Tag Archives: zinc

Only SOME zinc supplements have the dose proven to shorten colds

Can zinc supplements shorten colds and reduce the progression of advanced macular degeneration?  “Yes, but not all supplements provide a dosage that has been proven effective.” says Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of ConsumerLab.com. Continue reading

Antioxidant supplements boost male fertility

In my book, Alternative Medicine: The options, the claims, the evidence, how to choose wisely, in my chapter on antioxidants, I conclude, “The best advice is to meet most of your antioxidant needs through a healthy diet supplemented by a single multivitamin.”

Alternative Medicine - 2009

However, there are some cases where taking antioxidant supplements may be helpful.

For example, a new report has found that men who take antioxidants while trying to get their partner pregnant are four times more likely to succeed than men who do not. And, the type doesn’t matter — vitamin E, zinc, magnesium all work. The researchers say they “just don’t understand why.”

MedPage Today reported that “antioxidant supplements may boost fertility for men,” according to the study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

After pooling “the results from 34 randomized controlled trials that included a total of 2,876 couples with male factor subfertility or unexplained subfertility who were undergoing assisted reproductive technology using their own sperm and eggs,” researchers found that “men taking antioxidants were over fourfold more likely than controls to get their partner pregnant and see a successful live birth.”

So, if you and your spouse are wrestling with infertility, talking to your doctor about the husband taking antioxidants may be worthwhile.

What Natural Medications are Possibly Effective for the Common Cold?

Possibly Effective:
ANDROGRAPHIS (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: ANDROGRAPHIS
Common cold
Some clinical research shows that taking a specific andrographis extract, in combination with Siberian ginseng (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) orally, significantly improve symptoms of the common cold when started within 72 hours of symptom onset. Some symptoms can improve after 2 days of treatment. It typically takes 4-5 days of treatment before there is maximal symptom relief (2744,2773,2774,5784,10795,12380). Some research suggests this combination of andrographis and Siberian ginseng relieves cold symptoms better than Echinacea or placebo in children (12381).
BIFIDOBACTERIA (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: BIFIDOBACTERIA
Respiratory tract infections
Some clinical research shows children ages 3 to 5 years who attend day-care centers have significantly fewer influenza-like respiratory symptoms when given milk containing a specific combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis (HOWARU Protect, Danisco). Children taking this product had a 45% lower risk of experiencing fever, cough, rhinorrhea compared to placebo. The duration of symptoms was also 2 days shorter in patients taking this combination. These patients were also significantly less likely to use an antibiotic for their symptoms (16847).
ECHINACEA (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: ECHINACEA
Common cold
Clinical studies and meta-analyses show that taking some echinacea preparations can modestly reduce cold symptom severity and duration, possibly by about 10% to 30% (1412,3281,6384,6385,6392,6417,10320,10782,10802,12355) (14419,17520); however, this level of symptom reduction might not be clinically meaningful for some patients.
GINSENG, AMERICAN (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: GINSENG, AMERICAN
Respiratory tract infections
Some evidence suggests that taking a specific American ginseng extract called CVT-E002 (Cold-FX, Afexa Life Sciences, Canada) 200 mg twice daily over a 3-4 month period during influenza season might modestly decrease the risk of developing symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection such as the common cold or flu in adults aged 18 to 65 and older (11351,13192,14345). This extract also seems to reduce the symptom severity and duration of symptoms when infections do occur (13192,14345).
GINSENG, SIBERIAN (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: GINSENG, SIBERIAN
Common cold
Some clinical research shows that taking a specific combination product containing Siberian ginseng plus andrographis (Kan Jang, Swedish Herbal Institute) orally significantly improves symptoms of the common cold when started within 72 hours of symptom onset. Some symptoms can improve after 2 days of treatment. It typically takes 4-5 days of treatment before there is maximal symptom relief (2744,2773,2774,5784,10795,12380). Some research suggests this combination of Siberian ginseng and andrographis relieves cold symptoms better than Echinacea or placebo in children (12381).
LACTOBACILLUS (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: LACTOBACILLUS
Respiratory tract infections
Clinical research shows that children ages 1 to 6 years who attend daycare centers get fewer and less severe respiratory infections when given milk that contains a specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG (Culturelle). These children also seem to have fewer days of illness-related absence (8565). Additional clinical research shows children ages 3 to 5 years who attend daycare centers have significantly fewer influenza-like respiratory symptoms when given milk containing a specific combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis (HOWARU Protect, Danisco). Children taking this product had a 45% lower risk of experiencing fever, cough, and rhinorrhea compared to placebo. The duration of symptoms was also 2 days shorter in patients taking this combination. These patients were also significantly less likely to use an antibiotic for their symptoms. Patients who took Lactobacillus acidophilus without Bifodobacterium also had significantly reduced fever, cough, and use of antibiotics, but not rhinorrhea (16847).
LEMON BALM (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: LEMON BALM
Herpes labialis (cold sores)
Applying a lip balm containing 1% lemon balm extract seems to shorten healing time, prevent infection spread, and reduce symptoms of recurring herpes labialis (790,9995).
LYSINE (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: LYSINE
Herpes labialis (cold sores)
Taking lysine orally seems to reduce recurrences of herpes simplex labialis infections (1114,1115,1116,1118,1120), and reduce the severity and healing time of herpes simplex labialis infections (1119,1120). Applying lysine topically also seems to help treat herpes simplex infection (11051). A specific combination product containing lysine and zinc oxide plus 14 other ingredients (Super Lysine Plus +) seems to decrease symptoms and duration of herpes lesions when applied topically every 2 hours (11051).
NASAL IRRIGATION (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: NASAL IRRIGATION
Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI)
Clinical research shows that isotonic saline nasal irrigation significantly reduces symptoms of the common cold including rhinitis, sore throat, cough, and nasal obstructor and secretion in children with the common cold or flu. Nasal irrigation also reduced the use of other medications including antipyretics, decongestants, mucolytics, and anti-infectives (16141).
RHUBARB (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: RHUBARB
Herpes labialis (cold sores)
Applying rhubarb topically in combination with sage (Salvia officinalis) seems to improve herpes labialis (cold sores). Treatment of herpes labialis with a cream containing rhubarb and sage may be about as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream. Acyclovir cream heals lesions in about 6.3 days; the rhubarb and sage cream heals lesions in about 7.2 days (10437).
SAGE (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: SAGE
Herpes labialis (cold sores)
Topical treatment of herpes labialis with a cream containing sage and rhubarb (Rheum officinale and Rheum palmatum) may be about as effective as acyclovir (Zovirax) cream. Acyclovir cream provides healing of lesions in 6.3 days; the sage and rhubarb cream provides healing of lesion in 7.2 days. The combination of sage and rhubarb appears to improve the time to healing and to reduce pain, compared with sage alone (10437).
THYMUS EXTRACT (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: THYMUS EXTRACT
Respiratory tract infections
Taking thymus extract orally may be effective for treating adults and children with recurrent respiratory infections (938,6696,6697,6698,6699). Thymomodulin (calf thymus extract) treatment seems to reduce the number of infections or coughing attacks in patients with recurrent respiratory infections (6697,6698,6699). Thymomodulin (calf thymus extract) alone, or in combination with vaccine, seems to be more effective than vaccine alone or antibiotics in reducing the number and duration of infections in adults with recurrent respiratory infections (938).
VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID) (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)
Common cold
There is a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of vitamin C for treating the common cold (1969,1989,7100,9835,9836). However, the majority of evidence shows that taking high doses of vitamin C orally might decrease the duration of cold symptoms by 1-1.5 days in some patients (1966,1967,1968,1987,6458,7102,9832). Other studies have found no effect with doses up to 3 grams daily (9833). Some research suggests vitamin C may be more effective for treating cold symptoms in children than in adults. There may also be a dose-dependent response; doses of at least 2 grams per day seem to work better than 1 gram doses (9834). Tell patients that the high doses used for treating the common cold, 1-3 grams daily, can increase the risk of side effects. Some patients might not think the modest benefit is worth the risk. Explain to patients that taking vitamin C supplements prophylactically does not decrease the risk of catching a cold (1966,1967,1968,1987,3042,6458,7101,9832). Dietary intake of vitamin C also doesn’t seem to affect the risk of getting a cold (10780).
ZINC (Possibly Effective) View ALL Products Containing: ZINC
Common cold
Using zinc oral lozenges seems to help decrease the duration of the common cold in adults. The majority of studies show a significant decrease in the duration of symptoms of the common cold when adults take zinc gluconate or acetate lozenges providing 9-24 mg elemental zinc per dose. Lozenges should be taken every 2 hours while awake, starting within 48 hours of symptom onset (333,334,335,337,6703,6705). However, not all studies have been positive (333,338,339,6521,6522,6700). The reasons for these different findings are not clear, but might be due to differences in zinc formulations and study methodologies. In some cases, flavoring agents such as citric acid, mannitol, and sorbitol might chelate zinc and decrease zinc ionization. Since zinc ionization is thought to be an important step involved in the effectiveness of zinc, a decrease in zinc ionization could decrease effectiveness (300,340,6522). Some of the positive studies have also been criticized for inadequately blinding the unpleasant, distinctive taste of zinc (6522,6706). Overall, zinc products seem to be beneficial for reducing the duration of symptoms of the common cold in adults. Zinc from supplements taken prophylactically does not seem to prevent the common cold (10780,10784).

Long-time readers of this blog know how much I trust, how often I recommend, and how often I use in my practice the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. This trustworthy and evidence-based website (requires subscription) rates natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) for a wide variety of indications. Continue reading

Little evidence that supplements help tinnitus

The Los Angeles Times reports that although “tinnitus can sometimes be treated with electronic masking devices” or “cognitive behavioral therapy,” a number of sufferers “end up looking for tinnitus relief in a pill.”

One such “homeopathic supplement” is called Quietus, which is said to contain a “powerful lineup of ingredients.”

Tinnitus Relief Formula, which is a capsule that “contains 120 milligrams of ginkgo biloba along with zinc and garlic extract,” is another option.

One audiologist pointed out, however, that “there’s no solid evidence that the supplements are of use.”

Jeff Carroll, director of the Tinnitus Treatment Center at UC Irvine, added, “We don’t recommend them.”

In fact, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates no natural medication (herb, vitamin, or supplement) as “effective,” “probably effective,” or even “possibly effective” for tinnitus.

And, the NMCD rates gingko biloba and zinc as “possibly ineffective” for tinnitus.

Hopefully, one day we’ll have an effective and safe treatment for this malady, but right now, to search for one in the herbal or supplement world is a waste of time and money.

Suplements for Colds or the Flu. What works? What does not?

Demand continues to rise for supplements for colds and flu … despite the lack of hard evidence for most of them. However, some may work. Find out more about them here.
Nasal saline irrigation can reduce nasal congestion, sore throat, and cough. I suggest that my patients irrigate once a day or more often if needed.
Zinc lozenges might help decrease a cold’s duration. But I caution my patients that zinc has a metallic taste and too much can lead to copper deficiency.
The Natural Medicines Database tells doctors, “Remind people to throw away old recalled Zicam nasal products. Nasal zinc can cause a loss of smell.”
Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with a lower risk of respiratory infections. This looks promising, but it doesn’t prove that vitamin D prevents colds and flu. I try to remind people to get enough vitamin D … especially in the winter when there’s less sun.
Vitamin C is controversial. Some studies show it might help treat colds … but it doesn’t prevent them. The Natural Medicines Database says, “Warn patients the 1 to 3 grams per day used to treat colds can cause diarrhea.”
American ginseng (Cold-fX, etc) seems to SLIGHTLY reduce the severity or number of upper respiratory infections. About 1 in 4 people might get one fewer cold over 4 months.
For those of you on Coumadin (warfarin), keep in mind that American ginseng can decrease your INR.
Echinacea might modestly decrease a cold’s severity and duration in some people … but, like vitamin C, it doesn’t prevent colds. I advise people not to use it if they are allergic to ragweed – since cross reactions have been reported.
Elderberry might shorten flu symptoms by a few days. I recommend a product with some evidence of benefit such as Sambucol.
Lactobacillus probiotics with or without Bifidobacterium might help decrease the number or severity of upper respiratory infections.
The Natural Medicines Database says, “Tell people not to depend on Airborne, Umcka ColdCare, astragalus, Asian ginseng, garlic, or oscillococcinum … there’s not convincing evidence that these will prevent or treat colds or flu.”
The Database also says, “Caution patients not to fall for internet scams promoting flu supplements. Warn high-risk patients not to rely on supplements, but to call (their doctor) promptly instead for possible (prescription) antiviral treatment.”
Demand continues to rise for supplements for colds and flu, despite the lack of hard evidence for most of them. However, some may work. Find out more about them here. Continue reading

10 Foods to Kick a Cold and Boost Your Immunity

Many people, when they are feeling miserable from a cold or the flu, get the urge to gorge on food. But picking the right foods may benefit and even speed healing.

More Information: Continue reading