What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally found in shellfish, red meat, nuts and seeds, beans and dairy products.1 Zinc is present in almost every cell of the body, where it is involved in numerous aspects of cellular activity and metabolism.

Because our bodies do not have a storage system for zinc, we need to get our daily intake of zinc from zinc-containing foods or dietary supplements. Zinc is also present in homeopathic medications such as Zicam® cold remedies, which are used for the treatment of colds and the relief of cold symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, cough and congestion.

Evidence that Zinc Shortens the Common Cold

Studies on zinc lozenges have shown that taking zinc lozenges reduces the duration of cold symptoms.2 A recent review of more than 25 years of research on the use of zinc for colds concluded that zinc shortens the duration of the common cold. This review, conducted by the U.S. Cochrane Center, looked at 15 studies involving more than 1,300 participants and found that taking zinc within 24 hours of the first signs of a cold reduced cold duration. In addition, people who used zinc had less severe symptoms.

How Zinc Works

While studied for many years, the exact mechanism of action by which zinc works to shorten the common cold is unknown. There are several leading theories. Most colds are caused by a type of virus called rhinovirus, a family of more than 100 viruses which can multiply in the upper respiratory system (the nasal passages and throat). Cold symptoms typically last about 7-10 days. Research on zinc’s effect on the immune system suggests that zinc interferes with the ability of rhinovirus to multiply. Zinc may also prevent cold viruses from attaching to cells in the lining of the nose and throat.

Evidence suggests that cold-shortening results may vary depending on the specific zinc formulation used and how it is administered.* Zinc gluconate and zinc acetate seem to be better than other forms of zinc for shortening colds. Zinc lozenges and other delivery methods that allow zinc to stay in the throat where the cold virus lives may be the most effective for easing cold symptoms. The effectiveness of zinc in shortening the duration of cold also relies on regular and frequent dosing during the cold. The proprietary zinc formulation in Zicam® oral cold remedies has been clinically proven* to shorten colds.

  1. WedMD. Cold, Flu & Cough Health Center – Zinc for Colds: Lozenges & Nasal Sprays. Available at http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/zinc-lozenges-cold-remedy. Accessed July 17, 2014.
  2. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Available at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Accessed July 16, 2014.


*Clinical results have been shown for Zicam® Cold Remedy RapidMelts®, ULTRA RapidMelts®, ULTRA Crystals, Medicated Fruit Drops, Lozenges, Oral Mist, Nasal Spray and Nasal Swabs.

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