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Colloidal silver is a dispersion of metallic silver particles in distilled water. Colloidal silver has long been known in medicine for its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. The silver depending on the concentration with which it is used has the ability to inhibit or limit bacterial, viral and fungal replication and to eliminate pathogens. It also blocks the metabolic action of certain enzymes of bacteria, viruses and fungi leading to elimination. Biomedical research has shown that the agents that cause diseases (viruses, bacteria, fungi) after having been in contact with colloidal silver, manage to survive only for a few minutes (on average less than ten). Since ancient Greece, the healing properties of silver were known to heal wounds and silver was widely used for the production of crockery for aristocrats (it was known that the use of silver cutlery exposed people to a number less than infections). Egyptians and Phoenicians used to store water in silver containers to purify it. The scientific literature on silver begins in the 1800s with a considerable increase around the beginning of the 1900s and is full of references that indicate its advantages for a wide variety of purposes. The products that are commercially available based on silver can generally be of three types: ionic silver in solution (Ag +), ionic silver with the addition of stabilizing proteins and colloidal silver, consisting of metallic silver nanoparticles (Ag). To these are then added some drugs or medical-surgical aids based on silver salts. Silver ions are different from metallic silver particles. Colloidal silver consists of nanometer-sized particles dispersed in distilled water. One of the first books on colloidal silver dates back to 1920 by Alfred B. Searle ("The use of colloids in health and diseases") where there is a critical scientific account of numerous articles related to colloidal silver, taken from various magazines including Lancet and The British Medical Journal. At the beginning of the 20th century, colloidal silver was widely used, undergoing a decline in the study and use in the 1940s after the introduction of antibiotics, such as penicillin and sulfanilamide. However, starting from the 1990s there was a re-evaluation of colloidal silver as a complementary remedy given the increase in bacterial resistance to antibiotics and to the continuous search for new and affable antimicrobial agents. From in vitro studies, it is clear that colloidal silver is able to eliminate about 650 species of different microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi) in a few minutes, depending on its concentration.

Colloidal silver is non-toxic for mammals, reptiles and all life forms that are not single-celled. Instead, it is toxic for primitive life forms such as microorganisms because they use different chemical processes for their metabolism. The action of colloidal silver on microorganisms is mainly due to the enzymatic deactivation of oxygen metabolism which leads to the elimination of the bacterium.

In vitro studies have shown a particularly high efficacy of colloidal silver towards Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. The particle size in suspension of colloidal silver is very important for maintaining its properties.

The size of the particles is linked to the contact surface in an inversely proportional manner and therefore to the effectiveness of the colloidal silver suspension. The smaller the particle the greater the effectiveness of the product. A product of colloidal silver should be composed of particles with a diameter of 1 to 10 nm and of pure bi-distilled water without other dissolved substances.

The colour of the suspension is indicative of the particle size and purity of the solution. An optical test that is often used is called "Tyndall Effect" and is performed by passing a very strong light beam through a colloidal suspension of silver.

It is a phenomenon of light diffusion due to the presence of particles of dimensions comparable to those of the wavelength of the incident light. The silver particles that allow the vision of the colour have dimensions ranging from 0.2 to 1.2 m to the wavelength of visible light (0.4-0.7 m). Intense yellow colour in the product can be an indication of some contamination with other substances or that the particles are too large, in both cases, this indicates that the product is not of the desired quality. Colloidal silvers at different concentrations can be found on the market. The concentration of the metal is expressed in parts per million (ppm).

Expressing the concentration in ppm indicates how many milligrams of the substance are present in a litre of solution. Silver is an effective tool for killing bacteria, even antibiotic-resistant ones. James Collins and his team at Boston University have shown that by adding silver antibiotics to the antibiotic, the drug's effectiveness increases up to a thousand times. This effect is mainly due to the fact that silver acts on one side making the bacteria wall more permeable, making the antibiotic easier to access.

Recent studies have also highlighted the effectiveness of colloidal silver used topically on animal models in the treatment of Staphylococcus aureus infections; in enhancing the effectiveness of some anti-leukemic drugs; in chronic rhinosinusitis with Staphylococcus aureus infection; in having inhibitory activity on the growth of some Proteus and Escherichia coli strains.

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