Zinc is an essential trace element for humans. It is vital for many biological functions and plays a crucial role in many enzymes in the human body. Zinc is important for a healthy immune system, properly synthesizing DNA, promoting health growth during childhood, and healing wounds.
Zinc has been used in processed form called ‘Yashad bhasma’ by Ayurvedic physicians for centuries. Its processing is a complex process and involves use of various herbs. It is used for treating various ailments. According to Ayurvedic concept, it is astringent, coolant and pungent in nature and helps in maintaining the balance Kapha and Pitta. It is used in the treatment of eye disorders, anaemia, diabetes, cough, cold, bronchitis, asthma, night sweating, non healing wounds, menorrhagia, tremors and diarrhoea.
Zinc is required in very small amounts by human body. The adult body contains about 2-3 grams of zinc, which is found in all parts of the body; Muscles and bones contain most of the body’s zinc. Particularly high concentrations of zinc are in the prostate gland and semen. The "Recommended Dietary Allowance" for zinc is: 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men.
Low levels of zinc makes a person more susceptible to disease and illness; 800,000 childhood deaths occur the world over due to zinc deficiency every year.
According to American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Zinc helps in controlling and regulating immune responses and in attacking infected or cancerous cells.
Health Benefits of Zinc
Antioxidant: Zinc acts as an antioxidant and thus protects us from the oxidative stress. It is involved in some of the biochemical decisive reactions, which includes protein synthesis, enzymatic function and carbohydrate metabolism.
Managing Diarrhoea: According to the World Health Organization, diarrhoea kills an astonishing 1.6 million children under 5 every year. Research has confirmed that a 10-day course of zinc tablets is effective in treating diarrhoea; and it also helps to prevent future bouts of the condition.
Affecting learning memory:
Research has revealed that zinc has a crucial role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another, affecting how memories are formed and how we learn.
Treating common cold: Zinc lozenges shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%. In addition zinc (lozenges or syrup) is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms."
Healing wounds: Deficiency of zinc causes delayed healing of wounds. Zinc helps to protect the skin and mucosal membranes. Topical application of zinc stimulates leg ulcer healing by enhancing re-epithelialization, decreasing inflammation and bacterial growth.
Skin, Hair and Nail care: Zinc has proven effective in treating acne, a problem that affects especially adolescents; and it has a positive effect on psoriasis. Zinc is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent and can help to sooth the skin tissue, sunburn, blisters and certain gum diseases. Zinc accelerates the renewal of the skin cells. Zinc creams are used for babies to soothe diaper rash.
Zinc is important for healthy hair. Insufficient zinc levels may result in loss of hair, hair that looks thin and dull. Its deficiency may lead to premature greying of hair.
Preventing age-related macular degeneration: High concentrations of zinc are found in the retina where it prevents cellular damage in the retina, which helps in delaying the progression of AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and vision loss. Zinc may also protect from night blindness and prevent the development of cataracts.
Fertility: Zinc plays a vital role in fertility. It helps maintain sperm count and mobility and normal levels of serum testosterone. In males, zinc protects the prostate gland from infection and ultimately from enlargement (BPH) and in females, zinc helps treat menstrual problems and alleviate symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome.
For the sense of taste, smell; and appetite: Zinc activates areas of the brain that receive and process information from taste and smell sensors. Levels of zinc in plasma and zinc’s effect on other nutrients, like copper and manganese, influence appetite and taste preference. Zinc is also used in the treatment of anorexia.
Chronic Fatigue: People suffering from chronic fatigue are suggested to consume fish oil, as it is rich in zinc. No other medications are required for curing chronic fatigue except the intake of fish oil rich in zinc content.
Alopecia: Alopecia causes loss of hair in both children and adults. People suffering from Alopecia, should take a diet rich in zinc content. There are various preparations that are rich in zinc, so the medicines rich in zinc will help preventing hair loss.
Other possible benefits: Zinc is also possibly effective for the treatment of Acne, Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Osteoporosis and Preventing and treating pneumonia.
Dr. Parveen Kumar
Lecturer, Deptt. of panchkarma
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.