The People's Pharmacy® with Joe and Terry Graedon


Will Zinc Ward Off Colds?

Newspaper Columns, Herb & Home Remedy Q&A February 5, 2009

Q. A few friends have mentioned that taking zinc helps to ward off colds and flu. Is there any validity to that?

A. The evidence on zinc is inconclusive. There have been more than more than 10 well-controlled trials of zinc lozenges, nasal sprays or gels. Although some have shown benefit, others did not show that zinc is better than placebo. We need better research before we can give you a definite answer.

Tags: cold, flu, zinc

Reader Comments

The comments below are provided by the users of this site and not by The Peoples Pharmacy or the Graedons. Please also remember that nothing contained in this site is intended as a substitute for medical advice.

I don't know about zinc, but Vitamin D seems to help me. I've been taking 800 IU/day for a couple of years and don't seem to catch colds anymore. I read somewhere that Vitamin D has anti-viral properties. I'm beginning to think that those people who take Vitamin C for colds are taking the wrong vitamin.

I've been taking zinc for the last 6 months on a daily basis. I eat an excellent, well-rounded diet (local, organic, no processed foods, vegetarian, green smoothies, super foods etc ) and exercise daily & use my neti pot morning & eves. I rarely get sick & when I do I recover quickly (ie no sick days from work). However I've gotten 2 head colds this year so far, so I have to conclude that zinc is not the cure...

I think I'm a believer. Once when we had a flu like mini-epidemic in our office, I took three bottles of zinc/Vit. C/Echinecia tablets and was the only one who didn't get sick. I think along with eating well, getting enough sleep that it might be a good thing. Not a cure all but still good.

I used to get nasty colds lasting 1 week to 10 days. After Cold Ease came on the market, if I get any hint of a cold coming on, such as a sore throat, I start using it immediately as directed. If I get stuffed up, I use Afrin at night. The longest my colds have lasted since then is 4 days. I rarely get colds now and I attribute this to the fact I start the Cold Ease at any sign of a problem. This same process does not work for my husband. However, I believe he waits too long and is inconsistent in his use.

ZINC IS GREAT! When I know I am exposed to respiratory infections or suspect I am "coming down" with a "bug", I let zinc tablets (2x Day +/-) disolve under my tongue to be absorbed directly into blood rather than swallowed into stomach acids - which reduces absorption into the blood. "Zinc in the blood interferes with the ability of a virus to replicate". That was the directions given years ago in Parade Magazine. It works either as a preventative -- or as a placebo!!

I SWEAR by it! First tried the lozenges, hated the taste. Now take 15mg tab 4X/day( for 2-3 days) when I FIRST start feeling like I Might be getting ready to come down with a cold. TIMING and Consistency are KEY to it's success. I've used it well and learned over 6 yrs of trial/error that it CAN work if used as I described.

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Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Their syndicated radio show can be heard on public radio. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

© 2009 King Features Syndicate, Inc.