Scientific Information

Colloidal Silver Vs Ionic Silver

Colloidal Silver Vs Ionic Silver

Whenever someone mentions that a dietary supplement contains silver, they are referring to colloidal silver. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies almost all silver solutions as colloidal silver. Colloids are the suspended particles in water, and therefore, colloidal silver refers to silver particles suspended in solution. 

Silver solutions come in many different forms, each with a unique name and ambiguous definitions. Similarly, it is easy to find theories that claim one silver solution is superior to the other. However, there is no sufficient evidence to show how colloidal silver works and how effective it is as a dietary supplement. 

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Comparison between colloidal silver, ionic silver, and silver hydrosol

Colloidal silver is now a thing of the past since many manufacturers in America market their products as silver hydrosol. Due to the new hydrosol technology, it is rare to see any product marketed with the word “colloidal”, whether it is on the bottle or in advertisements. 

Ionic silver differs from colloidal silver since it contains silver ions as opposed to their particles. The silver ions in ionic silver are atoms or molecules chemically dissolved in water, whereas silver particles in the colloidal silver are suspended as colloids in a solution.

There is a big difference between ionic silver and metallic silver nanoparticles. The difference lies in their solubility in water, where metallic silver is not soluble while ionic silver is water-soluble. Looking at it from a technical perspective, a silver ion is an atom without one electron. This missing electron is what makes silver ions soluble in water. 

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Many silver solutions contain a mix of silver colloids and ions. It is not rare to find silver products today with significant amounts of silver ions mixed with silver particles.

What is colloidal silver?

True colloidal silver or colloidal silver as it is commonly referred to is metallic silver nanoparticles suspended in a solution (usually water). These particles do not mix with other elements. Ionic silver is an extremely reactive substance when it comes into contact with other elements and will always form compounds. When absorbed into the body, silver ions will combine with chloride to create an insoluble silver chloride compound.

Silver particles are more stable than silver ions and are significant in colloidal silver solutions. True colloids can pass through semi-permeable membranes but not entirely. The liquid will mostly pass through such membranes leaving behind the silver particles.  

What is ionic silver?

Ionic silver is a more common supplement when compared to colloidal silver. It is a solution of silver ions and water. As explained above, the solubility of silver ions is due to the missing electron. It is the outer electrons of an atom that determine its physical properties. The solubility of ionic silver means that it can pass through a membrane without leaving any residue behind.

Ionic silver is capable of killing pathogens since the silver ions in the solution can ‘steal’ an extra electron when they come into contact with body cells. However, there is no evidence to support this claim. Ionic silver also poses a safety concern due to the unstable silver ions. Besides ‘stealing’ electrons, these silver ions can also donate them.

This means that the ionic silver solution can combine with your bodily proteins and fat cells. A build-up of silver ions in the human body can lead to a disorder known as argyria, which turns the skin bluish-gray. The disorder does not pose a health risk but is a cause of cosmetic concern since it is irreversible.

The difference between ionic silver and colloidal silver

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There are other differences between ionic silver and colloidal silver besides their composition. Studies show that colloidal silver is effective when applied topically and on when taken orally, unlike ionic silver. The body does not metabolize the tiny silver particles found in colloidal silver. This makes it easy for the body to excrete them, so you do not have to worry about silver particles accumulating in your body. There is a zero risk of getting argyria when taking colloidal silver compared to ionic silver.

Ionic silver bioavailability

For a drug or solution to be bioavailable, it must retain its form as it attains systemic circulation. Therefore, claims that ionic silver has a high bioavailability are false. Its bioavailability is virtually non-existent due to the highly reactive nature of silver ions. Silver ions cannot remain unchanged when they attain systemic circulation because they form compounds in the body.

Although this highly reactive nature of ionic silver gives it the antimicrobial properties, it also causes it to form compounds rapidly in the body. The silver ions cease to exist in the body once they combine with other elements to form compounds. Compounds such as silver chloride have zero antimicrobial properties to the body.

Which is the most effective form of silver?

Looking at it from a safety perspective, colloidal silver is the most effective. It is the better option since there are zero risks of silver accumulating in the body and leading to argyria, among other health complications. All silver solutions should have nano-sized silver particles to ensure that they are easily absorbed by the body and are more effective. The sizes also make it easy for the body to excrete these particles.

The reason why most products are ionic silver

The affordability and ease of making ionic silver is the main reason why many products are ionic silver. All you need to have is a nine-volt battery and a silver wire. When produced commercially, a high-voltage source helps to produce a more stable ionic solution. This process is known as electrolysis and it is used to make ionic silver. 


Colloidal silver and ionic silver are quite popular due to their antiviral and antibacterial properties. However, colloidal silver is more effective and safe to use for this purpose than ionic silver. This is due to the highly reactive nature of silver ions in the body. Ionic silver has a stronger antimicrobial effect in situations where it does not form silver chloride in the body. 

Category: Scientific Information

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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