Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Lost Your Sense of Smell?
I just heard of lawsuits being brought against manufacturers of various nasal sprays containing zinc gluconate. The lawsuits charge that the zinc gluconate is causing the loss of sense of smell in certain people. What is your take on this?
Answer (Published 1/31/2005)

It is true that a number of lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of two nasal-spray cold remedies containing zinc gluconate, claiming that use of these products caused a loss of the sense of smell, a condition called anosmia. These incidents and the suits were first brought to light by a television station in Denver which has reported that consumers in five states have targeted the manufacturers of Zicam nasal spray and Cold-Eeze nasal spray, both of which contain zinc gluconate.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

I understand that the FDA is looking into the complaints. Anyone with a loss of sense of smell (or any other adverse reaction) related to the use of these products (or any drug, prescription or over-the-counter) should report the problem to the FDA's Medwatch program at:

So far, the companies that manufacture the nasal sprays in question have denied an association between use of their products as recommended and the anosmia reported by users. However, the company that makes Zicam has admitted that there have been no studies examining the connection between use of its product and a loss of the ability to smell. Physicians at the University of Colorado's Taste and Smell Clinic have been tracking reports that use of zinc gluconate nasal sprays are linked to cases of anosmia. No such claims have been made with respect to other, non-spray cold remedies containing zinc gluconate, which studies suggest can shorten the duration and severity of colds if taken at the first sign.

Until this question is carefully examined in scientific studies, there's no way to prove that the nasal sprays actually are responsible for the problem. However, zinc in other forms has been used to eliminate the sense of smell in lab animals, and some specialists have speculated that the anosmia reported may stem from misusing the nasal sprays by sniffing too deeply while spraying.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here