What is Colloidal Silver?
Marketed as a remedy for a range of health problems, colloidal silver is a solution of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid base. It's typically taken orally, but some products are sprayed, applied to the skin, or injected into a vein.
Although ready-made colloidal silver products are available in stores, consumers can also purchase devices (called colloidal silver generators) to make their own solutions at home.
Colloidal Silver's Health Claims
Manufacturers of colloidal silver claim that their products can stimulate the immune system, act as an alternative to antibiotics, and prevent or treat diseases and conditions like cancer, AIDS, shingles, herpes, pneumonia, and the flu.
The Science Behind Colloidal Silver
Although silver has a number of uses -- such as in dental fillings, or as a disinfectant for water -- there's no evidence that it serves any biological function in humans. Therefore, any claim that a silver deficiency can lead to disease appears to be unfounded.
There's also a lack of scientific support for the claim that colloidal silver can fight off disease or infection. In a study published in 2004, for instance, researchers tested three colloidal silver preparations and found that none were able to knock out illness-causing organisms.
When too much silver builds up in the body, it can cause an untreatable, irreversible, permanent condition called argyria (characterized by bluish discoloration of the skin, deep tissues, nails, and gums).
Use of colloidal silver is associated with a number of other adverse effects, such as kidney damage, headache, fatigue, skin irritation, and neurologic problems. It may also interfere with the absorption of medications like penacillamine and tetracycline.
Boosting the Immune System
If you're looking to increase your defense against colds and flu, there are a number of natural remedies that have been shown to stimulate immunity in scientific studies. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing your stress can also boost your immune system.
van Hasselt P, Gashe BA, Ahmad J. "Colloidal silver as an antimicrobial agent: fact or fiction?" Journal of Wound Care 2004 13(4):154-5.