Uses of Zinc
Zinc is a naturally occurring, essential mineral that is required in small amounts for health in a variety of bodily processes.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates the effectiveness of natural substances based on scientific evidence, dividing current knowledge into 7 categories ranging from “effective” to “insufficient evidence to rate.” The Database has assigned ZINC the following ratings:
- Zinc deficiency is a risk for people with severe diarrhea and also disorders in which the colon is unable to digest food properly, liver cirrhosis, and alcoholism. It may also occur after major surgery or during long-term use of a feeding-tube. Oral and intravenous (IV) supplements help raise levels in those who are deficient, but regular supplements are not recommended.
Likely effective for…
- Zinc lowers the duration and severity of diarrhea in malnourished or zinc-deficient children when given orally. When supplementing undernourished women throughout pregnancy and for one month after delivery helps lowers diarrhea in babies in their first year.
- Wilson disease (an inherited disorder in which copper accumulates in the organs): oral administration of zinc decreases copper absorption and increases copper release thus it helps to correct the imbalance caused by this disease.
Possibly effective for…
Diseases and conditions A – C:
- Acne. People suffering from acne may have lower blood and skin levels of zinc, though it’s unclear if supplements are more effective than standard acne medications such as tetracycline or minocycline. Topical ointments containing the mineral do not appear to treat acne unless used alongside the antibiotic erythromycin.
- Oral supplements and acrodermatitis enteropathica (a metabolic disorder involving zinc malabsorption) have subsequently helped in alleviating the symptoms.
- Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is an eye disease that causes vision loss in older adults. Those taking supplements and antioxidant vitamins have seen that taking zinc helps slow or prevent age-related vision loss in those people who are at risk.
- Anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder) can be supported with oral supplements may help induce weight gain and improve depression symptoms in teens and adults with anorexia.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Evidence has shown that children with ADHD have lower blood zinc levels that may prevent them from reacting correctly to ADHD medications provided by their doctors (stimulants) therefore Oral vitamins mixed with medication can assist some children with ADHD with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and socializing challenges.
- Bad breath. Chewing gum, sucking on candy, or using a zinc-containing mouth rinse can help reduce bad breath.
- Burns. Intravenous (IV) injections of zinc and other minerals appears to improve the healing of the burns. Zinc by itself may also reduce recovery time for severe burns.
- Colorectal adenoma (non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum). Taking an oral supplement containing zinc, selenium, vitamin A2, vitamin C, and vitamin E until 5 years may subsequently reduce the risk of recurrent large-bowel tumors by about 40%.
- Common cold.
Diseases and conditions D – O:
- Depression. Early research suggests low zinc levels are associated with risk of depression. Taking supplements in addition to antidepressants may help people with major depression who do not respond to conventional medications alone.
- Diabetes. Taking supplements appears to reduce blood sugar, increase insulin levels, improve insulin use by the body, decrease blood cholesterol. and lower weight in those with type 2 diabetes. Zinc supplements may also help to lower blood sugar in women who develop diabetes during pregnancy.
- Diaper rash. Oral zinc gluconate supplements or the use of a comparable paste furthermore appear to expedite diaper rash healing in newborns.
- Gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease). Using toothpaste containing zinc may furthermore prevent plaque and gingivitis and may even reduce existing plaque.
- Herpes labialis (Cold sores). Applying zinc sulfate or zinc oxide to the skin seems to reduce the duration and severity of oral and genital herpes, but may not be effective for recurrent infections.
- Hypogeusia (reduced ability to taste). Oral supplements may aid those with a reduced ability to taste foods due to various conditions.
- Leishmania lesions (skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites). Zinc sulfate given orally or intravenously (IV) injected into lesions helps the healing of leishmaniasis and also its associated skin infection.
- Leprosy. Oral supplements combined with anti-leprosy drugs have appeared to subsequently help with disease treatment.
- Muscle cramps. Oral supplements may help in the treatment of muscle cramps in people who have cirrhosis and/or zinc deficiency.
- Osteoporosis (weak/brittle bones). Low zinc-intake may be associated with lower bone mass. Taking supplements in addition to copper, manganese, and calcium may decrease bone loss in women after menopause.
Diseases and conditions P – W:
- Pneumonia. Supplements may help PREVENT pneumonia in undernourished children.
- Preterm birth. Oral supplements taken during pregnancy appear to reduce the risk of preterm delivery (but not stillbirth, miscarriage, or infant death).
- Pharyngitis (sore throat). Taking a lozenge prior to surgery involving a tube inserted into the windpipe appears to reduce the chance of a sore throat post-procedure.
- Applying a paste and/or increasing zinc intake tends to promote healing of pressure ulcers (bedsores) in the elderly and hospitalized patients.
- Shigellosis (illness from a Shigella bacteria infection). In addition to conventional treatments, taking a multivitamin syrup containing zinc may help reduce recovery time. (It may also decrease diarrhea in undernourished children with food poisoning).
- Sickle cell disease. Oral supplements seem to reduce symptoms of and complications due to sickle cell disease, particularly in those already deficient in the mineral.
- Stomach ulcers. Oral zinc acexamate (not available in the U.S.) seems to help treatment and prevent peptic ulcers.
- Venous leg ulcer (leg sores due to weak circulation). Taking zinc sulfate orally or applying a similar paste to leg ulcers may reduce recovery time, especially for those already deficient in the mineral.
- Vitamin A deficiency. Oral zinc and vitamin A supplements together appear to improve vitamin A levels in undernourished children more effectively than vitamin A.
- Warts. Topical zinc sulfate solution and oral supplements appear to help cure certain types of warts.
Possibly ineffective for…
- Alopecia areata (patchy hair loss) and most studies indicate that zinc and biotin taken together are not beneficial for your hair loss.
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema) with oral supplements do not appear to improve skin redness or itching in children with eczema.
- Cataracts. Oral supplements combined with antioxidant vitamins do not appear to aid in the treatment or prevention of cataracts.
- Cystic fibrosis. Zinc sulfate does not appear to improve lung function in children or adolescents, though it may reduce the need for antibiotics.
- Flu (influenza). Oral supplement are unlikely to improve immune function against the flu virus.
- HIV/AIDS. Supplements alongside antiretroviral therapy does not improve immune function or reduce death in adults or children with HIV.
- Involuntary weight loss related to HIV/AIDS. Oral supplements and vitamins may not seem to improve AIDS diarrhea-wasting syndrome.
- Pregnancy complications related to HIV/AIDS. Oral supplement during pregnancy neither reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the infant nor prevent infant death or maternal wasting.
- Infant development. Though supplements given during pregnancy may increase the growth of a child during the first year of life, giving supplements directly to zinc-deficient children does not improve their mental or motor development.
- Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD (long-term swelling in the digestive tract). Oral supplements do not seem to treat IBD.
- Joint swelling (inflammation) in people with psoriasis. Oral supplements, alone or with painkillers, have no effect on the progression of psoriatic arthritis.
- Low iron levels in women who are pregnant. Oral supplements do not seem to improve iron levels in women taking iron and folic acid.
- Otitis media (ear infection). Supplements do not seem to prevent ear infections in children.
- Pre-eclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized in part by high blood pressure). Supplements do not seem to reduce the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Prostate cancer. There does not appear to be a link between taking zinc the risk of getting prostate cancer.
- Psoriasis (scaly, itchy skin). Oral supplements dont seem to help in the treatment of psoriasis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Oral supplements do not seem to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rosacea (a skin condition that produces swollen red patches on the face). Taking zinc orally does not help to improve the quality of life or symptoms that is associated with rosacea.
- Sexual issues that prevent a person from feeling satisfied during sexual activity. Supplements do not help men who have sexual dysfunction as a result of kidney disease.
- Oral supplements do not treat ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
- Upper airway infection. Oral supplement do not decrease the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
Likely ineffective for…
- Malaria. Oral supplements do not prevent or treat malaria in undernourished children in developing countries, though they may reduce the risk of high fevers in children with malaria.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…
Diseases and conditions A – D:
- Liver disorder in those who drink alcohol. Zinc sulfate dietary supplements might also additionally enhance liver characteristic in the ones that are tormented by alcohol-associated liver diseases.
- Alzheimer’s disease. According to preliminary study, zinc supplementation may decrease the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
- Arsenic poisoning. According to early research, combining zinc and spirulina can help those suffering from long-term arsenic poisoning thereby reduce their symptoms and arsenic levels.
- Asthma. Zinc intake does not appear to affect the likelihood of childhood asthma.
- Beta-thalassemia (a blood disorder that reduces blood hemoglobin levels). Taking zinc sulfate while undergoing blood transfusions seems to increase growth in children with beta-thalassemia when compared to blood transfusions alone.
- Brain tumor. Zinc intake reduce the risk of developing brain cancer.
- Bronchiolitis [swelling (inflammation) of small airways in the lung]. Supplements given while in the hospital might reduce recovery time.
- Cancer of the esophagus. Low zinc intake may be associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
- Canker sores. Zinc sulfate may improve canker sores and prevent their reappearance.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (a lung disease that makes breathing difficult).According to preliminary research, taking daily supplements after recovering from COPD-related infections lowers the risk of recurrence.
- Colon or rectal cancer. Increased zinc intake may reduce risk of colorectal cancer by 17-20%.
- Dementia (diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that interfere with thinking). Research show that zinc sulfate improves behavior and social abilities in memory loss patients.
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain in people with diabetes). Zinc sulfate may improve nerve function and reduce blood sugar in people suffering from diabetic neuropathy.
- Diarrhea in people with HIV/AIDS. Long-term supplements may help prevent diarrhea in adults and children with HIV, especially in those who are zinc-deficient.
- Down syndrome. Supplements may reduce infections in people with Down syndrome who are zinc-deficient or have weakened immune systems.
Diseases and conditions E – M:
- Epilepsy (seizure disorder). Zinc might also additionally lessen the incidence of seizures arise in kids who do now no longer responding properly to different treatments.
- Fecal incontinence (loss of bowel movement control). Applying an ointment containing zinc and aluminum to the anus may improve symptoms in women suffering from fecal incontinence.
- Fatigue in cancer patients. Zinc does not reduce fatigue or improve quality of life in colorectal cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
- Head and neck cancer. Zinc supplements do not improve survival rates or reduce cancer spread of cancer in people with head and neck cancer.
- Heart attack. Taking zinc twice daily for 9 months may increase the efficacy of heart beats/movements in those who have previously suffered a heart attack.
- Heart disease. Taking zinc may reduce cholesterol (though not triglycerides) in people whose arteries are clogged.
- Hepatic encephalopathy (reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease). Supplements may slightly improve mental function in people with hepatic encephalopathy, but do not appear to severity or recurrence.
- Infants with a low birth weight [less than 2500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces)]. Taking supplement during pregnancy does not seem to reduce the risk of low-birth-weight a newborn. However, giving zinc to underweight infants seems to prevent complications and decrease the risk of deaths.
- Infection of the intestines by parasites. Zinc, either alone or with vitamin A, may help treat some parasite infections in children in developing countries.
- Itching. Early research suggests that supplementation may reduce itching due to dialysis treatment.
- Leukemia (cancer of the white blood cells). Oral supplements may improve weight gain and reduce infection rates in children and adolescents with leukemia.
- Melasma (dark skin patches on the face). Research suggests that daily applying a zinc solution on affected skin is less effective than conventional treatments.
Diseases and conditions N – O:
- Nasopharyngeal cancer (cancer of the upper part of the throat behind the nose). Taking zinc may improve survival rates.
- Neonatal jaundice (yellowing of the skin in infants). Early research suggests that supplementation does not improve jaundice in newborns.
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer that starts in white blood cells). Zinc supplementation may decrease the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Neurological trauma (injury to the brain, spine, or nerves). Taking zinc immediately after a head trauma may improve recovery rate.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD (anxiety characterized by repetitive thoughts and behaviors). Taking zinc twice daily along with the drug fluoxetine may reduce OCD symptoms slightly more than fluoxetine alone.
- Opportunistic infections in people with HIV/AIDS. Early evidence suggests that oral supplements along with the drug zidovudine may reduce infections due to a weakened immune system.
- Oral mucositis [swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth]. Adults undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments may benefit from taking zinc sulfate orally to help avoid ulcers and swelling in their mouths.
Diseases and conditions O – Z:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS (a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts). Supplementation may help prevent hair loss (head) and hair growth (face) in women with PCOS who are also taking metformin.
- Pilonidal surgery. Supplementation may reduce recovery time from surgery used to treat an abnormal skin growth located at the tailbone.
- Seizures. Supplementation may prevent further febrile seizures in children who have already experienced one.
- Sepsis (blood infection). Zinc along with antibiotics may protect the brains of septic newborns.
- Stomach cancer. Increased zinc intake does not decrease risk of stomach cancer.
- Swelling (inflammation) of the prostate due to infection. Zinc may help relieve pain in some people with this condition, but does not appear to increase the effectiveness of the drug prazosin.
- Tooth plaque. Early evidence suggests that using a toothpaste containing zinc reduces plaque buildup.
- Urinary tract infections or UTIs (infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra). Zinc supplementation may help improve the symptoms of bladder infections in children who are already taking antibiotics.
- Wound healing. Early research suggests that applying a zinc solution twice daily improves wound healing, though applying a zinc-containing insulin (Humulin by Eli Lilly and Company) seems to work even better.
- Zinc supplementation may increase sperm count, testosterone levels, and pregnancy rates in infertile men who have low testosterone levels. It may also improve sperm shape in men with grade III varicocele (moderate enlargement of a vein in the scrotum).
Side Effects Of Zinc
- When taken orally: LIKELY SAFE for most adults when no more than 40mg/day is taken orally. Regularly supplementation should only be undertaken at the advice of a healthcare professional. Zinc might cause diarrhea, a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, kidney and stomach damage, and other side effects. Zinc is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken orally in doses greater than 40 mg/day, especially if taken only for a short period of time. High doses, however, may decrease how much copper the body absorbs, which in turn may cause anemia. Consequently, taking large amounts of zinc above recommended amounts is LIKELY UNSAFE. Doing so may result in fever, coughing, stomach pain, fatigue, and more. Exceeding 100 mg/day or taking supplements for 10-plus years doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer. Furthermore, consuming large amounts of multivitamins and separate zinc supplements may increase risk of death from prostate cancer. Consuming 450-plus mg/day may have adverse effects on blood iron. A single dose of 10-30 grams can be fatal.
- When applied topically: LIKELY SAFE for most adults when applied topically, though may cause burning, stinging, itching, and tingling if used on broken skin.
- When inhaled: POSSIBLY UNSAFE when inhaled through the nose, which may cause permanent loss of smell. Avoid using nasal sprays containing zinc.
Warnings & Precautions
- Infants and children: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE when taken orally in recommended amounts.
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE when taken at the recommended daily amount (RDA). High doses are POSSIBLY UNSAFE for breast-feeding women and LIKELY UNSAFE for pregnant women. Pregnant women over 18 should not take more than 40 mg/day; this amount decreases to 34 mg/day for pregnant women aged 14-18. Breast-feeding women over 18 should limit intake to no more than 40 mg/day; maximum intake decreases to 34 mg/day in breast-feeding women aged 14-18.
- Alcoholism: Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption may lead to poor absorption of zinc.
- Diabetes: High doses can lower blood sugar in those with diabetes. Diabetics should use zinc products with caution.
- Hemodialysis: Hemodialysis treatments increase risk of zinc deficiency.
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS: Zinc use may hasten death for those with HIV/AIDs.
- Syndromes in which the body does not properly absorb nutrients: Zinc deficiency may occur in people with malabsorption syndromes.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): People with RA tend to struggle to absorb adequate amounts of zinc.
- Vegetarianism: Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower zinc absorption. However, the absorption may improve over time as the body adapts.
Dosage of Zinc
The following dosages have been studied in scientific research.
The following are the zinc RDA amounts: Adults in developed countries usually meet these recommendations through naturally occurring elemental zinc and zinc salts in their food. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of zinc for all adults aged 19 and up is 40 mg/day (unless under medical supervision).
- Zinc deficiency, mild deficiency, taking 2-3 times the RDA of zinc until 6 months is suggested. For moderate to severe deficiency, taking 4-5 times the RDA until 6 months is recommended.
- For diarrhea, pregnant women have supplemented with 15 mg/day of zinc (sometimes along with 60 mg of iron and 250 mcg of folic acid) from 10-24 weeks into pregnancy through 1 month after giving birth to help prevent diarrhea in their infants.
- Wilson disease (an inherited disorder that causes copper build-up in organs), 25-50 mg of zinc acetate (manufactured as Galzin in the U.S. and Wilzin in Europe), taken 3-5 times per day, is recommended by the FDA.
- For Acne, 30-150 mg/day.
- Acrodermatitis enteropathica (a zinc deficiency disorder), a lifetime regimen of supplementing with 2-3 mg of elemental zinc per kg of body weight is recommended.
- Age-related macular degeneration or AMD (eye disease leading to vision loss in older adults), 5 years of daily supplementation with 80 mg of elemental zinc, 2 mg of copper, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 400 IU of vitamin E has been beneficial for some.
- Anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder), take 14-50 mg/day.
- For the common cold, dissolve 1 zinc gluconate or acetate lozenge (containing anywhere from 4.5 to 24 mg elemental zinc) in the mouth every two hours as necessary to combat cold symptoms.
- For depression, taking 25 mg/day alongside antidepressant medications until 12 weeks has been beneficial for some.
Additional Adults – Oral Consumption things to note
- Type 2 diabetes, take 25 mg of zinc gluconate twice daily until 8 weeks.
- For diabetes in pregnant women, take 30 mg/day of zinc gluconate until 6 weeks.
- For hypogeusia (reduced ability to taste hypogeusia), take 140-450 mg of zinc gluconate (divided into several doses) daily for up to 4 months. Alternatively, take 25 mg/day of elemental zinc until 6 weeks. [The medication polaprezinc (Promac, Zeria Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd) is also available.]
- If a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions), take 2.5-10 mg of zinc sulfate per kg body weight (divided into several doses) daily for 45 days.
- For Muscle cramps, take 220 mg twice daily for 12 weeks.
- With Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones), supplementation with 15 mg of zinc, 5 mg of manganese, 1000 mg of calcium, and 2.5 mg of copper has been beneficial for some.
- With Stomach ulcers, take 300-900 mg of zinc acexamate (divided into up to 3 doses) daily for up to 1 year. Alternatively you can take 220 mg of sulfate three times per day for 3-6 weeks.
- For pressure ulcers (bedsores), supplement a standard hospital diet with 9 g of arginine, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 30 mg of zinc for 3 weeks.
- For sickle cell disease, take 220 mg of zinc sulfate three times per day. Alternatively, take 50-75 mg (divided into 2 doses) daily for 2-3 years.
- For venous leg ulcers (leg sores caused by weak circulation), take 220 mg three times per day.
- For warts, take 400-600 mg/day of zinc sulfate for 2-3 months.
- With Acne, apply a lotion containing 1.2% zinc acetate and 4% erythromycin twice per day.
- Foot sores in people with diabetes: Daily apply a hyaluronate gel to ulcers until healed.
- Gingivitis (a form of gum disease): Use a toothpaste containing 0.2% to 2% zinc citrate (with or without other active ingredients) at least twice a day for up to 7 months. Alternatively, use a mouth rinse containing 0.4% zinc sulfate and 0.15% triclosan.
- For bad breath: Use either Halita and Meridol mouth rinse daily until 1 week. Candies and chewing gums containing zinc are also beneficial.
- For herpes labialis (cold sores), apply a solution containing 0.025% to 0.25% zinc sulfate 8-10 times per day. Alternatively, apply a 0.3% zinc oxide and glycine solution every 2 hours while awake. [Other products containing zinc (e.g., Virudermin Gel, Robugen GmbH, SuperLysine Plus +, Quantum Health, Inc., Herpigon) are also available commercially.]
- Pressure ulcers (bedsores): Add an application of a zinc paste to your daily care regimen for 8-12 weeks.
- Venous leg ulcers (leg sores caused by weak circulation): Apply a paste containing 25% zinc oxide every day for 14 days and every third day thereafter until 8 weeks.
- Warts: Apply a 20% zinc ointment twice a day until cured. Alternatively apply a 5-10% zinc sulfate solution three times per day until 4 weeks.
- Burns, 14-21 days of injections containing 59 mcmol of copper, 4.8 mcmol of selenium, and 574 mcmol of zinc have been beneficial to some.
- Hypogeusia (reduced ability to taste), add a zinc solution to dialysis concentrate for 12 weeks.
- Leishmania lesions (a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites), use injections of 2% zinc sulfate until over 6 weeks.
- Acrodermatitis enteropathica (a zinc deficiency disorder), a lifetime regimen of 2-3 mg of elemental zinc per kg body is recommended.
- Anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder), take 14-50 mg of elemental zinc daily.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), take 55-150 mg of zinc sulfate (containing 15-40 mg of elemental zinc) daily 6-12 weeks.
- The common cold, dissolve a lozenge containing 10-23 mg of zinc gluconate in the mouth every 2 hours for up to 14 days. Alternatively, use a syrup containing 15 mg of zinc twice a day for up to 10 days.
- Diaper rash, take 10 mg/day from the first or second day of life for about 4 months.
- Diarrhea, taking 10-40 mg/day for 7-15 days has been beneficial for malnourished or zinc-deficient children.
- Leishmania lesions (a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites), take 2.5-10 mg of zinc sulfate per kg body weight (divided into 3 doses) per day for 45 days.
- For pneumonia, taking 10-70 mg/day has been beneficial for malnourished children aged 3 months to 5 years. Alternatively, take 2 mg of zinc sulfate per kg body weight (divided into 2 doses) for 5 days.
- For shigellosis (illness from a Shigella bacteria infection), take 2 doses of a multivitamin syrup (for a total of 20 mg zinc) per day for 2 weeks.
- For sickle cell disease, give 10 mg/day of elemental zinc to children aged 4-10 years for 1 year. Increase dose to 15 mg twice daily for boys aged 14-18 years.
- For venous leg ulcers (leg sores caused by weak circulation), take 220 mg three times per day.
- For vitamin A deficiency: For children aged 1-3 years, take 20 mg/day of elemental zinc until 14 days (with 200,000 IU of vitamin A on the last day).
- For acne, apply a lotion containing 1.2% zinc acetate and 4% erythromycin twice a day for 12-40 weeks.
- For diaper rash, apply a paste with 0.5% allantoin, 17% cod liver oil, and 47% zinc oxide for 5 days.
INJECTED INTRAVENSOULY (IV):
- For Leishmania lesions (skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites), 2% zinc sulfate injections for 6 weeks have been used.
All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine, and has also been provided from the FDA.