Zinc is an essential nutrient found in meat, dairy, and nuts. It has been used to help the body fight illness, improve digestion, and promote healing in wounds and skin infections. It is also used to treat zinc deficiency.

Zinc can be taken as a pill, liquid, syrup, or lozenge. Zinc can also be applied to the skin and has been used to prevent sunburns and improve acne. It can be applied as a cream, ointment, or salve.


40 milligrams daily

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Growth outcomes in children —likely to improve growth outcomes in young children L1
  • Hemodialysis —likely to benefit the nutritional status of people having hemodialysis M1
  • Newborn jaundice —likely to reduce the duration of phototherapy Q1
  • Pneumonia —likely to prevent in young children and to improve outcome when used with standard treatment R1-R3

May Be Effective

  • Common cold —may shorten time of sickness G1-G3
  • Diarrhea in children —may ease symptoms I1-I3

May Not Be Effective

  • Beta thalassemia —may not provide benefit C1
  • Dysmenorrhea —may not provide benefit J1
  • Pressure ulcers —may not prevent or treat T1

Unlikely to Be Effective

  • Birthweight —unlikely to have an effect D1
  • Cognitive function in children —unlikely to provide benefit F1
  • Leg ulcers —unlikely to promote healing N1
  • Mental and motor development in children —unlikely to provide benefit P1
  • Tinnitus —unlikely to improve symptoms W1

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Age-related macular degeneration A1
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder B1
  • Birthweight D1
  • Burns E1
  • Diabetic kidney disease H1
  • Ear infection K1
  • Measles O1
  • Pregnancy outcomes S1
  • Sickle cell disease U1
  • Taste disturbances V1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to use zinc products on the skin and to take zinc orally in small doses for a short time, but nausea is possible when used as a lozenge. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take large doses of zinc.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.


A. Age-Related Macular Degeneration

A1. Evans JR, Lawrenson JG. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 31;7:CD000254.

B. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

B1. Ghanizadeh A, Berk M. Zinc for treating of children and adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review of randomized controlled clinical trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;67(1):122-124.

C. Beta Thalassemia

C1. Swe KM, Abas AB, et al. Zinc supplements for treating thalassaemia and sickle cell disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 28;(6):CD009415.

D. Birthweight

D1. Gebreselassie SG, Gashe FE. A systematic review of effect of prenatal zinc supplementation on birthweight: meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials. J Health Popul Nutr. 2011 Apr;29(2):134-140.

E. Burns

E1. Kurmis R, Greenwood J, et al. Trace Element Supplementation Following Severe Burn Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Burn Care Res. 2016 May-Jun;37(3):143-59.

F. Cognitive Function in Children

F1. Warthon-Medina M, Moran VH, et al. Zinc intake, status and indices of cognitive function in adults and children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;69(6):649-661.

G. Common Cold

G1. Science M, Johnstone J, et al. Zinc for the treatment of the common cold: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ. 2012;184(10):E551-561.

G2. Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 18;(6):CD001364.

G3. Hemilä H, Petrus EJ, et al. Zinc acetate for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;82(5):1393-1398.

H. Diabetic Kidney Disease

H1. Bolignano D, Cernaro V, et al. Antioxidant agents for delaying diabetic kidney disease progression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 1;12(6):e0178699.

I. Diarrhea in Children

I1. Lamberti LM, Walker CL, et al. Oral zinc supplementation for the treatment of acute diarrhea in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients. 2013 Nov 21;5(11):4715-4740.

I2. Zou TT, Mou J, et al. Zinc supplementation in acute diarrhea. Indian J Pediatr. 2015 May;82(5):415-420.

I3. Lazzerini M, Wanzira H. Oral zinc for treating diarrhoea in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Dec 20;12:CD005436.

J. Dysmenorrhea

J1. Pattanittum P, Kunyanone N, et al. Dietary supplements for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Mar 22;3:CD002124.

K. Ear Infection

K1. Gulani A, Sachdev HS. Zinc supplementation for preventing otitis media. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(6):CD006639.

L. Growth Outcomes in Children

L1. Liu E, Pimpin L, et al. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Growth Outcomes in Children under 5 Years of Age. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 20;10(3). pii: E377.

M. Hemodialysis

M1. Wang LJ, Wang MQ, et al. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Maintenance Hemodialysis Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 15 Randomized Controlled Trials. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:1024769.

N. Leg Ulcers

N1. Wilkinson EA. Oral zinc for arterial and venous leg ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014(9):CD001273.

O. Measles

O1. Awotiwon AA, Oduwole O, et al. Zinc supplementation for the treatment of measles in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;6:CD011177.

P. Mental and Motor Development in Children

P1. Gogia S, Sachdev HS. Zinc supplementation for mental and motor development in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12:CD007991.

Q. Newborn Jaundice

Q1. Yang L, Wu, et al. The influence of zinc sulfate on neonatal jaundice: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018 May;31(10):1311-1317.

R. Pneumonia

R1. Tie HT, Tan Q, et al. Zinc as an adjunct to antibiotics for the treatment of severe pneumonia in children <5 years: a meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Br J Nutr. 2016 Mar 14;115(5):807-816.

R2. Lassi ZS, Moin A, et al. Zinc supplementation for the prevention of pneumonia in children aged 2 months to 59 months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Dec 4;12:CD005978.

R3. Wang L, Song Y. Efficacy of zinc given as an adjunct to the treatment of severe pneumonia: A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials. Clin Respir J. 2018;12(3):857-863.

S. Pregnancy Outcomes

S1. Ota E, Mori R, et al. Zinc supplementation for improving pregnancy and infant outcome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Feb 2;(2):CD000230.

T. Pressure Ulcers

T1. Langer G, Fink A. Nutritional interventions for preventing and treating pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 12;(6):CD003216.

U. Sickle Cell Disease

U1. Swe KM, Abas AB, et al. Zinc supplements for treating thalassaemia and sickle cell disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 28;(6):CD009415.

V. Taste Disturbances

V1. Kumbargere Nagraj S, et al. Interventions for managing taste disturbances. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Dec 20;12:CD010470.

W. Tinnitus

W1. Person OC, Puga ME, et al. Zinc supplementation for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;11:CD009832.

Last reviewed July 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 3/26/2020

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