Colloidal silver has been used as an antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal treatment for thousands of years. To this day, people swear that this purified water imbued with floating silver has incredible medicinal qualities. Others claim that not only is it snake oil, it could be pure venom. With the Chinese virus outbreak, it is no surprise that it is once again being talked about all over the internet as a potential cure. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between, so let’s look at ten actual facts about colloidal silver.
10 It’s Not Colloidal
If you look up a definition of “Colloidal Silver”, you’ll get something like “microscopic silver particles suspended in a liquid base”. If you look up colloidal, you’ll see that it is defined as one substance dispersed throughout another, which the silver is. But if you look up a colloid, you’ll see the definition adds that it must not be possible to separate the materials again through any kind of filtration.
A researcher from Queensland noticed this, and wrote a (snarky) paper suggesting that “Pico or Nano metre sized atomic silver clusters, static electrically suspended in water by a mutually repelling force” would be a more accurate name. This may seem like splitting hairs more obsessively than lice, but if you are going to consume something in the hopes that it will improve your health, the science matters.
9 You Could Change Color
To say Paul Karason was the living embodiment of Papa Smurf would be to do a disservice to the phrase “living embodiment”. You’ve probably already seen his pictures, which have circulated the internet since 2008, when Karason was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show. As you can probably guess, Karason’s famous bluish-silver hue, a condition known as Argyria, was a result of colloidal silver.
Karason says he started taking the substance to help with various medical ailments, including skin issues, stomach problems, and arthritis. Drinking 10 ounces a day, about 30 times the recommended dose, he says he only noticed the change in his complexion months later, when a friend pointed it out. But, satisfied with the state of his health, Karason continued to imbibe. He died of unrelated causes in 2013, and is lovingly revered by a handful of blue people across the world.
8 It Can Weaken Medication
If you are putting something into your body, you need to consider how it will react to everything else in your body. This gets increasingly more difficult as you age, your body held together by sticky tape and gum, filled to the brim with your own personal cocktail of drugs designed to stave off death for one more day.
The issue with colloidal silver is that it’s not a drug, but it can still interact with them. Although some silver does pop up in medical treatment occasionally, such as in some bandages, it is not used in any oral medication. Unlike other metals such as gold or iron, silver has no actual purpose in the body. Therefore, there hasn’t been much research into how its consumption could affect other drugs you may be taking, but from the research that has been done, it doesn’t look promising.
A small number of studies have found that taking colloidal silver can reduce the body’s ability to absorb antibiotics, in addition to impacting certain hormone treatments. Not only does this mean that patients trying to help the drugs could be hindering them, it adds another layer of consideration and complexity for medical professionals to take into account when considering treatment options. With home remedies like these floating around, asking a patient if they are on any “other medication” may not be enough.
You’ll often see retailers of colloidal silver touting that it has “no known side-effects”. Apart from the fact that this is demonstrably false, as we have already seen, it takes advantage of the fact that colloidal silver isn’t a major area of scientific interest. It is easy to say there are no “known” side-effects, because nobody has really checked.
In spite of what blogs on the product will say, there are side-effects to drinking silver. Harvard published a press release stating that orally ingesting colloidal silver could lead to a buildup of the metal in the body, which they say could cause headaches, stomach problems, kidney damage. On rare occasions, it can even lead to nerve or brain damage, which could in turn increase the possibility of seizures as well.
6 It’s All Natural
Another tactic used to present colloidal silver as a miracle healthcare product is to talk about everything that it is not. This is a common sales technique, as telling consumers that a product is free of something, especially something they don’t fully understand, makes it sound like they may be unknowingly consuming unhealthy products.
In this regard, colloidal silver has a lot to boast of: it has no gluten, no soy, no dairy, no GMOs, and no added sugars (I tacked that last one on myself, but hey, it’s true). Colloidal silver is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians, has not been tested on animals, and is safe for use on animals. Best of all, colloidal silver is WADA certified, which must give you a lot of confidence, even though you don’t know what WADA is. But the scientists at the World Anti-Doping Agency have tested colloidal silver, and found that it contains no steroids, so it is certified.
5 It’s not all Boohockey
In spite of everything else, we shouldn’t necessarily be too quick to write colloidal silver off as little more than witchcraft. Despite the fact that silver has no natural purpose in the human body, it can help in certain ways. Lots of bandages contain ionic silver, which has been shown to promote the healing of external wounds, while silver can also be used in various forms to treat burns.
Although the medical uses of silver still requires a lot of scientific research, some studies have shown that it could have even more benefits, particularly in fighting bacteria. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, and inhibit the spread of viruses. However, many of the silver studies were carried out on cells in petri dishes, meaning we do not have an accurate idea of how silver could be used in the body.
4 It’s Not All the Same
When making a product with just two ingredients, water and silver, you might think that there are only so many ways to combine them: you put the silver in the water and… well, that’s pretty much it really. Unfortunately, if you are interested in colloidal silver, it’s not that simple.
Even within the colloidal community, there are those who say that true colloidal silver should appear yellow, while others argue that the clearer the water, the better. The size and purity of the silver particles can vary, as can the purity of the water used. There are also different forms of silver that can be used, with bio-active (silver with positively charged ions) being the preferred choice. There are no standards or mandatory regulations for colloidal silver, although the FDA has taken certain products off the shelves for their lack of purity, so if you are in the market, shop carefully.
3 It’s Potentially Dangerous
In spite of all that vegan-friendly, non-GMO stuff, the truth is that colloidal silver can be a potentially dangerous product. In addition to the aforementioned side effects, one of the most prevalent myths about colloidal silver is that the higher the dose, the more effective this will be. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that consuming too much of anything is bad, and colloidal silver is no exception. If you take too much, it could give you toxic shock.
The fact that it is unregulated leaves a lot of room for things to go wrong as well. Studies into whether or not colloidal silver is effective cannot reach a conclusion, as the quality of the brands varies so wildly. Additionally, this lack of regulation may explain why some brands were found to be infected with bacteria, which could have devastating effects for people trying to improve their health.
2 It is Environmentally Unfriendly
In the last few years, a number of countries have taken a hard line on microbeads. Microbeads are plastic beads less than one millimeter in width, often used in beauty products such as facial scrubs. The problem is that when such products are washed off our skin, the beads go out to sea, and in 2017, it was estimated that 808 trillion beads a day were washed down U.S. pipes alone. The beads would be consumed by small fish, which would be eaten by larger fish or birds, damaging the wildlife and potentially entering our food chain.
While many countries have now banned the use of microbeads, there are similar concerns regarding colloidal silver. Colloidal silver is not the only product to use silver nanoparticles, toothpaste being another example, but any increase in the amount of nanoparticles we use will affect the environment. And unlike microbeads, silver nanoparticles are both washed into our seas, and dumped into our land. Obviously, plants and animals have a much lower threshold for toxic shock, meaning they could be killed by the pollution. Alternatively, if we continue to dump these invisible beads into our environment, they could begin to find their way back to us in our food.
1 It Cures Coronavirus . . . Or Does It?
Since colloidal silver is alleged to boost your immune system, and Coronavirus (Covid-19) is particularly dangerous to people with compromised immune systems, it was inevitable that certain people would start claiming that colloidal silver could cure coronavirus.
When all is said and done, the truth is that we don’t really know if colloidal silver could be useful or not. Maybe it could be in some ways, be we need more research. But when one virus manages to bring the whole world to its knees, with every government on Earth desperately scrambling to find any possible way to alleviate the chaos, you should be dubious about people who claim to have a cure, but are not in talks with the WHO. When the same unregulated product has been presented as a cure for AIDS and cancer, both of which are notably not cured, you should definitely be cautious. There may be something to colloidal silver. But this probably isn’t it.