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Can Zinc Really Cure a Cold? What to Know About the Supplement

A woman blows her nose on the couch
Prostock-studio/Shutterstock.com

Everyone has a cold remedy they swear by, whether it’s chicken noodle soup, a bedroom humidifier, or over-the-counter medication. Zinc supplements have long been advertised as ways to help you quickly get over the sniffles, but do they really do anything? Here’s what you need to know about the supplement and whether or not you should reach for it the next time you catch a cold.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a mineral found in food like oysters, poultry, red meat, and beans. Zinc helps the body with wound healing, immune function, and cell growth. It’s also important for fertility in both men and women.

Low zinc levels can lead to many health issues, including male infertility, HIV, depression, and type 2 diabetes. Symptoms of a zinc deficiency can include loss of appetite, reduced sense of taste and smell, hair loss, irritability, diarrhea, and nausea.

Your body does not produce zinc on its own, so you need to get it from either your diet or supplements. Getting zinc from your diet is the best option, but it can be beneficial to take a supplement if you are not able to get enough through food alone. It is recommended that men get 11 milligrams of zinc per day and women get eight milligrams per day.

Can Zinc Cure a Cold?

Unfortunately, if there was a cure for the common cold out there, we would have heard of it by now. That being said, there is evidence to suggest that taking a zinc supplement can help you get over your cold more quickly.

A 2011 meta-analysis found that taking a zinc supplement within the first day of cold symptoms can shorten the duration of your cold and the severity of your symptoms. Another more recent study found similar results, adding that taking a zinc supplement may reduce your likelihood of catching a cold in the first place.

While zinc won’t cure your cold, there is a decent amount of evidence to suggest that taking a zinc supplement as soon as you feel cold symptoms come on may help you get over your cold more quickly. Zinc supplements in the form of lozenges or syrups may be the most helpful as they can provide relief for common cold symptoms like a sore throat and coughing.

Important Information About Taking Supplements

Even though zinc is very important for the body, it can cause negative side effects when taken in excess. Symptoms of ingesting too much zinc can include vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, cramps, headaches, and poor immune health.

You should always check with your doctor before taking a new supplement, especially if you have any health conditions or are currently taking any medications. They can help you determine which supplement to take and how to make sure you don’t take too much.

The Best Zinc Supplements

Someone pours zinc tablets into their hand
StepanPopov/Shutterstock.com

While it is recommended that adults don’t need more than 11 milligrams of zinc per day, some studies have found that taking higher dosages during a short time frame to fight a cold may be safe. Still, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any zinc supplements to ensure that you can safely use them and to figure out which dosage is right for you.

Best Overall: Pure Encapsulations Zinc 30

A white bottle of zinc
Pure Encapsulations

Pure Encapsulations Zinc 30 is a top-quality zinc supplement that helps support the body’s natural defense system, and aids in immune system function, wound healing, and the absorption of B vitamins. Created by a team of nutritional experts who source only the finest ingredients for the supplements, each batch is carefully manufactured and tested to ensure potency and purity.

In addition to being of the highest quality, this product is also free from wheat, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts, gluten, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, and unnecessary binders.

Pure Encapsulations Zinc 30

A high-quality supplement with a high dosage.

Best Low Dosage: Mary Ruth’s Ionic Zinc for Kids & Adults

A bottle of zinc drops and several bottles of other supplements
MaryRuth Organics

If you’re concerned about taking more than the recommended daily dosage of zinc, Mary Ruth’s Ionic Zinc for Kids & Adults is a great option. It contains just over 11 milligrams of zinc in one serving, so you won’t have to worry about taking too much.

This liquid supplement is perfect for both adults and children who have a hard time taking pills or capsules. This also makes it easy to control your dosage. Additionally, this supplement contains zinc in ionic form, which may help your body absorb it more easily.

Mary Ruth's Ionic Zinc for Kids & Adults

Liquid drops that let you control your dosage.

Best Chewable: Zicam Daily Immune Support

A bottle of zinc gummies
Zicam

If chewable vitamins are more your style, Zicam Daily Immune Support Gummies are hard to beat. In addition to 11 milligrams of zinc, each serving of gummies provides 100% of your daily recommended value of vitamin C and vitamin D to work even harder to boost your immune system.

These delicious citrus strawberry gummies are naturally flavored and tasty enough that you’ll never forget to take them. Have some in your pantry in preparation for the upcoming cold and flu season.

Zicam Daily Immune Support

Tasty gummies that provide 100% of your daily recommended dosage of zinc.

Best Lozenge: Nature’s Way Organic Sambucus Lozenge

Three bags of throat lozenges
Nature’s Way

Lozenges (or cough drops) are helpful when you feel cold symptoms like a scratchy throat coming on. Made with a triple-action blend of certified organic black elderberry extract, five milligrams of zinc, and 100% of your daily value of vitamin C, Nature’s Way Organic Sambucus Lozenges are sure to give your immune system the support it needs.

These cough drops actually taste good too, so you won’t mind popping one in your mouth when you’re feeling under the weather. Toss them in your bag or keep them at your desk for immune support whenever you need it.


Everyone’s always on the hunt for the best cold remedy. Here’s what you need to know about zinc, if it really helps, and some supplements to try if you want to give it a shot when your immune system is suffering.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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