Although it might seem novel, silver has been used to treat infections long before antibiotics were developed. Silver was also used as a medication for a broad range of illnesses and diseases.

More products utilize ionic silver and nanosilver particles today. People are more exposed to it whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Some of the medical and consumer applications [1] for silver include:

  • Wound dressing;
  • Dental amalgam;
  • Active clothing;
  • Food packaging;
  • Supplements.

Family and Coated Silver

Colloidal Silver: Safety and Risks

There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating the benefits of using colloidal silver as an antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral agent, among others. In contrast, there remains a huge gap regarding potential colloidal silver side effects.

Based on the best available information, there are safety concerns over using silver, whether inhaled, applied to the skin, or taken by mouth. But, the probability of colloidal silver side effects occurring is very rare. These side effects do not occur at random and are preventable. It must be stressed that some forms of silver are unsafe and are not well-tolerated by the human body.

Below is a list of the potential side effects of exposure to silver compounds via different pathways and why these occur.

Argyria and Argyrosis

Argyria is a rare condition where the person affected develops a bluish-grey skin discoloration. This change in skin appearance is most commonly noted on skin areas regularly exposed to sunlight. Both generalized and localized pigmentation have been reported. On the other hand, argyrosis is when the cornea appears bluish-grey, also resulting from exposure to high amounts of silver. On the other hand, in argyrosis, the cornea takes on a bluish-gray hue, which is also the result of an overdose of colloidal silver.

It can take several years for either argyria or argyrosis to manifest. Signs and symptoms depend greatly on the dose of silver entering the body. Most cases of argyria are associated with prolonged and repeated exposure to excessive amounts of soluble silver compounds, that includes silver nitrate and silver fluoride. A higher prevalence in occupational settings has also been noted.[2]

Prolonged exposure to silver compounds like silver nitrate and silver fluoride is often seen in cases of Argyria.

In general, colloidal silver overdose is an infrequent occurrence. Argyria and argyrosis are very rare side effects as a consequence of overdose. Unfortunately, these conditions are irreversible, and no treatment has been found to eliminate the bluish-gray color of the skin. Argyria, however, does not cause any life-threatening side effects.[3]

Acute and Short-Term Impact

Exposure to silver compounds, such as silver nitrate and silver oxide, may irritate the eyes, skin, and throat. [4] It may also limit oxygen supply to the brain and other body parts, making a person feel severely disoriented.

Accidental ingestion of silver may also cause severe stomach problems and difficulty breathing. A case involving an infant who ingested silver presented with a severely burned throat and a collapsed lung.[5]

Chronic and Long-Term Impact

Several studies have shown that silver may be deposited in the liver and other organs in the excretory system. Silver accumulation in soft tissues has also been observed.

However, most available literature concluded from observing animals, and only a limited number of studies involved real people as subjects. There remains limited evidence to conclude that silver deposits cause any chronic disease. More studies show that the body can excrete silver effectively via different routes.[6]

Further, there is also limited evidence to suggest that silver exposure can lead to neurotoxicity. [7]

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Why Coated Colloidal Silver is Better?


Why Coated Colloidal Silver is Better?

Knowing exactly what you’re getting matters a lot when supplementing with silver. Silver comes in many forms. It is usually added as silver ions or nanoparticles when applied to medical and consumer products. The latter is also known as colloidal silver. Many manufacturers sell a preparation called silver hydrosol. Silver hydrosol side effects are the same as those of ionic silver.

Coated colloidal silver is superior to uncoated silver, ionic silver, silver hydrosol, and other silver preparations. Here’s why.

Coated Colloidal Silver Does Not Cause Negative Health Impacts

Researchers found no evidence of adverse health impacts in a study conducted among 27 Caucasian males regularly exposed to metallic, insoluble silver in workplace settings.[8] This is despite higher than normal levels of silver in the workers’ blood and fecal samples.

Researchers also noted the subjects’ normal functioning of the kidneys and respiratory organs. None of the subjects showed signs of argyria or argyrosis.

Coated Colloidal Silver is Eliminated from the Body

“Ingestion of properly prepared CS (colloidal silver) does not result in silver accumulating in the body,” Roger Altman, an Engineering scientist who used himself to observe how the body reacts to colloidal silver.

Altman noted that the more silver was consumed, the higher the amounts were eliminated in the feces and urine. The amounts found in the samples decreased as he lessened his intake. This indicated that colloidal silver was being excreted effectively. [9]

Thus, toxicity to the liver and other organs due to chronic coated colloidal silver ingestion should not be a cause for concern.

How to Reduce Risks

How to Reduce Risks

Again, keep in mind that silver comes in many forms and sizes. Different silver preparations will have unique characteristics affecting their efficacy and safety profile.

To reduce the risks of side effects:

  • Buy only coated colloidal silver, which performs better than ionic silver or silver hydrosol and has a cleaner safety profile.
  • Follow only the colloidal silver dosage stated on the label and don’t take more than what is necessary. One drop per day will usually suffice to keep your immune system happy.
  • If you are taking medications, consult your physician about potential drug reactions before taking silver supplements.

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

  1. Sim W, Barnard RT, Blaskovich MAT, Ziora ZM. “Antimicrobial Silver in Medicinal and Consumer Applications: A Patent Review of the Past Decade (2007⁻2017)”. Antibiotics (Basel). 2018;7(4):93. Published 2018 Oct 26. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  2. Drake P and Hazelwood KJ. “Exposure-related health effects of silver and silver compounds: a review”. Ann Occup Hyg. 2005 Oct; 49(7):575-85. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  3. Jerger SE, Parekh U. “Argyria”. [Updated 2020 Oct 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  4. “Silver Nitrate. Hazardous Substances Fact Sheet”. NJ Dept of Health. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  5. Teran CG, Sura S, Cabandugama P, Berson C. “Silver nitrate ingestion: report of a case with an uneventful course and review of the literature”. Clin Pract. 2011;1(3):e43. Published 2011 Jul 1. doi:10.4081/cp.2011.e43. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  6. Lansdown AB. “A pharmacological and toxicological profile of silver as an antimicrobial agent in medical devices”. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2010;2010:910686. doi:10.1155/2010/910686. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  7. Lansdown ABG. “Critical observations on the neurotoxicity of silver”. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2007 Mar;37(3):237-50. doi: 10.1080/10408440601177665. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  8. Pifer J, Friedlander B, Kintz R. & Stockdale D. “Absence of toxic effects in silver reclamation workers”. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 15(3), 210-221. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021
  9. Pop, CV, MD. “The truth about colloidal silver and gold: Separating fact from fiction”. Access Date: 11 Feb 2021