Psoriasis, ulcers, eczema – studies indicate that wounds heal almost twice as fast when oral zinc is administered.
By George Harris, RPh, PCCA Pharmacy Consultant
Do you have patients with psoriasis? Eczema? A bad rash that just won’t clear up? Diabetic ulcers? Stasis ulcers? Pressure (bed) sores? Surgery incisions that “just won’t heal”? Patients who have “tried everything,” have been to “all sorts of doctors,” used “everything the doctors could give” them, and nothing seems to help?
Why Not Try Zinc?
There is evidence that zinc is involved as a major trace element in the wound healing process because it is involved in many different cellular processes that occur from injury to healing.1,2,3 Zinc is the second-most abundant trace element found in the human body.4 And studies have indicated that wounds heal almost twice as fast when oral zinc is administered.5
Studies have been done that indicate folks with the above skin conditions have reduced plasma zinc concentrations. Some of them were completely healed when zinc (zinc sulfate 220 mg twice daily) was administered despite having suffered from the conditions for as long as two years.6 Yet it is very often overlooked when we are trying to bring about healing with all our unctions, salves, and potions.
In my own practice, and through recommending it to PCCA member pharmacists, I have experienced that the addition of zinc to the regimen can cause the condition in question to heal within a rather short period of time. That period of time may be eight to 16 weeks, but short compared to the time the patient had the condition.
One of my patients was a young child who had such a bad psoriatic rash since he was six months old that he had to be bathed in a certain type of soap twice daily, and had to have certain strong creams administered twice daily, and different creams/ointments applied when the skin broke open. He was not allowed to go outdoors and play for fear of infection. Nothing had been able to affect healing. I suggested that his mom ask her doctor if she could give the child 1 mL of our PCCA Formula #4762 every evening, as it certainly would not hurt anything else she was doing. Mom did it. I got a message three months later that said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for the zinc idea. My child, who just turned four years old, went swimming for the first time in his life yesterday. His skin is completely healed.”
Our Formula #4762 is used by having the patient take one teaspoonful into their mouth, swish it for 30 seconds and then swallow it. Do this twice daily. (The little boy referenced above did not swish. He was just given 1-2 mL nightly). Over time (seven to 10 days), the solution will start to acquire a taste, as the levels of zinc in the patient increase. It is not going bad when this happens. It appears that the zinc has some action with a substance called gustin, and that has an effect on taste buds, which causes the taste. But when the taste gets so bad they just can’t stand it, stop. Almost all of the time at this point the condition will have been rectified. For more information, see our Zinc Taste Test file (PCCA Document #94300) under Resources>Documents on the Members-Pnly Website. (By the way, the Zinc Sulfate Replacement Solution also can be used to help older folks reacquire the sense of taste, but that is another topic.)
So, the changing of the taste is a good thing. There are other studies indicating that the addition of zinc helps to a certain point, and then starts to impede the healing. The bad taste is indication to stop.
The zinc replacement solution is inexpensive enough that I have been known to give it for free to patients (with their doctor’s permission) along with all their expensive prescriptions. However, if dispensed by itself, I would charge for it. After the skin is cleared, patients often need a moisturizing cream. I have found that PCCA Formula #8928 is a wonderful, petrolatum-free moisturizing cream. The patients love it. You can add collagen and even sunscreens to it if they wish. And you, once again, become a hero.
- Gray M. Does oral zinc supplementation promote healing of chronic wounds? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 30(6):295–9. 2003.
- Collins N. Zinc supplementation: yea or nay? Adv Skin Wound Care. 16(5):226–30. 2003.
- Scholl D, Langkamp-Henken B. Nutrient recommendations for wound healing. J Intraven Nurs. 2001 Mar-Apr;24(2):124-32.
- Lansdown, ABG. Zinc and the healing skin wound. Lancet. 347:706-7. 1996.
- Pories, WJ et al, Acceleration of healing with zinc sulfate. Ann Surg. 165:432-6. 1967.
- Greaves MW, Skillen AW. Effects of long-continued ingestion of zinc sulphate in patients with venous leg ulceration. Lancet. ii:889–91. 1970.
Originally published in the September 2013 Apothagram. Reprinted with permission.