Silver is a metal that can kill bacteria and germs. Because of this, it has been used to promote healing and fight infection in wounds and burns. Silver can be applied as a gel or cream. It can also be used in wound dressings and bandages. It is likely not safe to take silver by mouth. Products containing colloidal silver are not generally recognized as safe by the FDA.C1


There are no advised doses for silver.

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Chronic rhinosinusitis A1
  • Chronic venous ulcers B1
  • Surgical site infection D1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to use approved silver products on the skin. It is not safe to take silver orally. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use silver products on the skin for a long period. Products containing colloidal silver should not be used. Silver is especially unsafe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.C2, C3


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.


A. Chronic Rhinosinusitis

A1. Scott JR, Krishnan R, et al. The effectiveness of topical colloidal silver in recalcitrant chronic rhinosinusitis: a randomized crossover control trial. J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Nov 25;46(1):64.

B. Chronic Venous Ulcers

B1. Jamec GB, Kerihuel JC, et al. Cost-effective use of silver dressings for the treatment of hard-to-heal chronic venous ulcers. PLoS One. 2014;9(6):e100582.

C. Safety

C1. Over-the-counter drug products containing colloidal silver ingredients or silver salts. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Public Health Service (PHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Final rule. Fed Regist. 1999 Aug 17;64(158):44653-44658.

C2. Hadrup N, Lam HR. Oral toxicity of silver ions, silver nanoparticles and colloidal silver--a review. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Feb;68(1):1-7.

C3. Griffith RD, Simmons BJ, et al. Colloidal Silver: Dangerous and Readily Available. JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Jun;151(6):667-8. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.120. Erratum in: JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Aug;151(8):912.

D. Surgical Site Infection

D1. Li HZ, Zhang L, et al. Silver-containing dressing for surgical site infection in clean and clean-contaminated operations: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Surg Res. 2017;215:98-107.

E. Upper Airway Disease in Children

E1. Damiani V, Di Carlo M, et al. Efficacy of a new medical device based on colloidal silver and carbossimetyl beta glucan in treatment of upper airways disease in children. Minerva Pediatr. 2011 Oct;63(5):347-354.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 3/27/2020

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