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Zinc cold medicines touted as homeopathic remedies might not live up to their claims.

Popular products such as ZICAM or COLD-EEZE are zinc cold remedy products that claim to shorten the common cold, “by almost half.” One of the main issues at hand though, according to Worst Pills, is that these homeopathic remedies have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their safety and effectiveness. In fact, some studies have found if at all, the product can shorten the duration of a cold by a day which is hardly ‘by almost half.’ Some studies are accused of being biased and fail to show any effectiveness.

Of importance seems to be the dosage and type of zinc being use. Different types of zinc salt release biologically active zinc into the mouth in different qualities and some doses have zero effect. Zinc usage is also not without risk, particularly if used long-term.

Zinc Studies

Dr. George Eby, a Texas researcher, nearly thirty years ago, found that zinc ions prevent some viruses from multiplying when observed in a lab. Several studies were to follow. Eleven of his trials found that zinc may be helpful but seven showed no benefits.

Zinc Side Effects

The amount of zinc necessary to affect a cold in studies was 75 mg or more a day, which is higher than the recommended allowance per day for zinc which is 8 mg per day for women and 11 mg for men. Taken short term, high doses can lead to mouth irritation, nausea, vomiting and more. Taken for a longer period of time can lead to liver failure in some cases, kidney problems and more. It is unknown how long these supplements can be taken before serious health effects manifest.

For generally healthy people, a week worth of zinc cold medicine may lead to an upset stomach but not a serious condition. However, long term use can lead to serious health consequences. One zinc product in general can do harm, even short-term and that is nose gels and swabs. They were pulled from the market when the agency warned the manufacturer to discontinue selling them. The warning was first issued in 2009 after it received 130 reports of users losing their sense of smell, sometimes permanently after use.

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