Does Zicam Actually Work? An Ingredient Analysis

Does Zicam Actually Work? An Ingredient Analysis


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Zicam is a homeopathic cold medicine that comes in spray and pill form. The brand claims their product is "completely different" from other cold medicines, because it actually shortens colds rather than just relieving symptoms.

But what is homeopathic medicine, and is it proven effective in research studies? Does Zicam contain active ingredients shown to reduce cold duration? Does it contain any unhealthy additives? And how do real Zicam users rate and describe its effects?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Zicam to give our take on whether or not it's likely to be effective for the treatment of colds.

We'll also analyze clinical studies on homeopathy, share our concerns about this modality of treatment, and feature unsponsored Zicam user reviews.

Ingredient Analysis

Zicam Nasal Spray active ingredients

The active ingredients in Zicam Nasal Spray are shown above.

Galphimia glauca was described as having "anti-inflammatory" and "antimalarial" properties in a medical review published in the Molecules journal.

However, we can't find any studies directly showing it to reduce cold duration in humans.

Luffa operculata is clinically shown to have antibacterial effects in vitro (meaning in a test tube study), but again we can't find any clinical evidence it's effective in humans.

Sabadilla is the final active ingredient, and we can't find any clinical studies, even in vitro, supporting its use in a cold medicine.

The inactive ingredients in Zicam are shown below:

Zicam Nasal Spray inactive ingredients

Benzalkonium chloride is a disinfectant that's clinically shown to be toxic, as we documented in our review of nasal allergy spray Astepro.

Overall, we consider Zicam unlikely to be effective because we're unable to find any clinical evidence supporting the effectiveness of its active ingredients in humans.

We don't currently recommend this product due to the inclusion of benzalkonium chloride.

However, our biggest concern about Zicam's efficacy isn't related to its active ingredients but to their doses, as we'll detail in the next section of this article.

Does Homeopathy Work?

Homeopathy is a type of alternative medicine that’s rarely practiced in the US.

It involves using extremely dilute amounts of natural ingredients to cure a wide range of diseases, as we documented in our Brillia review article on another homeopathic product we reviewed on Illuminate Health.

As documented by the National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health (NCCIH), one of the core tenets of homeopathy is that the lower the dose of medication, the more effective the treatment, which doesn't make logical sense.

meta-study published in the Medical Journal of Australia analyzed data from six medical reviews on homeopathy.

The study authors concluded that homeopathy is ineffective for all health conditions: "The findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond placebo." 

We do not consider homeopathy to be effective based on the available clinical evidence.

A TEDx Talk from a doctor named Shantanu Abhyankar has over 200,000 views and disputes some of the tenets of homeopathy:

Are Other Zicam Products Better?

We explained in the Ingredient Analysis section of this article why we don't currently recommend Zicam Nasal Spray.

However, the brand also sells nasal swabs, tablets and gummies.

Here's our take on each of these Zicam products:

Nasal Swabs

Contains the same active and inactive ingredients as Nasal Spray.

Our verdict: Don't recommend

RapidMelts

This is the oral tablet sold by Zicam. Contains zinc, which is clinically shown to reduce the duration and intensity of cold symptoms. However, we don't consider this zinc to be effectively dosed given that a homeopathic dilution is used.

Also contains artificial flavors and artificial colors.

Our verdict: Don't recommend

Daily Immune Support

This is the gummy supplement sold by Zicam.

Contains vitamin C which is clinically shown to reduce the duration of cold and flu, as we documented in our Cymbiotika reviews article. Also contains zinc at a reasonable dose for further cold-fighting effect.

Contains additives we consider to be unhealthy such as glucose syrup, citric acid and natural flavor.

Our verdict: Don't recommend

Of the three products reviewed in this section, we consider Daily Immune Support to be the best formulation by far, because it's not a homeopathic formulation and provides research-backed active ingredient doses.

Real People Try Zicam

A YouTube creator named "Thrillionaire" shared his experience trying Zicam:

A TikTok creator named "cyrenelovette" claims that Zicam combined with a tea cured her cold in 24 hours:

@cyrenelovette Get rid of that cold like magic! #zinc #zicam #echinacea #elderberry #antiinflammatory ♬ original sound - cyrenelovette

Our Clean Immune Support Picks

Bulletproof Immune Complex is our top value immunity supplement, costing under $20 at the time of updating this article.

This supplement contains the same vitamin C dose (1,000 mg) as in Emergen-C, and also contains 450 mg of elderberry fruit extract, which was shown in a clinical trial to decrease symptom load and reduce cold duration by a full two days.

Performance Lab Immune is our top premium immunity supplement, because of its potent formulation.

This supplement contains the patented postbiotic IMMUSE, which is backed by 15 clinical trials and is clinically shown to activate a specific type of immune cell that helps fight infection and support overall wellness. 

Pique Daily Radiance is our top food-based immune supplement, because it's a gel that provides 1,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per serving, and also contains organic elderberry juice concentrate (which is clinically shown to support the immune system).

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We do not consider Zicam likely to be effective against colds, because it's a homeopathic formulation.

A preponderance of clinical research suggests that homeopathic formulations are ineffective by nature due to the very low active ingredient doses used.

Zicam does contain some research-backed active ingredients; its the dose that concerns us.

Of the most popular Zicam products, we consider Daily Immune Support gummies to be the most likely to be effective because it's a non-homeopathic formulation and provides research-backed ingredient doses.