is used topically and in small amounts, it doesn’t pose a great risk of argyria.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that most people are already exposed to silver every day in their environment. Silver isn’t a vitamin or mineral that naturally occurs in the body. You don’t need to make sure you’re getting an adequate dose of silver or do anything to make up for not being exposed to it.

A dosing reference chart created by the EPA suggests that your daily silver exposure — topical, oral, or environmental — shouldn’t exceed 5 micrograms per every kilogram you weigh.

Colloidal silver’s most common commercial form is as a liquid tincture. Most health food stores carry it. It can also be bought as a powder to apply to your skin. Some people even make their own colloidal silver at home, using a special machine.

Colloidal silver is a classic example of anecdotal evidence that differs drastically from research. Always remember that colloidal silver isn’t a product that’s regulated by the FDA. Companies that claim that colloidal silver is a miracle cure for diseases such as cancer and HIV are doing so without any clinical proof. There are many other safe options for staying healthy, preventing disease, and getting better from illness.

If you decide you’d like to try colloidal silver, check to make sure that it won’t interact with any prescriptions you’re taking. Consider topical use first. Never exceed the dosing recommendations put forward by the EPA.

If you experience side effects at any point, such as nausea or skin discoloration, stop using colloidal silver immediately.