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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2018.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace element necessary for normal human functioning. It serves as an enzyme cofactor and protects cell membranes from lysis caused by complement activation and toxin release. Zinc is not stored in the body; therefore, dietary intake is required. Meat and seafood are rich in zinc.

Scientific Name(s)

Zinc, Zn, zinc sulfate, zinc acetate, zinc gluconate

Common Name(s)


What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The role of zinc in human health and functioning has primarily focused on dietary supplementation for the promotion of health and disease prevention. Aside from dietary zinc supplementation, zinc has been studied for therapeutic use in the common cold, atopic eczema, psoriasis, acne vulgaris, degenerative retinal lesions, age-related macular degeneration, inflammatory bowel disease, and various other disorders.

General uses

Zinc has been used as a treatment for the common cold and for enhanced wound healing, but evidence to support these indications is limited. Zinc also has purported applications in pneumonia, diarrhea, male fertility, and Alzheimer disease.

What is the recommended dosage?

Typical daily doses range widely from 12 to 150 mg daily as free zinc or up to 220 mg as zinc sulfate. Avoid high-dose, long-term zinc supplementation.


None identified.


Zinc supplementation in pregnancy has been studied, with little cause for concern.


Zinc may decrease the plasma concentrations of certain quinolone (eg, ciprofloxacin) and tetracycline antibiotics, as with other divalent metals, such as calcium. Interference with absorption and metabolism of iron, copper, and vitamin A has been described.

Side Effects

The most common adverse reactions of oral zinc are nausea, bad taste, diarrhea, vomiting, mouth irritation, and, rarely, mouth sores. Nasal and throat irritation may occur with the zinc spray. There have been case reports of apparent zinc-induced copper deficiency, immune system dysfunction, and myeloneuropathy. An increase in genitourinary symptoms and prostate cancer has been related to zinc supplementation.


Information is lacking.


1. Zinc. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons 4.0. April 2009. Accessed May 5, 2009.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.