Colloidal silver is a polarizing topic. With fierce advocates for and against it, silver and colloidal suspensions make for an interesting discussion, if nothing else.
This website is intended for people who are curious about silver as a health tool but who have questions about the safety and effectiveness of colloidal suspensions.
It is hoped that this information will help you learn more about the pros and cons of colloidal silver as well as introduce you to a new form of silver that is safer and more effective than old-school colloids.
What is Colloidal Silver?
Simply put, it is a suspension of silver colloids (colloids is a fancy word for ‘small bits'; silver is an element on the periodic table) in water. A suspension is what happens when something is temporarily suspended in a liquid. But that is not why people get so passionate about colloidal silver.
Why Do People Get So Excited About Colloidal Silver?
Before the discovery of penicillin and subsequent conventional antibiotics (methicillin, vancomycin, etc.), silver was one of the leading antimicrobial tools available. Think silver milk pails, silver coins in water, silverware, silver goblets, silver foil, etc.
A suspension of silver particles in water (colloidal silver) was also used as an orally consumed antimicrobial tool. Although its results are disputed, most people would agree that colloidal silver provides some measure of antimicrobial protection. However, due to inconsistencies in the specific nature of the colloidal silver and/or a lack of actual effectiveness, scientific conclusions about the effectiveness of colloidal silver remain vague, inconclusive, entirely absent, or in dispute.
Some people are fierce advocates of colloidal silver because of personal experiences that compel them to share their story with others who are fighting infections.
Other people are fierce advocates against colloidal silver because of personal experiences that highlight the ineffectiveness of colloidal silver, personal or third-hand experiences that highlight the negative side effects of colloidal silver, or because of empirical skepticism relating to the “vague” scientific merit of colloidal silver.
People on both sides of this polarizing issue tend to be pretty strong advocates of their positions.
Confusion About Silver Products
There are many silver products available today, much like there are many carbon products (diamonds, coal, trees, carbon paper, soda, etc.) Some of these silver products include:
- metallic silver (coins, plating on goblets & forks, woven into thread, etc.)
- silver-lined fabric (socks, workout clothes, underwear, etc.)
- silver water filters (NASA uses these in space)
- colloidal silver
- ionic silver
- silver salts
- silver proteins
- silver nitrate (used in hospitals on newborn baby’s eyes)
To people who are diametrically opposed to colloidal silver, these are often all be lumped together as “colloidal silver” or “silver junk” or “that old quack”, which is then sensationalized by bizarre colloidal silver stories like this one:
This particular man drank specific types of silver colloids in order to turn more and more blue.
However, people get confused about silver by lumping all silvers together.
To claim that all forms of silver have the similar effects on health is like claiming that all carbons have similar effects on global warming. We know that that this example of carbons is not true. (eg. Diamonds are not a greenhouse gas; trees should not be cut down and flown to Mars to lower carbon levels; etc.)
Yet, some of the people who are opposed to colloidal silver take the approach that all silvers are to be avoided.
More Information About Colloidal Silver, Please
According to Wikipedia (June 11, 2009), here’s an introduction to colloidal silver. Note its undertone of skepticism and the way it lumps all silver products together in the final few paragraphs:
Colloidal silver is a liquid suspension of microscopic particles of silver. A colloid is technically defined as particles which remain suspended without forming an ionic, or dissolved solution. The broader commercial definition of “colloidal silver” includes products that contain various concentrations of ionic silver, silver colloids, ionic silver compounds or silver proteins in purified water. Colloidal silver with concentrations of 30 parts per million (ppm) or less are typically manufactured using an electrolysis process, whereas colloidal silver with higher concentrations of 50 ppm or more are usually silver compounds that have been bound with a protein.
Currently, colloidal silver is marketed for internal use as an alternative medical remedy, though there is no scientific evidence of its effectiveness for any medical condition. Excessive use can result in argyria, a form of silver toxicity.
Prior to 1938, colloidal silver was used as a germicide and disinfectant. Physicians used it as an eyedrop for ophthalmic problems, for various infections, and sometimes internally for diseases such as tropical sprue, epilepsy, gonorrhea, and the common cold. However, with the development of more effective, safer, and less toxic modern antibiotics in the mid-20th century, medical use of colloidal silver ceased.
From approximately 1990, there has been a resurgence of the promotion of colloidal silver as an alternative medicine treatment, marketed with claims that it can prevent or treat numerous diseases. In vitro evidence of an antimicrobial effect of colloidal silver is mixed; some studies have found it to lack any antibacterial effect, while others have reported an effect attributed to silver ions which coexist in the colloid with an ionic silver concentration of 30 ppm being enough to kill staph. There are no clinical trials showing that any preparation of colloidal silver is effective in vivo.
Colloidal silver products are legally available at health food stores in the United States and Australia and are marketed over the Internet as a dietary supplement. It is illegal in the U.S. and Australia for marketers to make claims of medical effectiveness for colloidal silver, but some websites still list its use for the prevention of colds and flu, and the treatment of more serious conditions such as diabetes, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, among other diseases. There is no medical evidence that colloidal silver is effective for any of these claimed indications. Silver is not an essential mineral in humans; there is no dietary requirement for silver, and no such thing as a silver “deficiency”.
Currently, there are no evidence-based medical uses for ingested colloidal silver. There are no clinical studies in humans demonstrating effectiveness, and several reports of toxicity. The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has issued an advisory indicating that the marketing claims made about colloidal silver are scientifically unsupported, and that the silver content of marketed supplements varies widely and can pose risks to the consumer.
Lumping Scientific Results Surrounding Colloidal Silver
Many of the comments above question the scientific validity of colloidal silver as an antimicrobial tool. This is likely true for one of these reasons:
- There is no scientific validity (tests don’t show any real results; this is a very real possibility)
- Proper tests haven’t happened yet (this is unlikely, considering that colloidal silver has been around for over a century)
- People opposed to colloidal silver are blindly lumping all silvers together, ignoring real scientific studies about one form of silver based on the failure of silver in a previous form (also a very real possibility)
Remembering that silver can exist in many forms, it is illogical to think that a scientific study which studies one form of silver should apply to all other silver products. Similarly, it is illogical to think that the dubious or disputed scientific merit of one silver product should exclude other silver products from open-minded scientific study. To blindly exclude all silver products from consideration as an effective antimicrobial based on the shortcomings of colloidal silver would be analogous to:
- concluding that carbon makes for a lousy fuel, based on observations of trying to burn diamonds in a combustion engine or trying to burn diesel in a jet engine
- conclusing that steel makes for lousy nails, based on structural engineering tests that use shingling nails for framing, and railway spikes for shingling
- “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”
So, Is There Any Real Science Showing Silver To Be An Effective Antimicrobial?
Yes. But not with colloidal silver. (Science surround colloidal silver has been in dispute for decades, likely for a very good reason. If it works as well as is supposed, why hasn’t the last century provided enough time for labs and health professionals to show this in a publicly acceptable format?)
However, there are now serious scientific results showing significant antimicrobial effects of silver, however, with a different form of silver. This silver is not a suspension of silver particles in water. It is a specific solution of silver particles in water. This may seem like a minor difference, but it is as significant as noting the difference between coal and diamonds and trees as distinct forms of carbon.
This silver solution, called silver sol, was patented in 2006 (US patent #7,135,195) as being distinct from colloidal silver in its fundamental structure and, thus, its effect in various situations. A significant body of science is growing surrounding this new substance. For a regularly updated overview of articles and links,
Highlights of this research include:
- Research from reputable Universities and labs showing silver sol to effectively kill or inhibit these pathogens (information taken from The Silver Solution, Dr. Gordon Pedersen, pg. 13-14):
- Bacterium – MRSA / Staphylococus aureus (pneumonia, eye infections, skin infetions, menigitis)
- Bacterium – Haemophiles influenzae (ear infections, pneumonia, meningitis, throat and sinus infections)
- Bacterium – Yersinia pestis (Bubonic plague)
- Bacterium – Pseudomonas aeruginosa (burn/wound infections, pneumonia, menigitis, urinary tract infections)
- Bacterium – Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia, menigitis, sinusitis, otitis media)
- Bacterium – Streptococcus pyogenes (strep throat, impetigo, scarlet fever)
- Bacterium – Streptococcus mutans (dental plaque, tooth decay)
- Bacterium – Salmonella arizona (food poisoning, fever)
- Bacterium – Salmonella typhimurium (food poisoning, enteric fever)
- Bacterium – Escherichia coli (food poisoning, diarrhea)
- Virus – Influenza A (flu)
- Virus – Hapatitus B (hepatitis)
- Mold/Yeast – Candida albicans (vaginal and intestinal yeast)
In addition, this silver sol (not the old-style colloidal silver, which is totally different from silver sol) has been recommended for addition to the US Department of Homeland Security’s stockpile by former US Air Force Surgeon General Dr. Paul Carlton.
Silver sol has also been approved by the EPA and the FDA. The problems associated with the collection of un-suspended silver colloids (people’s skin turning blue or silver in color) does not apply to this very low concentration silver solution.
There are many additional pieces of information newly emerging about silver sol. To see this information in video format, there are several
For a basic introduction to the differences between colloidal silver and silver sol, click here.