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  • Joy Stevens ND

Zinc for the Win!

(Originally written April 7, 2020)

A loss of sense of smell and taste is often due to a zinc deficiency. (1)

Zinc is also anti-viral. (2)

One of the early symptoms of COVID-19 is a loss of sense of smell and taste. (3)


Could it be that while you are feeling well and out enjoying life as usual, your body is fighting a viral infection and using up zinc in the process? And that once those zinc stores are depleted, often in 5 to 14 days, your first symptoms are a loss of sense of smell and taste? And could it be that while you were still feeling well, yet clearly infected, you were shedding virus? Yes, yes, and yes.

You can be infected and shedding virus yet still feel great. (4) This is why sheltering at home, social distancing, and wearing a mask are so important. It is also why using the presence or absence of a fever to check if someone is infected or not will miss many cases - by the time someone has a fever it is way too late. They are most infectious in the early stages, before they have symptoms or when symptoms are mildest. They have been shedding virus and exposing others for days.

I have been recommending zinc for this illness for six weeks now. Why? Because zinc is the anti-viral hero. It interferes with viral replication. Viruses replicate inside cells. Unfortunately zinc, having a +2 charge, can't easily enter cells so it needs an escort, something to take it across the cell membrane. This escort is called a zinc ionophore. Some examples are molybdenum, quercetin, green tea, cinchona bark, and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). (5, 6) In fact, it is a latter one, the cinchona bark, from which HCQ is derived. But because drug companies can't patent natural products, they have to tweak it just enough so that it is no longer a natural product and thus they can make bank from it.

Now, cinchona bark can have some nasty side effects, but they generally resolve when the product is stopped and an experienced prescriber knows how to work with this. (6) HCQ has even nastier side effects and despite best efforts of the prescribing physician, some of those side effects do not resolve. Side effects like death. (7)

So if zinc is the hero and molybdenum, quercetin, green tea, and cinchona bark all safely act as ionophores to get the zinc to where it needs to go, why would anyone want to take HCQ which can cause serious heart and eye conditions? Because the president mentioned it? Because one of his PhD economic advisers promoted it? Hell, even many of the physicians promoting it don't understand the mechanism of action. If they did, we would at least hear a recommendation to take zinc with it. (To be fair, today was the first time I have seen HCQ and zinc mentioned together so perhaps the message is getting out.)

As for me, I will take a hard pass on the HCQ and instead insist on the others which are just as helpful but don't put my life at risk. And I will add other very useful substances during this pandemic, things like vitamin C, vitamin D, selenium, NAC, anti-viral herbs, and others.


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