Search IconSearch
June 11, 2024/Diet, Food & Fitness

Is Colloidal Silver Safe?

Supplements with colloidal silver offer no proven health benefits and could be harmful

Person holding bottle and dropper, adding droplets into glass of water

If you’re considering taking colloidal silver to address health issues, the advice is simple: DON’T DO IT. (How’s that for being direct?)


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Colloidal silver is a solution of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid base. This is essentially the same silver as the metal — the kind you find on the periodic table of elements or in your jewelry box. As you might imagine, that’s not exactly healthy to ingest.

But colloidal silver continues to be touted as a medicinal cure-all and added to various supplements. Avoid these products, urges functional medicine specialist Melissa Young, MD. Here’s why.

Risks of taking colloidal silver

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that colloidal silver is more snake oil than a magic bullet, with no substantial scientific evidence supporting its use for treating any disease or condition.

“You should not take it internally — swallowed as an over-the-counter supplement — under any circumstances,” states Dr. Young. “It can cause harm.”

Potential side effects of taking colloidal silver internally include:

  • Blue skin: Colloidal silver can build up in your body and cause your skin, eyes, internal organs, nails and gums to turn blueish-gray. (The condition is called argyria.) The discoloration is often permanent and darkest in skin areas most exposed to the sun.
  • Poor absorption of medication: Colloidal silver can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications, such as antibiotics and thyroid medications.
  • Toxicity: Colloidal silver can contain contaminants that could be toxic. “Studies have also shown that silver can interfere with kidney and liver function and damage the central nervous system,” adds Dr. Young.


The FDA took action regarding colloidal silver in 1999 and declared that “over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts are not generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Questionable health claims about colloidal silver

Colloidal silver’s use as a health remedy goes back to 1500 B.C. in China. Ancient civilizations commonly used silver to treat a variety of ailments due to its antimicrobial properties (which are proven).

But once effective antibiotics came on the scene, colloidal silver fell out of favor until being adopted by those selling over-the-counter supplements.

Questionable product marketing often overstates the potential power of colloidal silver. Claims frequently focus on how colloidal silver works to eliminate internal toxins while boosting the immune system.

It has been touted as a treatment for cancer, COVID-19, diabetes, HIV, Lyme disease, the common cold … well, you get the picture. In all, folks have billed colloidal silver as a remedy for 650 different conditions, according to the FDA.

That also explains why the FDA and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have taken action against companies for deceiving claims about colloidal silver products.

Colloidal silver products

Manufacturers typically sell colloidal silver as a spray or liquid. Product names vary, but you’ll most often see these names on the store shelf:

  • Colloidal silver nebulizer.
  • Colloidal silver spray.
  • Silver hydrosol.
  • Silver sol.
  • Silver water.

Most colloidal silver products have between 10 to 30 parts per million (ppm) of silver. Over time, these concentrations can exceed unsafe dose limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Just because something is an over-the-counter herb or supplement does not mean it’s safe,” stresses Dr. Young. “Taking colloidal silver comes with serious health risks.”

Colloidal silver and wound treatment

While putting colloidal silver inside your body is considered a bad idea, there may be some benefits to using it externally.

Colloidal silver’s ability to destroy germs and bacteria can make it effective in treating minor skin infections, irritations and burns, says Dr. Young. Manufacturers sometimes add silver to bandages and dressings to help people heal faster.


“Silver’s antimicrobial effect can help prevent or treat an infection,” she continues. “But if you see the affected area becoming red or inflamed after using colloidal silver, stop using it and seek medical attention.”

But overall, it’s best to talk with a healthcare provider before considering skin treatment with colloidal silver.

Bottom line

Let’s end with the same advice offered in the first sentence of this article: NEVER take colloidal silver internally, as it hasn’t proven to be effective against any health conditions and could be harmful to you.

“Ingestion of colloidal silver should be avoided,” reiterates Dr. Young. “There’s no proven benefit, but we know it can cause damage.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Reiki being performed by practitioner, with hands hovering person's abdomen
July 16, 2024/Wellness
What Is Reiki? And Does It Actually Work?

Reiki is an energy-healing practice that many people describe as deeply calming and therapeutic — but it shouldn’t be used in place of conventional treatments

Black seed oil in bottle, with seeds in wooden spoon and bowl
June 26, 2024/Nutrition
Black Seed Oil Benefits: Are They Real?

Far more research is needed to support the many touted health claims

Bottle of essential oil on plate of potpourri, with and candles
May 13, 2024/Wellness
Can You Reduce Stress With Aromatherapy?

Research shows how the use of essential oils can offer a calming effect

Person talking with doctor on a virtual call about vitamins
May 13, 2024/Nutrition
Yes, You Can Take Too Many Vitamins

If you’re taking supplements, it’s important to understand which vitamins and minerals you can get too much of, like vitamin C and calcium

Person smiling, lying back, eyes closed, relaxing in long grass
April 19, 2024/Wellness
Is Earthing Actually Good for You? Here’s What We Know

Connecting with the Earth and its energy might improve your mental and physical health — but it’s not a cure-all

Assorted fruits and vegetables in variety of colors
March 27, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Zeaxanthin? Benefits and Side Effects

Found in colorful foods like spinach, corn and oranges, this carotenoid helps with eye, skin and liver health

bottle of SARM tablets and liquid, with muscular people in background
March 25, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
SARMs: What’s the Harm?

If you think SARMs are a safe way to build muscle — think again

Powdered greens in a container, with powdered green smoothies and blueberries
March 11, 2024/Nutrition
Powdered Greens: Do They Really Work?

The supplement shouldn’t replace a healthy diet, but it can help you get in your fruits and veggies

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims