Zinc Shortens Cold Duration

cold-2Feel a cold coming on? Immediately taking zinc lozenges for a couple of days will lessen the severity and shorten the duration.

Get ready for the cold season. Stock up on zinc lozenges (a pill that you let dissolve in your mouth, like hard candy). Colds last 7-10 days. They are caused by a family of viruses that frequently mutate. However, zinc lozenges, if taken for a couple of days at the onset of the cold, can shorten it one to three days and significantly lessen its severity.

Zinc lozenges will not prevent a cold, so they are not something that should be taken all the time. They are also ineffective after the first couple of days.

I (Davis) regularly do this. It seems to work pretty well for me. Besides reducing the duration a day or two, the symptoms seem to be markedly reduced.

How do zinc lozenges work.?

The lozenges do not contain pure zinc, but rather zinc bound to some other molecules. When they dissolve, they come into direct contact with the cold viruses that are busily setting up shop in the mouth and throat. The zinc atoms dissociate from the compound and attach directly to the virus. This cripples the virus, thus inhibiting its ability to “go viral.” The exact mechanism is not known, but it is thought that zinc binds to the receptors that would normally bind to our own cells, thus making the virus less effective.

Thus, most of the action works by direct contact. Zinc that gets into the system and circulates in the blood will have little effect.

Though most any zinc compound might work, the zinc gluconate is preferred and the one used in most studies.


Rule 1. Take the lozenges immediately, but only for the first two days.

Rule 2. Take a lozenge, not a tablet. Let it dissolve as slowly as possible. (If you can’t find lozenges, it would be OK to let a normal tablet, meant to be swallowed, dissolve in the mouth. It will probably taste awful.)

Rule 3. Strive for the maximum dose per the manufacturers instructions. However, these zinc lozenges frequently upset the stomach. In this case, they should be discontinued.

Rule 4. Again, take the lozenges only a couple of days. Longer-term use can have unpredictable consequences, and there is no benefit after the first couple of days. Long-term supplementation of anything is almost always bad.

Homeopathic Zinc Lozenge


Caution: Contains (almost) no Zinc

Homeopathy is a scam. Homeopathic drugs and compounds are usually diluted down to practically nothing. Walgreens sells Zinc gluconate lozenges (pictured), seemingly just what we want. The word homeopathic, though, gives it away. (In your mind, substitute the word “useless” or “placebo” any time you see homeopathic.) Under active ingredients, you will see something like Zinc Gluconate 2X. Of course, you expected to see something like Zinc Gluconate 10 mg. The 2X refers to the dilution. 1X is 10:1, 2X is 100:1, and so on. But 100:1 of what? They don’t say. Goofy? Yes. But that’s homeopathic medicine.

The FDA loves to put warnings on drugs. Why they give homeopathy a free pass in unknown. Perhaps the fact that homeopathy medicine usually has no detectable active ingredients means it is very unlikely to do any direct harm.

Cold-Eeze is another widely marketed zinc gluconate cold remedy that is in the homeopathic category. Caveat emptor: read that label.

What about other viruses?

Unfortunately, this isn’t looking particularly good. The viral disease we would like some help with is influenza. So far, zinc seems to have no effect.

Some Science

There is a fair amount of research on this topic. A well done article, found here, compared zinc lozenges to placebos and concluded this (edited for clarity):

Results: The time for the cold to completely go away was significantly shorter in the zinc group than in the placebo group. Those taking zinc were done with their cold, on average, in four and a half days versus seven and a half days for those not taking zinc. The zinc group had significantly fewer days with coughing: two, versus four and a half. Headache was reported at two days versus three, nasal drainage: four days versus seven, and sore throat: one day versus three.

This is a lot of benefit. This research was done at the Cleveland Clinic. Apparently if an employee showed up for work with a cold, he or she was drafted into this study. Half got zinc gluconate, and the other half placebo. Twenty percent of the participants reported nausea.

The dose is of interest here, The lozenges contained 13.3 mg of zinc gluconate and were taken every two hours while awake. This may be a good dose to follow. It is the maximum dose most manufactures state.

Other organizations have also reported positive results.



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