I know there is controversy about this topic so I will cover what some studies have found as well as my own personal experience with it.
Many studies have been completed about topical silver and colloidal silver. These studies are all over the board, ranging from “dangerous to your health” to “an effective antibiotic.”
Caution is warranted, but fear is not
Although topical silver and colloidal silver are not things I often use, they are products I have used from time to time without any ill effects.
Like many products, even herbs, there may be benefits when used properly but can be toxic or harmful when misused.
Not all colloidal silvers are alike.
NIH article PMC7765683 tested 14 of the most popular colloidal silver products sold on a common online order site. Their state-of-the-art testing found that 11 out of the 14 of these commercial products contained only ionic silver and not any nanoparticles. Even though no silver nanoparticles were found in those products, manufacturers of eight of the products promoted them as “colloidal silver.”
The finding states, “Considering the extensive scientific research showing major differences between silver ionic and silver nanoparticles in terms of mechanisms of action, efficacy and safety, it is clear that this misrepresentation impacts the consumers and must be addressed.”
When ionic silver comes in contact with the hydrochloric acid in the stomach it combines to form silver chloride, an insoluble compound. Some silver nano particles may pass through the lining of the intestinal tract and enter into the blood stream due to their small size. From there they circulate throughout the body, coming into contact with pathogens they may kill on contact. The larger particles which formed into silver chloride cannot be absorbed and are passes out of the body as solid waste or removed by the kidneys as urine. This insight into the flow of colloidal silver varies from study to study.
One study found that for silver ion to be an effective antibacterial agent, the concentration needed to be around 30-40 ppm while the concentration level needed for toxicity, of a lab culture, was around 60 ppm. The closeness of these concentration levels can make treating a wound with silver a bit tricky.
Historical and current uses
Many cultures throughout history have used silver as a disinfectant for food, water, wounds and utensils.
In the medical field, before antibiotics, silver was incorporated into multiple topical treatments used for wounds, infections and burns. There are still some in use today – such as Silver Sulfadiazine.
Newer dressings containing silver, such as Acticoat, Silverlon, Argentum Medical, and many others, maintain a concentration of up to 70 ppm which is applied for several days straight; this is above the demonstrated concentration of toxicity in some studies.
Topical silver (used on the skin) has some appropriate medical uses, such as in bandages and dressings to treat skin infections, wounds or burns. It’s also in medicines to prevent conjunctivitis (an eye condition) in newborns.
NIH article PMC6756674 states, “The addition of silver to the sponge plays a synergistic role with NPWT (negative-pressure wound therapy). The use of silver-coated polyurethane sponges has been shown to reduce bacterial counts of biofilm-causing organisms, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, more than plain polyurethane sponges, leading to faster healing in infected diabetic foot ulcers.”
Another study’s finding suggested that AgNPs (silver nanoparticles) exert their antiviral effect on SARS-CoV-2 by disrupting the disulfide bonds on the spike protein and ACE2 receptors and that a partial antiviral effect was observed by the reduction of viral load in cells.
People have developed argyria from a buildup of silver in the body’s tissue, causing a bluish-gray discoloration of large areas of skin, especially those exposed to the sun.
Colloidal silver may cause possible kidney, liver or nervous system problems as well as poor absorption of some drugs, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency).
Personal experience with using colloidal silver in animals
We had been using the same cat food for more than five years.
We purchased a new bag of that same kind of cat food in August 2022. Within just a few days of feeding the new food we noticed our kitty had stopped eating. This was around the same time he had been proudly catching and displaying mice so I associated the new symptoms to possibly catching something from the mice. Up until this point, our kitty had been very healthy and active.
I took him to the vet, who did some blood work. The lab showed he was having liver issues along with a lot of other problems. The vet sent me home with special food, sub-Q fluids and instructions on what to do.
I did my best to keep him alive for the next several months; hand feeding him with a syringe about every 15-20 minutes from sun up to sun down every day, giving the sub-Q fluids, etc. But sadly, in mid-November 2022 he died in severe pain.
We hesitantly decided to get a new kitty about four months later. Since the vet could never confirm what was wrong with our first kitty, we threw out all the old toys, the litter box, etc., and thoroughly cleaned everything before bringing the new family member home.
The only thing we kept was the food since it was a nearly new 20-pound bag, only about two cups had been removed from it, nothing went back into it so it should not have been contaminated in any way, it was stored in sealed food bins, and added to the fact that because assumed the mice had made him sick.
We adopted our new kitty from the local shelter. Before picking her up, the shelter had sent her to the vet to have her checked out and get her required shots. She had a clean bill of health.
I had purchased a new litter box and a few toys but didn’t get new food right away. Within just three days of eating the food, she started showing the exact same symptoms our first kitty had shown. I did not want to lose her, too.
After a lot of research, including reading reports from other countries, I found there was a possibility of mycotoxins in the cat food.
At this point I was already having to force feed her since she was not eating on her own. Fortunately, I was already set up to do this due to our previous kitty. I then began adding colloidal silver to her food and water; one of the few good brands according to the study above. After about two weeks she began to occasionally pick at her food, and I started decreasing the amount of colloidal silver in her diet. After another two weeks she was fully weaned off the hand feedings and the silver. After another few weeks we all noticed how she was back up to her original weight and showcasing a shiny soft fur coat while purring like crazy again.
There are dangers and concerns about using colloidal silver, including misleading statements promoting it as a cure-all, but I feel, in this instance, it made a positive difference for which I am thankful.