Zicam  Caution
February 15, 2006

Subject:  Zicam, the over the counter remedy for cold symptoms, can cause loss of taste.

Over the last few months a number of people have asked my opinion of Zicam, especially after I wrote about my favorite treatments for colds and flu.  I have always been a little hesitant to recommend Zicam simply because their label is so misleading.  Zicam claims to be a homeopathic preparation. Technically it may be homeopathic but it is a real stretch to see it so and that has always made me suspicious of the other claims made by the manufacturer. Recent revelations and law suits cast more suspicion on the product.

Zicam claims to be homeopathic Zincum gluconicum in 1 x potency.  What this means in English is that it is a 10% solution of zinc gluconate.  Typically homeopathic remedies are sold in much more dilute solutions.  For example a 6 x potency is one part in a million of the original substance.  A 12 x potency is one part in a billion.  A 30 x potency is so dilute that there isn't even a molecule of the original substance left.  This is why homeopathic medicines are considered safe; there is little or nothing left to cause harm.  In the case of Zicam, by calling it homeopathic and adopting the homeopathic terminology, the manufacturer found a way to market a 10% solution of zinc gluconate without FDA oversight.

In other words Zicam is just an intranasal zinc solution. Intranasal zinc has been known to destroy the ability to smell in both animals and people. In the 1930s, zinc compounds were used in attempts to prevent polio. About 10% of the people who received the zinc compounds lost their sense of smell permanently.  For years there had been no attempt to use intranasal zinc in humans. However because Zincam products fall under the homeopathic provision of FDA laws, these products are not required to get FDA approval before they were put on the market.

By the way loss of smell is called anosmia.

It is not even clear that these products are useful for treating colds. While two placebo-controlled trials found that intranasal zinc gluconate modestly shortened the duration of cold symptoms two other placebo-controlled studies found intranasal zinc to be of no benefit.

In the most rigorously controlled of these studies, intranasal zinc gluconate did not affect the severity or duration of cold symptoms in volunteers inoculated with rhinovirus, a common cause of colds. These studies did find evidence of anosmia and warned about the condition. The reports stated that since zinc-associated anosmia may be irreversible.

Earlier this month the manufacturers of Zicam agreed to pay $12 million dollars to settle a class action law suit brought by 340 consumers who had lost their ability to smell after using Zicam products.  The company which made $46 million dollars in the first 9 months of 2005 does not plan to take their products off the market.  Even with settling the lawsuits the products are still very profitable.

Some people have told me they find Zicam an effective aid in treating their symptoms.  Yet if we heed Hippocrates' injunction to, First, Do no harm, we must consider Zicam an unacceptable risk and suggest not using it..

Help support natural medicine in Colorado.  Colorado does not currently regulate the practice of naturopathic medicine.  Our state professional association, the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians plans to introduce a bill into the Colorado Legislature.  Please put your name on our association's mailing list. You will be kept informed of our legislative activity and we will be easily able to let you know when and to whom to write letters in support of our legislation.  To sign up go to http://capwiz.com/coanp/mlm/signup/

We hope you find the information in these newsletters useful, informative and hopefully entertaining. If you want your name removed simply leave a message at the office (303-337-4884) or go to the website: denvernaturopathic.com and unsubscribe, or reply with the message "REMOVE" in the subject line.  If on the other hand you want to be added to the mailing list follow the prior instructions but subscribe. 
We are posting most of these newsletters in our 'NEWS' section of the website.  The website versions contain more complete references and often abstracts of the references quoted and links to the full text of many of the journal articles mentioned. You don't have to be a patient to sign up and we encourage you to get your friends on our mailing list so you don't have to keep forwarding the newsletters that you find interesting.

Ask the Doctor:
What's the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?

[click here for the answer]

Submit your question here.


Enter your email address and recieve Free newsletters from our clinic.