Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
Your throat starts to feel a little funny. Then you notice your nose is a bit stuffy, in the back of your mind you think…”I don’t have time to get sick”. That is it, on your way home you are going to swing by the pharmacy and get something to help fight this off. What should you choose, Cold-Eeze vs Zicam?
If this sounds like a familiar story you are not alone. Each year both of these products rack up millions of dollars in sales. The question is do they really help or are they just selling marketing hype to people desperate to not get sick?
Does Zinc Really Help a Cold?
Both of these products contain zinc as the major active ingredient. More on this below, but first why would zinc be used to help with colds?
Zinc is a mineral that is required by almost every cell in the body to function properly. The good news is it if found in many foods such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dairy products
- Red meat
Your body requires zinc to be able do many functions to it’s fullest extent. When zinc levels are low these processes are weakened. Many believe this makes you more susceptible to colds.
Major functions of zinc
|Tissue repair||Stop viruses from multiplying|
|Prevent bacteria and viruses from binding to cells||Wound healing|
|Cell division||Carbohydrate breakdown|
|Cell growth||Sense of smell|
The cause of colds
Viruses that get into the upper respiratory tract are the most common cause of colds. This is where viruses and bacteria get inhaled or ingested into your body. Rhinovirus is the most common culprit followed by Influenza.
What is the better option Cold-Eeze vs Zicam?
Products that can work in the mouth and nasal areas have a better chance of fighting off these viruses. Cold-Eeze and Zicam make claims of boosting the immune system and fighting colds. Which one has the most evidence to back those claims?
As with most treatments, before medication some lifestyle changes can go a long way. Both keeping you healthy and preventing the need for medication. Let’s take a look at what can help keep you from getting cold in the first place.
Lifestyle changes that keep colds away
Keeping your body in peak performance mode is the best way to fight off colds. Here are some of the best ways to do just that.
Washing of the hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds might be the number one things you can do to prevent colds. Period, end of story. However it is amazing how many people touch things everyday that are full of germs yet never wash their hands.
The number two most important thing you can do to get an annual flu vaccine. The vaccine prevents millions of illnesses per year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Food as medicine
Eating a balanced diet that is loaded with the foods listed below give you the best chance to stay healthy. Examples of the types of food you should eat include:
- Whole grains, not the processed kind
- Dairy products
- Lean protein
Any type of movement can be considered exercise and will have positive effects on health compared to being sedentary. Moderate activity, such as walking can go a long way for boosting immune function. A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that people who walked for 30 minutes per day over a year had only half the number of the colds compared to a group that did not walk.
Regular exercise of any kind can keep excess weight off. This has been shown to increase the production of white blood cells and therefore boost immunity. If you hate to spend time on a treadmill click here for some great ideas on easy ways to be active.
The body uses the sleep time to repair itself from the strains and stresses of the day. It is critical to overall health and to prevent pesky colds. According to Sleepfoundation.org people who sleep less than 6 hours per night are four times as likely to catch a cold.
For optimal health they recommend:
7-9 hours of sleep per night
Smoking actually depresses your immune system. It destroys the bodies natural defenses in the lungs and is one of the most costly and damaging things you can do to your body.
Cold-Eeze original product contains 13.3mg of zinc gluconate per lozenge as the active ingredient. You may wonder what then 2X HPUS on the label means. HPUS stands for the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. The 2X is the dilution of the drug which is a key component of homeopathic medicines.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an alternative style of medicine, not like normal pills you buy at the pharmacy. Homeopathic medications have a substance in them (in Cold-Eeze and Zicam it is zinc) that has been diluted. There are many dilutions that occur and ultimately the end product is almost undetectable from the substance they diluted it with.
Water is typically used for the dilution(s). The school of homeopathy believes more dilutions make the active ingredients more effective.
Homeopathic medicine does not align with the scientific method that modern western medicine is based on. In fact, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine does not believe homeopathy is consistent with the laws of science.
It would be similar to taking your blood pressure medicine, grinding it up and putting it in a cup of water. Now take 1 drop of that mixture and dilute it with another 1 million parts of water. Then repeat that 1-2 times to get number of dilutions on the label noted as 1x or 2x.
Keep in mind
The Cold-Eeze website even has this to say “Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.”
Cold-Eeze dosage forms:
- Regular lozenge
- Sugar free lozenge
- Chewable gels
Zinc cold shortening
This is the original Cold-Eeze product that only contains zinc. There is also a sugar free option that is good especially for diabetic patients. Getting sick can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, you don’t want medications to do this also.
Zinc cold shortening plus defense
This contains zinc and the other ingredients listed below that are supposed to be immune support. There is very little evidence to support these other ingredients as immune boosters.
- Sambucus Nigra
- Avena Sativa
- Rosa Canina
- Echinacea purpurea
Directions for use are to use one lozenge at the onset of symptoms. The lozenge should be dissolved in the mouth and not chewed on or swallowed. Chewable gels can be chewed, but getting them to dissolve in the mouth is key.
You can repeat every 2 to 4 hours based on symptoms, be careful not to take more than 6 in a 24 hour period.
- Cold-Eeze has evidence from a small study from 1996 done by the Cleveland Clinic. It found that zinc gluconate lozenges shortens the duration of a cold by 42%.
- Lozenges do not contain artificial colors or preservatives.
- The zinc cold shortening product only contains zinc, no other ingredients that could interact with medications you may be on.
- Lozenges and chewable gels are easy ways to take the medication especially if you have a sore throat.
- Cherry flavoring provides a better taste.
- Sugar free option is available for patients with blood sugar problems, such as diabetes.
- Homeopathic medications may not provide as much medication as would be expected due to the dilution process.
- Cold-Eeze is sold as a dietary supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require that dietary supplements prove safety and efficacy like other Over The Coutner (OTC) drugs must do.
- The study showing it’s efficacy had a small number of patients.
- Zinc can cause nausea and a bad taste in the mouth.
- Is more expensive than Zicam.
- A bottle of Cold-Eeeze cold shortening lozenges costs ~$16.99 for 25 tablets.
- The recommended dose is up to 6 tablets per day, which means 1 bottle is about a 4 day supply.
**Prices subject to change.
Zicam contains zincum aceticum and zincum gluconicum as the active ingredients. Seven total Zicam products are on the market today. The two that don’t contain zinc are nasal products and and should be avoided.
Does Zicam have zinc?
Zicam does contain zinc, but how much is the question. The label states a 2X dilution for zinc aceticum and 1X dilution for zinc gluconicum.
Similar to Cold-Eeze, Zicam is a homeopathic remedy and that is important to understand before you rush out to buy it. Remember with these dilutions there is no way to know exactly how much zinc it contains.
As you can see below there are five different formulations of Zicam taken by mouth. The two that do not contain zinc are nasal products. These should be avoided due to lack of efficacy and potential side effects from applying them to the nose.
Zicam has been on the market since the 1990’s and the oral forms are considered to be safe as it has been widely used. However, in 2009 the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) issued a warning about Zicam nasal products. Hundreds of people had reported loss of the sense of smell after use.
The zinc was removed from all Zicam nasal products. The new nasal spray active ingredients do not have proof of efficacy.
Directions for use are to use one tablet or drop at the first onset of cold symptoms. Then repeat every 2 to 3 hours, be careful not to take more than 7 in a 24 hour period.
- Contains zinc which has been proven to reduce the length and severity of a cold. The question with Zicam is how much zinc does it contain?
- Zicam offers many different flavors so you can pick the one that tastes best to you.
- Several different dosage forms are available, which can be good if you have a sore throat.
- Has been widely used and seems to be safe when taken orally.
- Is less expensive than Cold-Eeze.
- Claims made in marketing such as “get over cold faster” or “only clinically proven cold shortening product” have not been proven to be true.
- There is no way to know how much zinc is actually in the product.
- Homeopathic medications are considered dietary supplements. This means they Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not evaluate them for safety or efficacy.
- One box of Zicam oral costs between $10 to $12 depending on the dosage form.
- They contain 25 tablets, if using up to 7 per day one bottle is ~4 day supply.
- Buying other generic zinc products might prove a cheaper option.
**Prices subject to change.
Cold-Eeze vs Zicam: The Similarities
Both Cold-Eeze and Zicam have zinc as the main active ingredient. Additionally, they are both homeopathic medications. This means there is no way to know how much zinc they actually contain.
Another similarity is they come in a few different dosage forms. This is a nice option if you don’t like to swallow tablets, or already have a sore throat. Both also offer formulations that contain supposed “immune boosting” ingredients such as echinacea and elderberry.
Finally, both of these products are sold as dietary supplements. This means they are not regulated by the FDA for safety or efficacy. Be careful and don’t believe all the claims you see regarding dietary supplements.
Cold-Eeze vs Zicam: The Differences
There are only a few differences between Cold-Eeze and Zicam. First, Cold-Eeze has a study showing that it was better than placebo at shortening colds. The article can be found right on their website. No such clinical trial exists for Zicam.
Zicam does offer more flavors than Cold-Eeze does. It also has more dosage oral dosage forms. Zicam offers two nasal products as well, but neither one contains zinc.
Cold-eeze vs Zicam FAQs
Does Cold-Eeze really work?
As noted above there was a small study of about 100 people who used zinc lozenges with 13.3mg of zinc like Cold-Eeze contains. This study showed that duration and severity of symptoms was reduced. However, keep in mind that much larger studies are typically needed to prove for certain that Cold-Ezee really works.
Given this is a homeopathic formulation you may not be getting as much zinc as you think. Also, patients with other diseases such as autoimmune disease or asthma may not respond to zinc.
Therefore, Cold-Eeze is worth a try to see if it helps you, but don’t count on it.
How effective is Zicam?
Zicam does not have any large clinical trials pointing to it working to treat a cold. The manufacturer points to a large study of patients taking elemental zinc. Taking 75mg per day of zinc does seem to have solid evidence of shortening cold symptoms and duration. However, Zicam doesn’t state how much zinc is actually in the product.
Similar to Cold-Eeze you can try it and see if it helps.
BestRxforSavings tip: try a zinc product that is not homeopathic and has a set amount of zinc per tablet and has been verified by US Pharmacopeia.
Should you take zinc everyday?
Some people think if zinc can shorten a cold, why not take it all the time to prevent ever having one? While that sounds great, the National Institutes of Health does not advise daily zinc supplementation, unless you are directed by a doctor to do so.
Another thing to keep in mind is that zinc can have some side effects, such as:
- Bad taste in mouth
- Stomach cramps
Save yourself from these potential side effects and only take zinc when you think you may be getting cold.
What should you not take with zinc?
The table below lists some prescription medications that may interact with Zinc.
|Antibiotics||Zinc may decrease absorption of these antibiotics.||Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)|
|Blood pressure medications||May decrease your zinc level.||Benazepril (Lotensin)|
Lisinopril ( Zestril)
|NSAID pain medications||Zinc can decrease the effect of these drugs.||Ibuprofen (Motrin)|
|Thiazide diuretics||These medications can lower your zinc level.||Chlorothiazde (Diuril)|
Also, any woman who is pregnant should not take zinc, especially amounts over 40mg per day.
What is similar to Cold-Eeze and Zicam?
Cold-Eeze and Zicam are not the only products sold for helping with a cold. In fact, when you hit the pharmacy aisle it can become overwhelming how many there are to choose from.
The question often comes up to pharmacists about which is the best to use. The table below lists the most commonly recommended products.
|Alive! Immune Gummies||Coldcam||Culturelle Immune Support|
|Emergen-C||EZC Pak||Halls Defense|
|NatureMade Immune Care||Ricola Herbal Immunity||Sambucol|
|Wellness Formula||Zarbee’s Immune Support|
Cold-Eeze and Zicam are similar products. Both contain zinc in a homeopathic formulation.
The best advice is to listen to reputable organizations and follow their guidance. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health does not support the use of Homeopathic products. However, given the low cost and low risk of side effects with short term use, you could give them a try.
Again the BestRxforSavings recommendation is to use a USP verified product that can be trusted to have the amount of zinc shown on the label.
Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!
Share your story
Have you used Cold-Eeze or Zicam? Also, please share how they worked for you. Chime in below with your comments and thoughts.