Nutrient Cures

What Is In Zicam?

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What Is In Zicam Cold Remedy?

Zicam works well to stop a cold, but how does it work? What is in Zicam? The primary active ingredient in many Zicam Cold products are two forms of zinc which is a natural anti-viral. Zicam has a few other interesting ingredients including elderberry in some products as well as other herbals. I thought Zicam just had zinc so when I happened to see other ingredients in a few of their products I began to wonder just what else was in Zicam.

  • Most Zicam Cold Products Contain Two Forms of Zinc as Active Ingredients

These are zinc gluconate and zinc acetate. However, in the nasal spray and nasal swabs there is no zinc. Zinc Gluconate and Zinc Acetate have been shown in clinical studies to shorten the length of a cold. See Reference below.

Zicam lozenges, Rapid Melts, Medicated Fruit Drops in Assorted Fruit and Ultimate Orange flavors and Oral Spray all have these two forms of zinc. Zinc is naturally anti-viral and has been the basis of Zicam Cold products since they were first introduced on the market in the 1990’s.

What Does Zinc Do? How Does it Stop a Cold? 

Zinc is a natural anti-viral, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory.

Zinc is a Natural Anti-Viral

Zinc prevents the cold virus from replicating if it comes in direct contact with the virus.  This is why Zicam needs to be taken so that it comes in contact with the cold virus in your throat and sinuses rather than ingested like a regular pill or capsule. If you just took  a zinc supplement that went straight to your stomach it would not have the opportunity to stop the virus.  Likewise, if you wait until your are very sick, Zicam might not be very effective since the virus has already become widespread. Zinc needs the chance to catch the virus before it replicates fully. Therefore, if you catch a cold early and use Zicam properly, it can stop the cold in it’s tracks. Zicam should be taken as soon as you feel any cold symptoms.

Zinc Works as An Anti-Inflammatory and Antihistamine

Zinc is not only a natural anti-viral. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine as well. These properties help Zicam make us feel better when fighting a cold since they reduce swelling in our airways and reduce allergic reactions. I now take Zicam during allergy season to for its impressive anti-histamine effect.

Follow The Directions For Full Effect

Make sure you follow the directions on the bottle or box. For the rapid melts for example you should not eat or drink anything for 15 minutes after you take it so it has time to work in your mouth and throat. You should also let it dissolve in your mouth rather than just chewing it up right away.  Don’t have any citrus with Zicam as that counteracts the effect.

  • Several Zicam Cold Products Also Contain Sambucus From Elderberry and Other Herbals

Zicam Crystals contain zinc gluconate, zinc acetate and also Sambucus nigra from elderberry.

Zicam Medicated Fruit Drops in the Elderberry flavor contain the regular forms of zinc and also contain Sambucus nigra from elderberry.

  • Other Ingredients in Zicam Cold Remedy

Zicam also has several other ingredients I was not aware of that have some interesting properties.

  1. Galphimia glauca which is the Thyrallis plant also known as “Rain of Gold” is a popular ornamental with yellow flowers. It is used for treating hay fever.
  2. Luffa operculata which is one species of the luffa plant known for producing luffa sponges. While the luffa sponge is made from the dried remains, the fruit can also be used for treating colds and for sinus conditions.
  3. Sabadilla plant used for treating colds, runny nose and hay fever.
  • What are the Active Ingredients in Various Zicam Cold Products?

Zinc Gluconate and Zinc Acetate are contained in:

Zicam Rapid Melts in Cherry, Orange Creme and Lemon Lime

Zicam Medicated Fruit Drops in Ultimate Orange and Assorted Fruit

Zicam Lozenges

Zicam Oral Mist

Zicam Kids Grape Chews

Zinc Glucoate, Zinc Acetate and Echinecea are contained in:

Zicam Rapid Melts in Citrus

Zinc Gluconate, Zinc Acetate and Elderberry are contained in:

Zicam Medicated Fruit Drops in Elderberry

Galphimia glauca (Thyrallis plant), Luffa operculata, Sabadilla are contained in:

Zicam Nasal Spray

Zicam Nasal Swabs

  • Zicam Nasal Spray and Nasal Swabs Have No Zinc

They contain: Galphimia glauca which is the Thyrallis plant also known as “Rain of Gold”. These products also contain Luffa operculata which is the luffa plant known as the source of luffa sponges when dried. The fruit of the luffa plant is also used as an anti-inflammatory for nasal swelling and other sinus conditions. They also contain the Sabadilla plant.

Why Do the Nasal Spray and Nasal Swabs Contain No Zinc? 

When Zicam was first introduced in the 1990’s, the nasal products contained zinc. There were claims they damaged the sense of smell in some people. Due to this, the products were pulled off the market. In recent years the nasal products have been brought back with non-zinc ingredients. I have not had any problem with any form of Zicam but now with the reformulation there is no cause for concern.

  • Does Zicam Taste Good or Bad?

That is of course a matter of opinion but I can tell you without reservation that the Medicated Fruit Drops taste good! They taste the best of all the Zicam products to me. The Orange Creme Rapid Melts are my next choice. The Medicated Fruit Drops taste like a really good, high quality fruit candy. Have you ever had the candy orange slices that are shaped like orange segments? The orange flavor reminds me of those but with a better flavor. The red ones have a mixed fruit punch flavor. The elderberry flavor tastes a bit like elderberry syrup or blackberry jam. The Medicated Fruit Drops in Mixed Fruit Flavor are my favorite since they have 3 different flavors in the bottle including the orange and fruit punch.

  • Are There Side Effects From Zicam?

There can be side effects with most anything, but the by far the most common is just discomfort if you take them on an empty stomach. I always take them after I have eaten. As long as I do that I have never had any side effects.

People taking certain prescription medications or antibiotics should check with their doctor or pharmacist as there could be reactions with zinc.

The main active ingredient in most forms of Zicam Cold is zinc. This is a common nutrient that we get in food every day, however most of us can’t get it in the right format to fight a virus. If it is swallowed and goes into the stomach it will not have enough time to come in direct contact with the virus and do much good.

There were concerns decades ago of the original nasal swabs and sprays causing loss of smell. Those products were removed from the market and recently were brought back with no zinc. They now use an herbal only formulation. I never had any problem with those or any other Zicam product.

  • Can Kids Take Zicam?

Yes, kids can take Zicam. There is a Zicam Kids formula which is made for kids and regular Zicam can be taken by kids over 12 according to the directions. The same zinc ingredients are in the kid’s formula as in the regular Zicam  Cold products.

  • How Should Zicam Be Taken?

Zicam should be taken after eating to avoid an upset stomach. No food or liquid should be taken for 15 minutes after taking Zicam so it has a chance to work and not get all washed straight into the stomach. No citrus should be taken for 30 minutes before or after Zicam.

Keep taking Zicam every 3 to 4 hours until cold symptoms are gone. It is easy to take Zicam once, feel better and then stop using it. I have done this many times. If only taken once, the cold virus may come back. Try to take it a few more times even if you feel better to avoid a relapse. Zicam is very effective however. I often only take it once per day when I am exposed to other people with colds to make sure I don’t get anything. Zicam is not a preventative however. You cannot take it one day, get exposed to a cold the next day and be protected. That is why I keep taking it once per day as long as I am at risk. If I actually feel sick I will take it more often as the directions state.

If you have any thoughts or questions please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.



Hemilä H. Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open. 2017;8(5):2054270417694291. Published 2017 May 2. doi:10.1177/2054270417694291. Available at 


Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. These recommendations are based on personal experience and research. Consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment options. 

NutrientCures only offers honest reviews and never recommends a product we wouldn’t use ourselves everyday.  NutrientCures makes use of affiliate relationships with merchants such as Amazon Associates for monetization. This means when you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in a small commission that is credited to this site.



  1. MrBiizy

    Hello Jessica, thank you for sharing this educative and informative post expanding on what Zicam is. I had read once about Zicam before and I was really excited about how it is capable of stopping cold. I never had an idea of how it should be taken. What makes it cool for me is that kids can even take it, this is really an advantage for me. Thank you for the tips and the guide.

    All the best!

  2. Md Millat

    Thank you so much for sharing such an excellent article with us and your article was interesting and informative. I have got a lot of information about Zicam. Long ago I had a cold, when I used this Zicam, using Zicam made my cold better and it is a very useful product to treat the winter and feel the symptoms of winter. I have benefited immensely from using this product and I think other people like me will benefit from using this product. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back to your website later and thank you again for sharing such a beautiful post with us and I wish you good health.

  3. Lee

    With cold and flu season well underway, it would be a good ideal to have some Zicam on hand. The common cold can really derail plans for a good two weeks and make life just miserable. Thank you for the detailed research and making a very informed suggestion. I have used this product for basic allegories but I will keep it in mind when a cold pops up. 

  4. Parveen

    Hey, I enjoy while reading your article on Zicam. Now I know that Most Zicam Cold Products Contain Two Forms of Zinc as Active Ingredients. Zinc prevents the cold virus from replicating if it comes in direct contact with the virus. Zinc also Works as An Anti-Inflammatory and Antihistamine.

    Your guide on Zicam is very useful but before doing any change we should discuss our family doctor first.

  5. Willow

    I have heard of Zicam before but never looked much into it until now. I like that the active ingredient is zinc, which is a natural mineral that helps boost your immune system. I like that you list so much more that zinc can do for you as well. The different flavors all sound good too.

    Cold and flu season is upon us right now, so I’ll have to get a bottle of these; maybe take a couple a day for prevention.

    1. admin

      Hello Willow,

      I take one every day even when I don’t feel sick since the zinc helps me so much as an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. You can’t prevent a cold with zinc but if you are taking it anyway after you are exposed to a virus you may stop it before you even knew you needed to. 



  6. BLOG

    If I didn’t read this post, I would never know what zicam is. I am grateful to you for this information. I am sure, it will be valuable for many people.

    1. Jessica (Post author)

      I am so glad you found this post and that it will help you.


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