Does Zicam work for colds?

Zicam is a homeopathic medicine. It is thought to shorten the common cold and make it less severe. Zicam products are sold over-the-counter (OTC).

Zinc is the active ingredient in oral (oral) Zicam products. There is some evidence that zinc can shorten the duration of a cold.

But the original zinc nasal spray product was recalled due to side effects. Active ingredients in nasal Zicam products are now plant-based.

This article discusses oral and nasal Zicam products, who can use them safely, and how to use them.

Zinc-Based Oral Products

Zicam oral products include:

  • Zicam RapidMelts
  • medicinal fruit drops
  • Wild Cherry Lozenges
  • oral spray
  • Ultra Crystal

Two forms of zinc are their active ingredients.the label says Zinc acetate and Zinc gluconate. These are the homeopathic names for zinc acetate and zinc gluconate.

Most colds are caused by Rhinovirus. These viruses bind to cells in the nasal cavity. Zinc ions are thought to stop the virus from doing so.

Zinc can help you recover faster if you take it at the start of a cold. A 2017 study review showed that zinc acetate and zinc gluconate lozenges reduced the duration of a cold by an average of 33%.

Lozenges and other oral forms of Zicam target viruses in the mouth and throat. It should be taken as soon as symptoms appear.

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When taken by mouth, zinc is considered safe if not overused. However, it can cause nausea and bad breath.


Oral zinc can prevent the virus from binding to cells in the nasal cavity. Studies have shown that it can reduce the duration of the cold by about a third if taken early.

Homeopathic nasal products

Current Zicam nasal product ingredients are plant based. They are found in many homeopathic remedies for allergy and cold symptoms.

Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like heals like”. This means using a highly diluted version of what caused the symptom to cure the symptom. Nasal Zicam products follow this approach.

The active ingredients listed are highly diluted extracts of three plants long used in traditional medicine in Mexico, Central and South America:

  • silver carp
  • loofah
  • Sabadilla

Although common in homeopathy, there is little research to support their use for colds.

Inactive ingredients include essential oils:

  • Eucalyptus Oil (from Eucalyptus)
  • Eugenol (from clove oil)
  • Menthol (from Peppermint)

Zicam still labels its nasal products as “clinically proven.” But the site only provides links to clinical studies of zinc-based products.

Recall of Zinc-Containing Nasal Zicam

For nasal Zicam options using zinc as the active ingredient. But research suggests that using zinc in the nasal passages may cause permanent side effects. This includes loss of smell.

In June 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against the use of Zicam nasal spray or gel swabs. The manufacturer subsequently recalled the products.

The new zinc-free nasal Zicam formula was introduced in 2015 and is still on sale.

How Homeopathy Works


Zinc is no longer used in Nasal Zicam products due to potential permanent side effects. The reformulated product is homeopathic and plant-based.

who can use it

The manufacturer says Zicam is suitable for adults and children 12 years and older. Young children should only use these products on the advice of a healthcare provider.

The manufacturer did not state what risk Zicam might pose to young children.

In general, you should consult your healthcare provider before use any Homeopathic products. These products are not strictly regulated by the FDA.

Due to a lack of safety research, Zicam products should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

natural common cold remedy


Zicam products are considered safe for adults and children over the age of 12. They may not be safe for young children or during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

how to use it

Oral and nasal preparations have different directions for use.

Oral preparation

  • These can be taken every three hours.
  • The label says not to take on an empty stomach.
  • But you should not eat or drink anything within 15 minutes of use.
  • Avoid citrus foods or beverages for at least 30 minutes after use.

nasal preparation

Zicam Cold Remedy comes in the form of a nasal spray or nasal swab.

  • Pump the gel-based spray into each nostril.
  • Then gently massage into the nasal tissue (from the outside) for five seconds.
  • Wipe each nostril with a nasal swab, then massage (from the outside) for five seconds.

Both nasal products can be used every four hours until symptoms resolve.


Oral zinc in Zicam products might shorten the duration of a cold. Zinc is not used in nasal products due to side effects. Zicam nasal products are now plant based. Research does not support their effectiveness.

Zicam is marketed to adults and children over the age of 12. Young children should not take them. They may not be safe for your baby if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

VigorTip words

Zicam products are just one option for relieving cold symptoms. If symptoms do not resolve quickly, consult your healthcare provider.

Remember, preventing a cold is better than treating it. Wash your hands often, avoid getting sick, and if you develop symptoms, stay home to prevent transmission.

When to seek help for your cold