Media personality and U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz repeatedly promoted colloidal silver on his show, claiming that the dubious supplement is a “smart” treatment with “a ton of data behind it” and stating that “we actually in our family are crazy about” using it “every day.”
Oz, a heart surgeon, is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania as a Republican. Media Matters previously documented that he has a history of pushing medical misinformation to audiences, including on Fox News.
One of Oz’s less-explored impacts is how he pushed colloidal silver as a remedy to people through his now-defunct syndicated program The Dr. Oz Show. In recent years, especially during the pandemic, disreputable media personalities such as Alex Jones, Jim Bakker, and Candace Owens have endorsed the supplement to their audiences.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, states, “Colloidal silver consists of tiny silver particles in a liquid that is sometimes promoted on the Internet as a dietary supplement. However, evidence supporting health-related claims is lacking. In fact, colloidal silver can be dangerous to your health.” The center adds that “colloidal silver can cause serious side effects” and notes that the Food and Drug Administration “also warned in 1999 that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.” The Mayo Clinic similarly advises that “supplements containing colloidal silver aren't considered safe or effective for any of the health claims manufacturers make.”
Numerous health quacks have promoted colloidal silver over the years. The faux treatment has become even more dangerous during the coronavirus pandemic as many people have falsely advertised the silver as a way to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Oz himself came across one of the worst-case scenarios of colloidal silver’s side effects when in 2008 he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show alongside Paul Karason, a colloidal silver user whose skin literally turned blue after taking the substance. Still, as Mallory Pickett noted for Wired in 2017, Oz went from appearing skeptical of colloidal silver in 2008 to pushing it in the following years.
Here are three examples of Oz promoting colloidal silver on The Dr. Oz Show.
Oz: “It’s called colloidal silver spray -- kills germs on contact. … Very simple to incorporate into your life.” Oz praised colloidal silver during a segment about “all-natural treatments for the cold symptoms.” Oz said, “In our family, we've got something that works really well for sore throats. It’s called colloidal silver spray -- kills germs on contact. … Very simple to incorporate into your life.” Video of the segment was uploaded to Oz’s YouTube channel on February 14, 2012.
MEHMET OZ (HOST): Nothing makes you feel old, tired, or run-down like a cold, but the best way to treat this instant ager is naturally. So I've got all-natural treatments for the cold symptoms that are dragging you down and Mary is going to help me with this.
You know, a lot of the things we put in our mouth, the lozenges, the sprays, they don't actually deal with the reason why you have a sore throat, which is bacteria. In our family, we've got something that works really well for sore throats. It’s called colloidal silver spray -- kills germs on contact. Very inexpensive. You can either use it as a spray, which is the way I like it, or you can get these in just liquid form. Put one teaspoon in a bottle -- a glass of water, then gargle it a couple times a day. Costs about $10 in drugstores. Very simple to incorporate into your life.
Oz hosted his father-in-law to discuss his “favorite holistic cures,” one of which was colloidal silver. On another program, Oz featured Gerald LeMole, a heart surgeon who is also his father-in-law. The segment, which appears to have originally aired in November 2012, featured colloidal silver as one of LeMole's “favorite holistic cures.” While talking about a colloidal silver spray, LeMole attempted to spray colloidal silver into Oz’s mouth (he missed).
MEHMET OZ (HOST): I would love for you to share some of your favorite holistic cures, things that I know that, you know, folks are using all the time in the LeMole household.
GERALD LEMOLE (SURGEON): There's a couple of things. I think that -- colloidal silver is an antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and it's really good stuff for if you feel an oncoming sore throat or, or even a wound, you can spray it on your wound or like that.
Oz promoted colloidal silver with Gwyneth Paltrow as something that “has a ton of data behind it.” Oz aired a show featuring health advice from actor Gwyneth Paltrow, who has spent years pushing bad medical advice. During the segment -- which appears to have aired in April 2013 and is available on Oz’s YouTube channel -- Paltrow recommended spraying colloidal silver on surfaces because research purportedly “says that colloidal silver really keeps viruses away. It's a real viral repellent.”
Oz agreed with the actor, stating: “We haven't thought about it very much because we have antibiotics, but this is a very smart way of killing off stuff. We actually in our family are crazy about squirting it in our throats. It’s our throat spray, so every day, throat spray. We squirt it in there and off we go.”
MEHMET OZ (HOST): Next trick is to help avoid germs.
GWYENETH PALTROW (ACTOR): Yes.
OZ: And this actually has a ton of data behind it. Please share it with everybody.
PALTROW: OK. Well, people think I'm insane when I get on an airplane before it, when I get to my seat, I spray this all over my seat and under my tongue because the research says that colloidal silver really keeps viruses away. It's a real viral repellent. So I use that a lot, especially when we're traveling. I spray the kids’ seats and it’s like -- “What is this crazy woman doing?”
OZ: This actually was the first antibiotic. It was silver.
PALTROW: Was it?
OZ: They used to put silver coins in milk to keep the milk clean. I mean, these are ancient therapies.
OZ: And you know, we haven't thought about it very much because we have antibiotics, but this is a very smart way of killing off stuff. We actually in our family are crazy about squirting it in our throats --
OZ: It’s our throat spray, so every day, throat spray. We squirt it in there and off we go. You do that too?
PALTROW: Yeah, absolutely.
OZ: What do you think of the taste?
PALTROW: I don't think it's so bad. It's pretty mellow.
OZ: It's pretty neutral. We have some fun home remedies for making it taste more palatable for the kids. You make it taste good for the kids, they actually will believe that it's something important for them, they’ll take it.
PALTROW: That’s true.
OZ: Last up -- and by the way, all these are in health food stores.
Oz’s endorsements of colloidal silver have been a key validator for the colloidal silver industry. Media Matters found numerous instances of companies using Dr. Oz’s pro-colloidal silver remarks to help sell products. (Oz didn’t endorse any specific colloidal silver brand in the segments.)
For instance, one website features a testimonial from someone who said they tried colloidal silver after watching Oz's program. Another website -- run by COVID-19 huckster Steve Barwick, who sells what he calls “the world’s #1 most popular colloidal silver generator” -- touts Oz’s colloidal silver segments and states: “So kudos to Dr. Oz and to Gwyneth Paltrow for taking a public stand on behalf of safe, natural colloidal silver, and helping bring it to the attention of the American public who are still largely unaware of its powerful and medically documented healing and infection-fighting qualities.”