What Are the Benefits of Colloidal Silver?

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Colloidal silver can be used topically to reduce the risk of infection in cuts and scrapes. (Image: NikiLitov/iStock/Getty Images)

Colloidal silver is a product that is sold as a liquid supplement, nasal spray and ointment, and it is marketed for the treatment of a variety of disorders. It is made with silver colloids, ionic silver and silver proteins; and colloidal is the term used to describe the particles of silver that do not dissolve, but instead remain suspended in the liquid. Colloidal silver is generally considered safe and beneficial as a topical analgesic, but consult your doctor before taking it internally.

Traditional Uses

Silver was used medicinally in the mid-20th century to treat disorders such as epilepsy, gonorrhea and colds. It was also used in the past in eye drop solutions for ophthalmic issues. Compounds of colloidal silver were used topically as an antiseptic, germicide and disinfectant agent. In addition, colloidal silver was used as an internal antibiotic agent for the treatment of a variety of infections; however, this use ceased with the revelation of prescription antibiotic medications.

Immune Booster

Although colloidal silver lost its popularity in the early 1900s, there has been a recent surge of interest in the use of colloidal silver preparations by alternative health practitioners. Supporters of colloidal silver today say that when taken internally, it stimulates and boosts the immune system; kills disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses and fungi; and consequently fights off infections. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center warns, though, that silver is not an essential mineral, and it does not serve any physiological function inside the body.

Other Touted Benefits

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that colloidal silver is touted as an alternative to prescription antibiotics. According to SteadyHealth.com, it is also purported to help treat AIDS, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, flu, herpes, pneumonia, prostatitis, the common cold, scarlet fever, shingles, syphilis and tuberculosis. There is, however, no verifiable scientific research to suggest it is effective for treating any type of medical condition.

Precautions

Animal studies have found that colloidal silver builds up in the tissues of the body, and the Food and Drug Administration has issued a consumer advisory about the long-term use of colloidal silver, due to the risk of developing a skin condition called argyria. Argyria causes the skin, nails and gums to have a bluish-gray to gray-black pigmentation, and it is irreversible. In addition, colloidal silver has been found to reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics and thyroid medications, and it may cause developmental problem in the fetus of pregnant women who take it. Other possible side effects include neurological problems such as seizures, kidney damage, stomach distress, headaches and fatigue. Due to the lack of evidence for effectiveness and the risk of serious irreversible side effects, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center advises against taking colloidal silver internally.

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