Zicam is Evil Poison! DO NOT USE!

Don’t have the time or energy to rant…perhaps partly because I spent so much time and energy having hysterics last week.

Zicam, the seemingly helpful little homeopathic zinc gel that is sold OTC to shorten the severity and duration of a cold, came thisclose to destroying my sense of smell permanently. Some people may at first think that this is unfortunate, but not really the worst thing in the world. Well, think again. Okay…not the worst thing in the world, but oh my god you don’t even know how important it is to you until you think it’s gone forever.

Imagine not being able to smell flowers…coffee brewing…your child…your spouse. I realized that there is no word that is the olfactory equivalent of “silence” - but stop and ponder the awfulness of that. A world completely devoid of every single odor. You cannot smell yourself, your house, the world outside. And Taste! Consider how robbed of joy you would be if all flavors boiled down to the basic 5 that your tongue can experience: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and “umami” (the Japanese named this…it’s the generic taste of meat). Because, for those who do not know it, flavors beyond those are determined by your ability to smell. Lose that, and flavor has no meaning. I had a piece of cinnamon toast, and I added a heaping extra tablespoon full of cinnamon on top, and it tasted like mildly salty (the butter) sugar toast with a weird dryness to it.

Now consider the safety issues. Factoid: people who cannot smell generally have shorter lifespans. Not least because of the increased accident factor. Gas leak? What gas leak? Smoke? Nope…I met a woman who set her kitchen on fire and had no clue. Ammonia or clorox or water? Ummm…dunno.

I cannot begin to express how uterly devastated I felt last week when I feared that my loss was permanent. I am a consciously smell-oriented person, and still I would not have guessed at the depth and breadth of my despair when confronted with the possibility of this loss. Smell is the most primal of senses, the one that we use for both food and sex, and the sense many people feel is the most attached to memory. I agree.

I am deeply grateful to be able to state that it looks like I’m going to be ok. However, many other people have not been so fortunate. Google “zicam” to see what comes up, and you’ll discover how many people have been permanently and irreversibly damaged. What is infuriating is that it has been known since the THIRTIES that zinc compounds applied directly to the nasal passages can destroy the cells that control smell. So…lets make a nasal gel of zinc! Neat! (It was a different type of zinc compound, but HELLO…still zinc, still nose, still not such a hot idea, people.)

Please…tell everyone you know: as little as ONE application can destroy your ability to smell forever. No cold is so unendurable as to make that risk worthwhile.

You had me convinced right there.

I’m glad the damage wasn’t permanent. But note for the future that homeopathic remedies aren’t ever worth a damn.

I’m sure one of our resident MDs will back me up shortly, but in the meantime here’s Cecil.

I’m glad your sense of smell is coming back.

Not to be nitpicky, but is isn’t really “homeopathic”, is it? I though homeopathic meant stuff made via that continuous dilution method whereby you end up with something that doesn’t have a single molecule of the original treatment substance (which is something that causes the symptoms you are trying to treat, IIRC).

Say what you will about homeopathic remedies not working (and I’ll say it along with you), at least it shouldn’t cause bad side effects like loss of smell (besides weight loss of the wallet).

Homeopath? Is that like a gay Hannibal Lecter?

All kidding aside, I’m pleased to hear that you will once again be able to savor the abiding stench of LA without hindrance.

May we presume that once this crisis is fully past, we may again enjoy your presence on the barricades, where it has been woefully lacking?

Glad to hear you didn’t lose your sense of smell permanently. To celebrate, let’s continue this discussion in MPSIMS, away from the rank odors of the Pit.

Well yes, the vast weight of medical and scientific opinion is that homeopathy is bunk*, but from what I’ve heard, Zicam may not actually be a homeopathic product (based on the amount of active ingredient it contains, which sounds like way more than the vanishingly small amounts in “true” homeopathic preparations).

There is also some research suggesting this product has value in combatting colds; it remains the source of debate.

And as Stoid noted, her problem is not unique among Zicam users, based on reported symptoms. I am glad she is doing better (guess plans for that dream home next to the landfill are out now, huh? :D)

*no doubt Dr. Deth will be by shortly to insist that “well, it’s not 100%”.

I did some Googling about this ‘homeopathy’ stuff, and I keep coming across people who say that they are Certified Natural Health Practitioners.

What does that mean, does it have any kind of government support?

Is it basically like a homeopathy “doctor”?

Do the people who do this have any kind of oversight into their education/practices to make sure that they are doing things safely? What kind of schools teach people how to do this?

Is it just snake-oil, smoke and mirrors, or is it really dangerous, or is there anything positive about it?

Yep. That’s homeopathy exactly - “the Law of Infinitesimals” and the “Law of Similars”

A Zicam warning can be found here:

Even George Eby (and he’s a quack), the leading advocate of using zinc lozenges for curing colds (something else that’s not proven to be worth a damn) says that intranasal application of zinc gluconate is to be avoided.

And a different Cecil article dealing specifically with Zinc (gluconate & acetate)

Glad you’re okay, Stoid.

I usually have good results with the homeopathic remedies. But, I’ll never use Ziacam again. I tried using it lastweek when I was sick, and it felt like acid in my already sensitive nose.

Snake oil entirely. And potentially dangerous since there is no oversight on the formulation of homeopathic remedies. At best, homeopathy does nothing because the “medicine” is diluted to the point where it may be nothing but water; not even a single molecule of the original compound may exist in the product you purchase. Often time the dilution factor is so great as to exceed the ratio a single molecule vs. all molecules in the known universe. At worst, it can be fatal because the federal government, the FDA specifically, has no authority to regulate and monitor the manufacture of these remedies. These charlatans often get around FDA regulations by selling their products as “dietary supplements.”

Relying on such quackery, rather than conventional scientific medicine, to treat a serious illness can be fatal.


How bout the Certified Natural Health Practitioner?

I can’t find a whole lot of info on what these people do/learn. Are they just another term for Homeopathy Practitioner?

Naw, it’s bunk. :stuck_out_tongue: 100% pure, unadulterated bunk.

However, AFAIK, the jury is still out on Zinc, but it’s not looking good. Still, if you are suffering from a cold, do make sure you aren’t *deficient *in either Zinc or vit C.

Isn’t that what eating foods that contain zinc and vitamin c, or taking a multi-vitamin is for?

Much to my disgust, a friend of mine started to go down the path to get certified. It means that you take a bunch of classes over a couple of years and get some sort of certification from the people running the “school.” There is no gov’t oversight at all.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the certification is totally worthless because it might make it easier to get a job at a health food store or something but the information is certainly useless.



Do you know how much ‘school’ there is, like, how many/what kind of classes? Is there a central group that runs the school?

Basically what I’m asking is, they say ‘certified’. Who hands out the certifications?

You can find more info here, catsix. Maybe even what you’re looking for.

The many schools" offering classes and certification in alternative medical practices employ some very, uh, “flexible” terminology. They try very hard to paint themselves in what appear to be scientific terms, many of which are meaningless, or misused, according to the precepts of mainstream medicine and science. They do this in the hopes that some it will rub off and they’ll appear more legitimate. About 99% of alternative, holisitc, and natural medicine is bunk (there are some herbal medicines which may actually work and these compounds are at least testable). They posit all kinds of things that mainstream science and medicine know nothing about and current theories which actually work demostrably leave no room for. In addition, many of their theories are simply untestable and therefore, outside of science altogether.

The specific certification you’re asking about (Certified Natural Health Practitioner) appears to be limited to Canada. Examinations and registrations are maintained thru this agency it would appear:
This Canadian outfit says a graduate of any school accredited through the “Open International University for Complementary Medicines” may apply for certification. I have no idea if the United States has an analogue organization although I would suspect at least one exists (and possibly many). How legit this outfit is I cannot tell. At minimum, they claim to operate within legal guidelines set forth by the Canadian gov’t. Which is not to say that they’re an official bureau of the Canadian gov’t. - they aren’t.

More information here:

Homeopathic remedies do work to some degree. I wouldn’t rely on them to cure cancer, but for mild symptoms, I and many other people have had good results. OTC and perscription, allergy and pain meds have absolutly no effect on me, other than to make me so drowsy, I sleep through the discomfort.

OTOH, If I have a medical problem, my first choice for a remedy will always be what my doctor recommends. But if that doesn’t work, I’m not going to waste my time or money on variations of the same thing.

And, catsix, there’s the NCCAM (National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine) run by the National Institute of Health - an arm of the United States Health & Human Services cabinet department. This organization is not an accreditation agency, but rather tasked with evaluating the effiicacy of alternative medical treatment modalities. Frankly, I think it is a huge waste of taxpayer money and the directorship is made up almost entirely of alternative medical practitioners. There is, I think, only a single person on the board of directors who admits to being skeptical of alternative medical practices.

Depends, I guess, on what you mean by “work.” If anything, the improvement you see in your condtion, is due either to placebo effect, or because minor disorders are very likely to improve, even in relatively short periods of time, without any intervention by a person at all. There is simply *no evidence acceptable to science that homeopathy does anything.

Are you sure you’re not conflating herbal medicine with homeopathy? Those terms seem to be blending together in recent years, but are really totally different methodologies. Homeopathy relies, as noted above, on the so-called Law of Infinitesimals. The requires that a compound which has been noted to cause, in an afflicted person, symptoms similar to the afflictions. That compound is then diluted, often to the point where it is not likely that even a single molecule of the orginal compound remains in the solution, ad administered. Between dilutions, the compound is shaken by the chemist - a procedure called succussion. Succussion, according to the founder of homepathy, Samuel Hahnemann, releases the “immaterial and spiritual powers” of the compound thereby making it more potent. The only way this could possibly work is if the water being used as a diluting agent has some kind of “memory” of the substances with which it has been in contact. And if that were true, then it is just as likely the water would retain a “memory” of all substances with which it has had contact over millions of years.

So do placebos.