Uses & Effectiveness of Zinc

Zinc is useful to stabilize blood sugar levels, and help keep your skin, eyes, and heart healthy.

Updated: June 8, 2019

Zinc is used for boosting the immune system, improving growth and heath in zinc deficient infants and children, for treating the common cold and recurrent ear infections, the flu and many others. It is useful to stabilize blood sugar levels, and help keep your skin, eyes, and heart healthy.

Effective for:

Zinc deficiency:

Zinc deficiency might occur in people with severe diarrhea, conditions that make it hard for the bowel to absorb food, liver cirrhosis and alcoholism, after major surgery, and during long-term use of tube feeding in the hospital. Taking zinc by mouth or giving zinc intravenously (by IV) helps to restore zinc levels in people who are zinc deficient.
However, taking zinc supplements regularly is not recommended.

Likely Effective for:


Taking zinc by mouth reduces the duration and severity of diarrhea in children who are undernourished or zinc deficient. Severe zinc deficiency in children is common in developing countries. Also giving zinc to undernourished women during pregnancy and for one month after delivery reduces the incidence of diarrhea in infants during the first year of life.

Wilson's disease:

Taking zinc by mouth improves symptoms of an inherited disorder called Wilson's disease. People with Wilson's disease have too much copper in their bodies. Zinc blocks how much copper is absorbed and increases how much copper the body releases.

Possibly Effective for:


People with acne have lower blood and skin levels of zinc. Taking zinc by mouth appears to help treat acne. However, it is unclear about the eeficacy of zinc compared to acne medications such as tetracycline or minocycline.
Applying zinc to the skin in an ointment does not seem to help treat acne unless used in combination with the antibiotic drug called erythromycin.


Giving zinc intravenously (by IV) together with other minerals seems to improve wound healing in people with burns. However, taking zinc alone does not appear to improve wound healing in all people with burns, but it might reduce recovery time in people with severe burns.

Tumors in the rectum and colon:

Taking a supplement containing selenium, zinc, vitamin A 2, vitamin C, and vitamin E by mouth daily for 5 years reduces the risk of recurrent large-bowel tumors by about 40%.

Common cold:

Although some conflicting results exist, taking lozenges containing zinc gluconate or zinc acetate by mouth helps reduce the duration of a cold in adults. However, side effects such as bad taste and nausea might limit its usefulness. It is unclear if zinc helps prevent common colds. In adults, taking zinc supplements by mouth does not seem to prevent common colds. However, zinc gluconate lozenges might help prevent colds in children and adolescents. Using zinc as a nose spray does not seem to help prevent colds.


Zinc levels are lower in people with depression. Taking zinc along with antidepressants improves depression in people with major depression. However, it improves depression in only people who do not respond to treatment with antidepressants alone. It doesn't seem to improve depression in people who respond to antidepressant treatment.

Foot ulcers due to diabetes:

Aapplying zinc hyaluronate gel can help foot ulcers heal faster than conventional treatment in people with diabetes.

Diaper rash:

Giving zinc gluconate by mouth to infants seems to speed up the healing of diaper rash. Applying zinc oxide paste also seems to improve the healing of diaper rash. However, it doesn't seem to work as well as applying 2% eosin solution.

Acrodermatitis enteropathica:

Taking zinc by mouth seems to help improve symptoms of acrodermatitis enteropathica which is an inherited disorder that affects zinc uptake.

Age-related macular degeneration:

People who consume more zinc as part of their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing age-related vision loss. Taking supplements containing zinc and antioxidant vitamins may modestly slow vision loss and prevent age-related vision loss from becoming advanced in people at high risk.
However, it is still not clear if taking zinc along with antioxidant vitamins helps prevent age-related vision loss from becoming advanced in people at low risk. Taking zinc alone, without antioxidant vitamins, does not help most people with age-related vision loss. However, it is possible that people with certain genes that make them susceptible to age-related vision loss might benefit from zinc supplements.


Taking zinc supplements by mouth might help increase weight gain and improve depression symptoms in teens and adults with anorexia.

Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):

Taking zinc by mouth in combination with conventional treatment might slightly improve hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and socialization problems in some children with ADHD. However, zinc does not seem to improve attention span. Children with ADHD have lower zinc levels in their blood than children without ADHD. Also, people with ADHD with lower zinc levels might not respond well enough to prescription medications for ADHD (stimulants).


Using toothpastes containing zinc, with or without an antibacterial agent, appears to prevent plaque and gingivitis. Some evidence also shows that zinc-containing toothpaste can reduce existing plaque. However, other conventional treatments may be more effective. Also, zinc citrate in combination with triclosan is beneficial.

Bad breath:

Chewing gum, sucking on a candy, or using a mouth rinse containing zinc reduces bad breath.

Herpes simplex virus:

Applying zinc sulfate or zinc oxide to the skin, alone or with other ingredients, seems to reduce the duration and severity of oral and genital herpes. However, zinc might not be beneficial for recurrent herpes infections.

Taste disorder (hypogeusia):

Taking zinc by mouth does not improve taste disorders in children with zinc deficiency. But taking zinc by mouth is effective for people with a reduced ability to taste foods due to zinc deficiency or some other conditions.

Skin lesions (Leishmania lesions):

Taking zinc sulfate by mouth or injecting as a solution into lesions helps heal lesions in people with Leishmaniasis. However, injecting zinc solutions into lesions does not seem to be more effective than conventional treatments.


Taking zinc by mouth in combination with anti-leprosy drugs seems to help treat leprosy.

Muscle cramps:

Taking zinc by mouth seems to help treat muscle cramps in people with cirrhosis and zinc deficiency.

Weak bones (osteoporosis):

Low zinc intake seems to be linked to lower bone mass. Taking a zinc supplement in combination with copper, manganese, and calcium might decrease bone loss in women who have passed menopause.

Peptic ulcers:

Taking zinc acexamate by mouth seems to help treat and prevent peptic ulcers.


Taking zinc might help prevent pneumonia in undernourished children. However, the effects of zinc for treating pneumonia once it develops shows conflicting.

Complications during pregnancy:

Taking zinc by mouth during pregnancy appears to reduce the risk for early delivery. However, zinc supplementation does not seem to reduce the risk for stillbirths or infant deaths. Taking zinc with vitamin A might help restore night vision in pregnant women affected by night blindness. However, taking zinc alone does not appear to have this effect. Also, taking zinc might help to lower blood sugar in women who develop diabetes during pregnancy. But it doesn't seem to reduce the need for a caesarean section during labor in these women.

Bed sores:

Applying zinc paste appears to help improve the healing of bed sores in elderly people. Also, increasing zinc intake in the diet seems to improve bed sore healing in hospitalized patients with bed sore.

Food poisoning (shigellosis):

Taking a multivitamin syrup containing zinc along with conventional treatment can improve recovery time and reduce diarrhea in undernourished children with food poisoning.

Sickle cell disease:

Taking zinc by mouth seems to help reduce symptoms of sickle cell disease in people with zinc deficiency. Taking zinc supplements also appears to decrease the risk for complications and infections related to sickle cell disease.

Leg ulcers:

Taking zinc sulfate by mouth appears to help some types of leg ulcers heal faster. The effects seem to be greater in people with low levels of zinc before treatment. Applying zinc paste to leg ulcers also appears to improve healing.

Vitamin A deficiency:

Taking zinc by mouth together with vitamin A seems to improve vitamin A levels in undernourished children better than vitamin A or zinc alone.


Applying a zinc sulfate solution improves plane warts but not common warts. Applying zinc oxide ointment appears to be as effective as conventional treatments for curing warts. Taking zinc sulfate by mouth also appears to be effective.

Possibly Ineffective for:

AIDS diarrhea-wasting syndrome:

Taking zinc by mouth together with vitamins does not seem to improve AIDS diarrhea-wasting syndrome.

Hair loss:

Although there is early evidence that suggests taking zinc together with biotin might be helpful for hair loss, most studies suggest that zinc is not effective for this condition.

Scaly, itchy skin (eczema):

Taking zinc by mouth does not appear to improve skin redness or itching in children with eczema.


Taking zinc by mouth together with antioxidant vitamins does not seem to help treat or prevent cataracts.

Cystic fibrosis:

Zinc sulfate does not appear to improve lung function in children or adolescents with cystic fibrosis, although it may reduce the need for antibiotics.


Taking zinc by mouth along with antiretroviral therapy does not improve immune function or reduce the risk of death in adults or children with HIV.

Pregnancy complications in women with HIV/AIDS:

Taking zinc by mouth during pregnancy does not appear to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the infant. Also, zinc does not appear to prevent infant death or maternal wasting in pregnant women with HIV.

Infant development:

Giving zinc to infants does not improve mental or motor development.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD):

Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat IBD.


Taking zinc supplements by mouth is unlikely to improve immune function against the flu virus in people who are not at risk for zinc deficiency.

Ear infection:

Taking zinc does not appear to prevent ear infections in children.

Iron-deficiency during pregnancy:

Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help improve iron levels in women taking iron and folic acid supplements.

Prostate cancer:

Taking zinc does not seem to be linked to the risk of getting prostate cancer.

Red and irritated skin (psoriasis):

Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat psoriasis.

Sexual dysfunction:

Zinc supplementation does not improve sexual function in men with sexual dysfunction related to kidney disease.

Ringing in the ears (tinnitus):

Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treating ringing in the ears.

Upper respiratory tract infections:

Taking zinc by mouth does not decrease the risk for upper respiratory tract infections.

Psoriatic Arthritis:

Taking zinc by mouth, alone or together with painkillers, has no effect on the progression of psoriatic arthritis or joint inflammation associated with a specific skin condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat rheumatoid arthritis or joint inflammation.


Taking zinc by mouth daily for 90 days does not improve quality of life or symptoms associated with rosacea.

Likely Ineffective for:


Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help prevent or treat malaria in undernourished children in developing countries.

Insufficient Evidence for:

AIDS-related infections due to weakened immunity:

There is some early evidence that taking zinc supplements by mouth in combination with the drug zidovudine might reduce infections that occur because of a weakened immune system. However, it might negatively affect survival in people with AIDS.

Alcohol-related liver disease:

Taking zinc sulfate by mouth might improve liver function in people with alcohol-related liver disease.

Alzheimer's disease:

Zinc supplements might slow the worsening of symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease.


Giving a porridge containing zinc and other vitamins and minerals to infants reduces the risk of anemia.

Arsenic poisoning:

Taking zinc together with spirulina can reduce symptoms and arsenic levels in the urine and hair of people with long-term arsenic poisoning.


Zinc intake does not appear to be linked to the risk for developing asthma in children.

Beta-thalassemia(A blood disorder):

Taking zinc sulfate while undergoing blood transfusions increases growth in children with beta-thalassemia compared to blood transfusions alone.

Colon and rectal cancer:

Increased zinc intake is linked to a 17% to 20% reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

Clogged arteries (coronary artery disease):

Taking zinc reduces cholesterol but not triglycerides in people with clogged arteries.

Memory loss (dementia):

Taking zinc sulfate improves behavior and social abilities in people with memory loss.

Dental plaque:

Brushing teeth with toothpaste containing zinc reduces plaque buildup.

Brain tumor:

Zinc intake is not linked with a reduced risk of developing brain cancer.

Bronchiolitis(An airway infection that causes swelling in the lung):

Taking zinc while in the hospital might speed up recovery from this type of airway infection.

Canker sores:

Taking zinc sulfate improves canker sores and prevents them from reappearing.

Chemotherapy-related complications:

Taking zinc by mouth does not affect chemotherapy-related side effects such as nausea and vomiting in children undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. However, it seems to reduce the number of episodes of infection.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD):

Taking zinc daily after recovery from COPD-related infections reduces the risk of additional infections in older people.


Taking zinc alone or with other nutrients reduces blood sugar in healthy people and in those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity.

Diabetic neuropathy or Nerve damage caused by diabetes:

Taking zinc sulfate improves nerve function and reduces blood sugar in people with nerve damage caused by diabetes.

Down syndrome:

Taking zinc can improve immune function and reduce infections in people with Down syndrome who are zinc deficient and have weakened immune systems. However, other research shows conflicting results.


Taking zinc might reduce how often seizures occur in children not responding well to other treatments.

Esophageal cancer:

Low intake of zinc is linked with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. However, other early research shows that zinc intake is not linked with the risk of esophageal cancer. It's possible that the source of zinc (plant vs. meat) affects how beneficial it is.

Seizures due to fever:

Febrile seizures are seizures that occur during a fever. Taking zinc might prevent these seizures in children who already experienced one.

Loss of control of bowel movements:

Applying an ointment containing zinc and aluminum to the anus three times daily for 4 weeks improves symptoms and quality of life in women with a loss of control of bowel movements.

Stomach cancer:

Increased zinc intake is not linked to a lower risk of stomach cancer.

Head and neck cancer:

Zinc supplementation does not improve survival rates or reduce the spread of cancer after 3 years in people with head and neck cancer.

Hepatic encephalopathy or Loss in brain function due to liver problems:

Taking zinc may slightly improve mental function in people with hepatic encephalopathy. However, zinc does not appear to improve disease severity or recurrence.

HIV-related diarrhea:

Taking zinc long-term might help prevent diarrhea in adults with HIV who have low blood levels of zinc. However, zinc doesn't seem to help treat diarrhea in adults with HIV-related diarrhea. In children with HIV, taking zinc reduces the occurrence of diarrhea compared to placebo (sugar pills). But it doesn't help prevent diarrhea compared to vitamin A.

Impotence or Fertility problems in men:

Zinc supplementation increases sperm count, testosterone levels, and pregnancy rates in infertile men with low testosterone levels. Also, taking zinc can improve sperm shape in men with moderate enlargement of a vein in the scrotum (grade III varicocele). However, taking zinc has produced mixed results in men with fertility problems due to diseases or medical treatment.

Stomach infections and parasite infestations:

Taking zinc alone or along with vitamin A might help treat some, but not all, parasite infections in children in developing countries. Also, taking zinc with vitamin A reduces the risk for some infections. However, other research suggests that zinc does not reduce the risk for infection.

Jaundice in newborns:

Taking zinc twice daily for 7 days does not improve jaundice in newborns.

Head trauma:

Administering zinc immediately after a head trauma seems to improve the rate of recovery.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma:

Zzinc supplementation is linked to a decreased risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which is a type of cancer.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):

Taking zinc twice daily along with the drug fluoxetine for 8 weeks reduces OCD symptoms slightly more than taking fluoxetine alone. Swelling and ulcers in the mouth caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Research shows that taking zinc sulfate by mouth while undergoing radiation therapy helps prevent ulcers and swelling in the mouth caused by radiation treatments. Some research shows that taking zinc sulfate by mouth reduces the severity of mouth ulcers in adults undergoing chemotherapy. However, taking zinc does appear to improve mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy in children and adolescents. Zinc does not appear to reduce mouth ulcers in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):

Taking zinc helps prevent hair loss on the head and hair growth on the face in women with PCOS who are also taking a medication called metformin. Taking zinc does not seem to improve acne or levels of hormones in the body.


Taking zinc by mouth helps improve weight gain and reduces infection rate in children and adolescents with leukemia. However, zinc does not appear to improve nutrient levels in the body so that the body can function properly.

Full-term newborns that are underweight:

Taking zinc supplements during pregnancy does not reduce the risk of having a low birth weight infant. However, adding zinc to nutritional supplementation for underweight, full-term infants in developing countries seems to decrease the risk of death and reduce the risk of some complications. Also, giving zinc supplementation to low birth weight infants from developing countries increases weight gain and length gain. However, zinc supplementation does not appear to improve growth in low birth weight infants from industrialized countries.

Melasma or Brown patches on the face:

Applying a solution containing zinc to the skin daily for 2 months is less effective than standard skin bleaching treatment for people with brown patches on the face.

Nose and throat cancer:

Taking zinc improves survival rates after 5 years in people with a rare type of advanced nose and throat cancer.

Prostate swelling or Prostatis:

Taking zinc, selenium, and iodide along with the drug ofloxacin improves symptoms of prostatitis, including pain and quality of life, compared to taking ofloxacin alone. However, taking zinc along with the drug prazosin does not seem to improve symptoms compared to taking prazosin alone.

High bilirubin levels in the blood caused by HIV/AIDs medications:

A class of antiviral medications called HIV protease inhibitors can increase levels of bilirubin in the blood. Taking zinc daily for 14 days decreases total bilirubin levels in the blood by 17% to 20% in people being treated with the HIV protease inhibors atazanavir/ritonavir.


Taking zinc twice daily for 2 months reduces itching in people with kidney disease who are experiencing itching due to dialysis treatment.

Blood infection (sepsis):

Taking zinc along with antibiotics might protect the brain of newborns with sepsis. It isn't known if taking zinc can help these babies live longer.

Recovery from surgery:

Taking zinc reduces the healing time after surgery used to treat an abnormal skin growth located at the tailbone (pilonidal surgery).

Bladder infection:

Taking zinc helps to improve some symptoms of a bladder infection faster in children who are also taking antibiotics. Taking zinc might reduce how often they need to go to the bathroom. It doesn't seem to help with fever or to kill the bacteria in the bladder.

Wound healing:

Applying a zinc solution twice daily improves wound healing compared to applying a saline solution. However, applying zinc-containing insulin seems to work better than solution containing zinc alone.

Wrinkled skin:

A skin cream containing 10% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid and acetyl tyrosine, zinc sulfate, sodium hyaluronate, and bioflavonoids (Cellex-C High Potency Serum) applied for 3 months to facial skin aged by sun exposure seems to improve fine and coarse wrinkling, yellowing, roughness, and skin tone.
More evidence is needed to rate zinc for the below uses:   

  •     Crohn's disease.
  •     Ulcerative colitis.
  •     Other conditions.

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