I saw a video that said that drinking tonic water and taking zinc would cure or prevent infection by COVID-19. Is this true?
There is a video that has gone viral suggesting this concoction is a "miracle cure" but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that is true.
As with many myths however there is a grain of truth or at least a thread connecting the myth with reality.
Tonic water contains quinine which is chemically similar to hydroxychloroquine. However, there is no data that suggests that quinine is effective against COVID-19.
Zinc on the other hand is a bit more interesting. Some types of common colds are caused by coronaviruses and COVID-19 is a type of coronavirus. The use of zinc supplementation has been associated with a reduction in the time it takes to overcome a cold and with severity of symptoms in some studies. Also, a Cochrane review (a compilation of 18 randomized controlled studies) found that zinc inhibited the replication of the cold virus and reduced the time to cure when the zinc was taken in lozenge or syrup form.
This evidence is compelling enough that zinc has been added as an adjunct to other medications in some of the randomized COVID-19 trials that are currently underway. However, no results with zinc have been published.
So should you drink tonic water and take zinc for protection or treatment of COVID-19? No.
Should you take a zinc supplement? It might be beneficial but there is no direct evidence that proves that it is. If you do decide to supplement with zinc be careful of the dose because you can take too much. For adults, the maximum dosage of elemental zinc is 40 mg; for 14 -18 year olds, the maximum is 34 mg. Children should not be given zinc supplements unless directed by a medical provider. Find more dosing information on drugs.com.
John R. White is the chair of the Department of Pharmacology at WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences based in Spokane.