Can You Trust Homeopathic Medications?

A bad cold prompted MedShadow’s founder to find out more about Zicam, a homeopathic medicine. The lack of long-term data on the therapy was a concern.

I have my first cold in years. My sister recommended Zicam, a homeopathic remedy based on zinc. So I checked out their website.

On the site, I saw this claim by Zicam: “Clinically proven to shorten a cold when taken at the first sign.”

I wanted to see those results, so I emailed the company asking for a copy of the research. I received a quick, courteous and unhelpful response. The letter in its entirety is below, but in summary they have research that Zicam shortens a cold, but they won’t release it because it’s under consideration for publication.

Huh. I’m supposed to just trust them? I hate trusting people who are asking me to pay for their product.

However, the company did send a study about Zicam Allergy Relief. There were 32 people enrolled and it lasted 2 weeks. That’s not long enough that any side effects could be detected. And too small to note if subpopulations might have a different result. (Remember how women have a much lower tolerance for Ambien?)

But that didn’t stop the study researchers from coming to this conclusion about the results: “The fact that Zicam Allergy is a homeopathic preparation without the side effects seen with many other OTC medications makes it an attractive alternative for allergy sufferers.” Any regular visitor to MedShadow knows that homeopathic drugs are powerful and can have their own side effects.

Tiny study, short time period and wild claims implying no side effects. This product is probably just fine, but with such poor supporting evidence, I just don’t trust them.

Check out this great feature, MedShadow ran recently, If you want to find out more about alternative therapies to treat cold and flu symptoms.

Here’s the email:

Dear Suzanne,

Thank you for contacting us about Zicam®.

Independent placebo-controlled, double-blind human clinical studies have been conducted on Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Spray (while publication of the clinical is under consideration, the study results must remain proprietary), Zicam RapidMelts (unpublished), and Zicam Allergy Relief Spray. These studies demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of Zicam homeopathic products. Zicam is clinically proven to help reduce the duration of the common cold. Our scientific support was evaluated by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau as part of a review process. On May 1, 2009, the NAD recognized and supported the claim that “Taking Zicam® Cold Remedy at the first sign of a cold: Reduces the duration of the common cold.”

If you have any further questions, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM, M-F Central Standard Time. Our toll-free phone number is 877-942-2626.

Please refer to your case #1962395 when making your call.

Best regards,

Meghan – Zicam® Customer Relations Representative

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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