Is colloidal silver safe for pregnancy & breastfeeding?

Is colloidal silver safe for pregnancy & breastfeeding?

The short answer:

We don’t know. I wouldn’t take it while pregnant or breastfeeding, and I don’t recommend it to my clients either.

The long answer:

What is colloidal silver?

Colloidal silver is a preparation containing very small particles of silver suspended in a colloidal base. A colloid just means that you have molecules or particles of one substance suspended in another substance in such a way that they disperse evenly & won’t come out of solution or settle to the bottom of the mixture. Some people use a very dilute form of colloidal silver as an antimicrobial; it is used both topically and internally as a supplement.

Does it work as an antimicrobial?

Probably – in some situations, although there are no solid clinical trials that support its use. Silver-based preparations were widely used by medical professionals before the advent of antibiotic drugs.  According to the Natural Medicines Database (subscription required), colloidal silver is likely useful as an antimicrobial. Most of the studies around this use are looking at topical preparations, not internal/oral use.

What’s the concern?

Colloidal silver is not a benign, perfectly safe supplement. It’s a metal. With no known role in the human body. It does not normally appear in food and there is no compelling reason to ingest it. To me, that means that the burden of proof for its safety & efficacy is much higher than for a food product or herbal medicine.

When I say that something is probably safe, there are two kinds of “probably.” 

The first kind of “probably” has to do with things that are common in the human diet, like celery and chamomile tea. Do we have clinical studies, RCTs proving that they are safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation in reasonable amounts? No.  Does good common sense, the information we do have about their safety, constituents, mechanisms of actions, and a long history of human consumption indicate that both are likely safe? Yes.  I am comfortable recommending both chamomile tea and celery to pregnant and lactating mothers for this reason.

The second kind of “probably” relates to substances that we do not normally ingest as humans. Things that we are taking specifically for therapeutic benefit and that serve no other purpose in our diets or lives. This includes substances like heavy metals and pharmaceutical drugs.

Is there a time & a place for them? Absolutely, yes. We need medications sometimes. And we also need to make darn sure that they are safe and effective to balance the risks and the benefits. This is why there is a relatively rigorous process to bring a pharmaceutical to the market (and yes, I am fully aware of just how flawed this process is).  Many of these substances are probably safe, but should be proven safe and effective before we recommend them for pregnant and lactating women. See the difference?

Colloidal silver is “probably” safe to ingest in very low doses over short periods of time according to my second definition above. As it stands, we don’t have a lot of evidence that it is unsafe in low doses, but we also don’t have very much solid evidence that it works (testimonials on the internet aside).

Almost all of the studies that have been done involve topical use (for example the use of silver in dressings to cover wounds or in catheters to prevent microbial infection).

What are the potential risks?

There are a few troubling animal studies of embryonic changes associated with colloidal silver use (for example, see here, here and here). Are these directly applicable to humans? No, not necessarily. But they are a potential red flag worth considering in the absence of any other available data. People who take very high doses (beyond what you would normally ingest with most supplements) actually turn a bluish-grey color, permanently (!). To me, this is another hint that perhaps it’s not entirely safe.

Is it worth the risk?

Nope. Not in my opinion.

In pregnancy and lactation, we need to have an even higher standard for determining safety.  If I’m pregnant or breastfeeding, there’s no way I’m knowingly ingesting a heavy metal that has not been proven safe for me and my baby. Unfortunately, colloidal silver just doesn’t have the data to support its use in these circumstances. It hasn’t been systematically tested in this population (or any population, really). We don’t know how – if at all – it affects the baby in utero or while nursing.

Is there a chance that it’s safe? Yep. Could be. But there’s also a chance that it’s not. We just don’t know. And to me, it’s not worth it to take that risk, especially when a little one is involved.

Herbs in Pregnancy and Lactation: Cheat Sheet

​This concise summary lists all herbs to pick from when working with clients who are pregnant or lactating. It's one of my most-useful clinical tools!


Thoughts? Add your comments here. 

  • Hi Camille, Do you believe that exposure to colloidal silver both ingested and handled can cause infertility? Some studies mention decreased Leydig cells, changes in LH and FSH. What do you think about this? I’
    m a nutritionist specializing in nutrition and fertility in Brazil and I have a couple who have been using and working with colloidal silver for 2 years and cannot get pregnant, all tests have already been done. I suspect poisoning by this metal. Thank you for your time!

    • Hi Lelia. Thanks for your question! I haven’t had this come up in my practice, but I agree. I’d definitely recommend that they discontinue using/interacting with the colloidal silver right away. Best of luck to all of you!

  • Thank you for your thoughtful approach. Other than turning blue when you take too much and the animal studies during pregnancy, do you know of any harmful effects from taking the silver? (trying to decide if occasional small doses have enough risk to stay away completely) I’ve learned that not all natural remedies are created equal and that just because it doesn’t come from a Dr’s office doesn’t mean it is safe. But if the risk is small, it might be worth it to me. I hate taking medicine if I can help it, and there’s not much you can do against viruses anyway.
    Thanks

    • Thanks for your note. I don’t necessarily think this isn’t safe because it’s not from a Dr.’s office, and I do think that when you’re weighing the benefits and risks of taking something it’s important to ask what we know about a) whether it works and b) the safety risks. In this case, I really haven’t seen anything compelling suggesting internal use is beneficial. Essentially at this point we don’t know whether the risk of taking colloidal silver internally is small or large. To me, these two pieces of information together mean that I choose not to use it myself or recommend it to others. Hope that helps!

  • Hi Camille,

    Thanks for this reasonably balanced post, I like your err on the side of caution approach. Just one thing you might want to double check though, about people turning blue grey using colloidal silver: the total number of reported incidents like this is… one. A guy who drank silver nitrate, not colloidal silver at all. This urban legend has been spread around for decades without a shred of truth behind it.

    I regularly use colloidal silver for my dogs and cats, it clears up all kinds of infections, even those that completely resist antibiotics, in an amazingly short time. But I agree with you that pregnancy is a time to be careful, especially with metals. I think if I had to choose between antibiotics and silver during pregnancy I would probably go with the silver, but only if I had a serious infection that food and safe herbs couldn’t cure.

    Regards from another Camille 🙂

  • I have since being pregnant got pompholyx eczema & have been highly recommended to try Robertson’s Eczema Relief wich is applied as a cream to the effected area. The active ingredients are: Cod Lover Oil 300mg/g & Colloidal Oatmeal 0.1mg/g. I’m confused as to wether I can try it, at this stage nothing has helped & if I can’t use this cream I’ll have to go back to steroid based ointments 🙁

    • Hi there. I’m so sorry that you’re suffering with this :(. I’ve never heard of colloidal oatmeal… not sure what to say about that! If it’s a type of colloidal silver (?) then the notes mentioned above would apply. You might try visiting your local herbalist (see http://www.americanherbalists.com for a list of herbalists by state) for help. I hope you’re able to find something that works. Best wishes for a beautiful birth!

  • Thanks for a very helpful post. I’m 5 months pregnant and my mom just sent me a bottle of colloidal silver, and I came upon your article when trying to decide whether or not to take it. I agree with you–if there’s not enough good research out there (and what is available isn’t so good), it’s not worth the risk!

  • ‘sheople” Kim?? o.O really?!
    Camille states that theres no proven and documented way to know what having a heavy metal in your system will do to your unborn child or your nursing infant.
    Like her Ive done my best to stay as well informed as I can about this subject. From everything Ive read over the years its not safe. Not that it will kill you..in small doses taken sparingly… the most it will do to an adult is change your skin color to a neon to deep blue. Not a good look for most people.
    However I digress…. C.S. in babies isnt the same thing as a full grown fully developed body of an adult. You have a stronger constitution. You have a developed immune system. Your stomach, intestines, etc… are also fully developed. You have a high tolerance for things that a new norn child or an unborn child …hell… even upto a teenagers system IS NOT prepared to deal with.
    You could be risking birth defects, brain damage, system damage to their heart lungs stomach and G I tract. Yes I am full aware you can come back and say there is no proof. Thats why I said you could be. Youre talking about putting something into a brand new person who hasnt had time to build up a tolerance to yet. That in itself says its not a wise idea. You dont take your infant and throw them off the Empire State building if you want them to fly. You strap them into a safety seat attached to an airplane seat that can be used as a flotation device … see where Im going with this…? you do thing and take precautions.
    Because you love your baby you don’t want to expose them to things that could damage them for life. C.S. has been around for a long time. People have died from ingesting it. Yes they can if they ingest copious amounts. Taking chances when there isnt proof for humans… and prood that is there in animals isnt good… makes me cringe everytime someone comes up and says were over reacting because were keeping people out of the loop and into the fear
    .. that in itself is also a false assumption. We are out to make sure no harm comes to the life youre going to or have spent nine months making… you created a miracle … Why would you want to risk harm to your precious baby with out 100% tried and true and 100% proven information from an unbiased source???

  • I think you need to do more research before putting out a response about colloidal silver, ma’am. You do know that our bodies ALREADY contain colloidal silver and that a growing number of people are using colloidal silver to heal from a multitude of ailments and illnesses, right? Oh wait – clearly you don’t. I stumbled upon your “post” while searching for colloidal silver dosage while pregnant and nursing… Sooo glad I don’t subscribe to your madness. Please, before you infect other sheeple mentalities out there.. DO YOUR RESEARCH~! Or please, leave the topic alone. Putting more ignorance out in this world is NOT what is necessary. SMH, I will pray for you.

    • Hi Kim,

      My goodness, you’re very passionate about colloidal silver!

      From what I can tell, your arguments in support of using it during pregnancy and lactation are that 1) colloidal silver exists already in the human body and 2) “a growing number of people” are using it for things.

      As far as I know, there is no valid research showing that this metal is normally found in healthy human tissues. As I’ve been teaching human physiology for many years, I think I am pretty up-to-date on this subject. However, if you know of some research suggesting that colloidal silver is endogenously produced in humans I’d love to have a look. Please do share.

      As far as taking colloidal silver because everyone else is doing it… well, I don’t think your logic holds up here. Just because many people are doing something does not make it healthy or safe. Examples of substances that were widely ingested and considered safe only to turn out to be detrimental to human health include beta carotene used by heavy smokers (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20155614) and thalidomide used for morning sickness (see here: http://www.thalidomide.ca/summary/). And of course you might also want to consider the old saying, “if everyone else jumped off of a cliff, would you do it too?”

      If you have any solid evidence proving colloidal silver’s safety during pregnancy and lactation – not anecdotes but any evidence that it is safe and does not affect maternal or infant health in the short or long terms – again please share. But do so via my contact form because I don’t allow personal attacks or the use of the word “sheeple” in my comments :). You won’t be able to comment here again.

    • Camille,

      It’s always interesting to see how many people out there regurgitate & repeat the same old tired warnings that have been issued for years by the FDA & the AMA.

      I have 100% factual evidence that Collodial Silver works. I spent the last 3 months in a certain Central American Country, curing the infected population of Dengue & Chingunkunya.

      My tests & test methods are valid, as are the results.

      I will be more than happy to share with anyone out there who would like to see for themselves

      • If you have proof then that’s wonderful! Publish it in a peer-reviewed journal so the world will know. When you do, please be sure to come back and post here. I’d love to have a look.

        • Anytime I see “I have 100% factual evidence that this or that works,” it is an immediate red flag. Anyway, I know this is an old post, but I wanted to pop in and say I like your responses to the comments in this article. And I won’t be taking any silver while pregnant. Thanks for presenting a good article, not simply a passionate one with no logic behind it.

          • So sorry I missed this comment until now! I completely agree. 100% certainly isn’t a great sign when it comes to something like this. I’m glad this article was helpful for you.

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    Camille Freeman, LDN

    Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I mentor other practitioners who need help building and growing their practices, working with complicated clients and getting clinical hours. I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating. My pronouns are she/hers. 

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