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Can Zinc Cure the Common Cold?

Updated on September 1, 2013

Add Zinc to Your Arsenal of Cold Remedies

When cold and flu season hits, it seems that no one is immune. Sure, you can wash your hands often, avoid germ-ridden locations and even wear a face mask. But eventually, the common cold will get you.

Or will it?

Doctors and scientists have been looking for a cure for the common cold for years. Herbal remedies like Echinacea seemed promising at first, but enthusiasm has died down recently. Beyond chicken soup and a box of tissues, what else can you reach for?

How about this? News that zinc may help cure the common cold has been announced by researchers - definitively this time. While the supplement may not entirely prevent you getting sick, taking zinc within 24 hours of the first symptoms of a cold may give you great relief!

Use zinc to help cure the common cold
Use zinc to help cure the common cold | Source

Zinc and the Common Cold

New medical research on zinc shows that sneezing, coughing, sore throat, stuffy-head and other aches and pains of the common cold can be significantly reduced, or even avoided, by taking the supplement. It doesn't matter whether you use zinc lozenges, tablets or syrups.

Although there was much excitement about zinc as a cold remedy in the 1990s, one study debunked claims of its efficacy. Now, however, the BBC is reporting:

At seven days, more of the patients who took zinc remedies every couple of hours during the daytime had cleared their symptoms compared to those who took placebos.

And children who took 15mg of zinc syrup or zinc lozenges daily for five months or longer caught fewer colds and took less time off school.

People that took zinc reported a shorter bout with the illness, and much less severe symptoms. The Journal of Infectious Diseases reported in 2008 that using zinc lozenges reduced the number of days you may be sick with a cold from 7 to 4 days. Coughing can be cut down from 5 days to 2.

Using Zinc to Cure the Common Cold

How Much Zinc Do you Need?

Unfortunately, medical researchers have not determined the amount of zinc you need to cure the common cold. In other words, there is no consensus on dosage or zinc formulations that are most effective.

Zinc is an essential mineral that our bodies require for proper functioning. You can get zinc naturally from foods like meat, liver, seafood and eggs. For vegetarians and people that do not eat a healthy diet, its easy to get the recommended daily allowance of zinc (12 mg for women and 15 mg for men) in a multivitamin.

Zinc supplements sold as cold remedies usually include about 13 mg of the mineral. However, over the counter zinc products may be diluted with flavors and other additives that reduce the effectiveness of the supplement to fight the common cold.

Dosage and formulation questions aside, the biggest determining factor in the effectiveness of zinc to help you get over a cold fast is when you start taking it. You need to start treatment within 24 hours of the first cold symptom.

Sniffle or sneeze? Time to start taking zinc right away!

Add Zinc to your common cold arsenal
Add Zinc to your common cold arsenal | Source

How Does Zinc Work to Help You Get Over a Cold?

Researchers are not certain how the zinc mineral helps reduce cold symptoms. However, it does appear to have antiviral properties that reduce the life of the cold virus within your body. When the virus cannot replicate itself or attach to nasal membranes, the duration and severity of the cold is significantly reduced.

In fact, zinc supplements are often taken by healthy adults and children to support brain function and boost immune system strength.  No wonder there is such a huge market for the mineral!

As is the case with other research on the common cold, while we may be making progress in determining what works to help you when you have a cold, we haven't quite gotten to the point of complete prevention.

Use Zinc Supplements Effectively

Where Can You Buy Zinc Supplements?

You can buy zinc supplements in just about any location where you find vitamins or herbal remedies. Drug stores, supermarkets, health food shops and more all carry a variety of zinc formulations for consumers.

As noted above, zinc is an essential mineral that our bodies need, regardless of exposure to the common cold. If you add zinc to your daily supplement regimen (and also eat a healthy diet and get good sleep), your body's immunity will be strengthened, leaving you less susceptible to colds in the first place!

© 2011 Stephanie Hicks

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    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      Steph, this is great information on zinc and the common cold! I am an avid pro zinc person, taking it regularly for brain function as well as cold virus relief. It works wonders for me. Learning about the things in this article surrounding zinc, make clear its usefulness. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and helping us learn how to relieve our cold symptoms! A tweeting this hub will go...

      K9

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I don't usually know if I have a cold or an allergy. Usually it's the allergy. I'm not sure if zinc influences that or not.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Interesting information, steph, it may be time to buy zinc futures again. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks you guys! I am a big proponent of supplements and vitamins, and I think zinc is one of the best out there. I also find that regular exercise and good sleep keeps me from getting the cold (knock on wood, but its February and I haven't gotten a cold yet this season).... Cheers all, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you also for the tweet support, K9! Best to you!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Great info as usual Steph and so well organized and complete. I'm a big fan of zinc lozenges when I have a cold, and I don't care what they say, Airborne works wonders for me and I think it has zinc in it ( among other things) I've been cold and flu free this winter too-- hey I've got it. Hubbing prevents colds-- could it be????? Thumbs up up up and I'm tweeting AND submitting this puppy to Stumbleupon.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hubbing prevents colds? Yes, that's got to be it! ;-) Airborne is a great formulation IMHO too. Thank you so much for the tweets and SU submission. Best, Steph

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Good job. Well done and I really love to read this hub. Thanks, my friend for writing this. Very inspiring and informative. I learn much from you. Vote up as always. Take care!

      Love and peace, prasetio

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Prasetio, anything that can help us stay well or get over a cold faster is worth having in the medicine cabinet, in my opinion! Have a great day, Steph

    • Jeff May profile image

      Jeffrey Penn May 6 years ago from St. Louis

      I've used zinc a lot over the years and generally found it effective, although taking it on an empty stomach has made me queasy and getting the right dosage is as you imply important.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Right, Jeff - taking zinc without a meal can make your stomach upset. People should ask their doctor how much they should take given height, weight, etc. Best, Steph

    • yenajeon profile image

      yenajeon 6 years ago from California

      I love taking zinc. The only downside I see is that I get very vivid dreams, which is always kind of strange! Great hub!

    • Fortadam profile image

      Fortadam 6 years ago from Portland Oregon

      Great hub. I love finding natural remedies instead of taking some drug company's latest chemical concoction ... and I love not being sick! So two birds with one stone on this one. Nice find!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi yenajeon, that is interesting about the vivid dreams! Since taking a zinc supplement is medicinal, I can believe it. Here's to your good health! Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Fortadam,

      I'm with you there! I feel so much better about taking natural remedies rather than chemical drugs. Thanks for the comment and stay healthy :)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

      Good info - I'll have to try that! I was just exposed to someone who had a horrible cold last week and have been thinking how lucky I am to have missed getting it. I take a vitamin with zinc in it and wonder if that might have helped but maybe (this time) I just got lucky. She was working on my hair for 2 hours so I figured no way Jose I wasn't getting it. (Knocking on wood and heading out to the store to buy some zinc tablets)

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      You are lucky! I take a multi-vitamin every day too, and I exercise regularly. Somehow (knock on wood) I have managed to make it without a cold this year. Stay healthy!! :)

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi stephhicks, natural remedies are always the best and not filled with a ton of chemicals, i think zinc helps to chase away cold or flu symptoms faster .

      Awesome hub !!!

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I agree that zinc may help and also getting enough sleep. My vitamin has zinc and when I feel tiredness coming on I grab extra sleep. Cold free two years in a row and very few colds prior..I used to get at least four a winter! I almost think, since I have had every cold virus out there; I have become immune...lol!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi kashmir and scribnet - great to hear that you've had positive results with zinc, not only for the common cold, but even getting sleep! Overall, we ingest so many unnatural substances through food additives, etc. that taking mineral supplements is quite important. Eat healthier and that is another key to staying away from cold and flu season. Funny about your immunity, scribenet! LOL!! Best, Steph

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Just read disturbing reports on zinc destroying one's sense of smell especially if used as a nasal spray. Do you know anything about this?

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Gypsy Willow - yes, I heard the same thing. I think that instances like that are generally limited to abuse of the over-the-counter zinc nasal spray formulations. Like any other herbal remedy or medicine, its about moderation. In addition, people should always consult their doctor before treating any illness to make sure that there are not conflicts with other medications they take, or potential side effects due to pre-existing medical conditions. Best, Steph

    • michaelqtodd profile image

      michaelqtodd 6 years ago

      Have not had a cold for years.I take a lot of zinc in supplements I guess

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Great information! I take zinc and a combination of other minerals and vitamins everyday. I don't get sick often. I wasn't aware that zinc mostly comes in animal products - American diets. I learned something new.

      Thanks!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Dexter and Michael - stay healthy!

    • SUSANJK profile image

      SUSANJK 6 years ago from Florida

      I have used zinc for my colds and I believe in it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Susan - I'm a believer too!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Hmmm....Interesting info.

      I have tried that 'Zicam' stuff...and zinc is the principal ingredient. I can't say it helped me much. Maybe, a little, if taken at the first signs..but not once into the cold. But I've not tried the daily supplements.

      I recall an adage from my parent's day that rings true for me: "A cold will last 7 days if you treat it and a week if you don't."

      I hate catching colds, and don't very often...but when I do, it almost always goes into bronchitis, and I cough myself inside-out for a month and a half. The only remedy that kicks that in the slats is cough syrup with codeine.!! :-( Which I cannot take at night..because it affects me the opposite of most folks--it's like taking an energy shot & I lie away all night!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      That is quite funny about what people in your parents' day used to say! LOL!! Stay healthy and wise. :) Best, Steph

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Being in a big family....this time of the year.....snowing one day.....89 degrees 5 days later....we get lots of colds....we will be trying the zinc supplements you recommend...thanks for sharing

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Cogerson, I agree - we have 4 kids and any kind of illness goes straight through the entire family quickly. Fortunately, we take vitamins and other supplements to stay healthy. Best, Steph

    • profile image

      SJerZGirl 6 years ago

      I plan to have zinc on hand when I can get some because we all got colds this year and they hit my two adult kids the hardest, almost like the flu. I had heard about zinc, but just wasn't able to afford any when we needed it. I'll be sure to get some while we're not sick to have it already on hand.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi SJerZGirl - I swear that taking vitamins and other supplements has kept me healthy all winter long this year. Hope you find that it works for you too! Cheers, Steph

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      Nice but i never like taking a lot of one thing. I think it throws us out of balance and causes other problems

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Peter - you can definitely take too much of a good thing if you aren't careful, whether vitamins, minerals or even healthy food. Its all about moderation.

    • ammara aseer profile image

      ammara aseer 6 years ago

      very good article..nice job stephhicks!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 6 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Not so much a cure as an effective and helpful treatment. Nice hub.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Brian, zinc may not be effective as 100% preventive, so in that regard, its not a cure. But perhaps we are one step closer? Cheers, Steph

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 6 years ago from Isle of Man

      A very well written hub and you present all your information clearly and in a way that anyone would find interesting. However you know my take on illness and disease but we are all entitled to our own opinion. Thank you.

    • daffodil2010 profile image

      daffodil2010 6 years ago

      useful hub. i should use zinc tablets every day. thanks for informing us.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Taking zinc and vitamin D seem to do the trick in avoiding colds and the flu for me.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi ktrapp, I had my first cold of the season last week and really only felt bad for 1-2 days. Took a lot of zinc and vitamin C and back in the game! Stay healthy! Best, Steph

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