Stop colds dead in their tracks!

You, like me, have probably noted the ads placed in social media to stop colds with a copper magic wand. I was curious about this, and ran across this scientific evaluation of the product, which includes some interesting observations about dubious health products in general, and the psychology behind them. The author also explains how difficult it is to work with biologic systems to find meaningful treatments

The same questionable tactics are seen in other aspects of science, notably evolution and so are relevant to our forum. One quote that I thought applies to the faith and science debate:

“There are various kinds of medical pseudoscience we encounter. Sometimes the alleged intervention is spiritual in nature, or it is basically some kind of magic (or might as well be). Homeopathy, for example, is essentially witchcraft, with magic potions that have zero basis in reality. But a lot of modern snake oil is based on some science. This is extremely useful for marketing, because you can cite the relevant science and pretend to be all legitimate.”

Any thoughts on that? Certainly, we see arguments that have a bit of truth and legitimate science, but veer far away from where that data leads.

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“And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger.” – CS Lewis, The Last Battle is also very helpful.

Paul Offit, in “Do You Believe in Magic,” recommends that we all treat every single supplement, medicine or food, as a chemical that needs adequate testing prior to use–whether it’s promoted by an MD or not.

This can be a tricky part for lay people – how to tell the difference between “some” science and thorough, sound science when they appear to share similar vocabulary and confidence levels among those advocating for them. Probably it comes down to who to trust and why.

But I agree that this is very similar to YEC – and if all you hear is one source of information and learn to effectively tune out others, it’s hard to change.


Zinc lozenges do indeed lessen the severity and length of colds, but they really mess up your taste while you’re taking them! (And you have to start early, the sooner the better after first symptoms.)

(And zinc is right next to copper in the periodic table, if that counts for anything. :slightly_smiling_face:)

Zinc may help, but with risks. It is a good example of a little science and a lot of marketing. Here is Consumer Reports take:

So, take it with a grain of salt, figuratively speaking.


(Your link appears to have an appended ‘n’ resulting in an error)

And speaking of n :slightly_smiling_face:, I will attest that on a population of n = 1 (namely myself) that the formulation of zinc in the above mentioned products both reduces the severity of symptoms and shortens the duration of a cold. (I’ve been doing it for a decade or more, and when I don’t, I’m sorry about it.)

It’s true that some studies have found that zinc supplements may shorten the duration of a cold…

I think I trust WebMD as much if not more than Consumer Reports:

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If I understand it correctly, the main problem with ever finding if zinc helps is that you can’t do a blinded controlled trial, because of its taste.

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Well, note that the CR article does not dispute the possible benefit, it just states that the downside is pretty much worse for most people. Regarding WebMD, they have some good info, but unfortunately, many commercial sites have fallen to advising questionable stuff …because it is popular and they are looking to capture views. About the only sites I truly trust are those without an agenda.
Unfortunately, we often do not have the expertise to analyze the research in a meaningful way, so must rely on experts, making who to trust an important factor.
Thanks for the corrected link. I use my iPad a lot and at times strange things creep in due to fat fingers.


The side effects are the rub, aren’t they? Going back to vioxx, and even a hundred years ago to strychnine, which we Physicians used to give, in the form of nux vomica, there are a lot of things that we tried to seem to work, but have lots of side effects. That’s the thing about herbs and over-the-counter supplements too. There’s just not enough time or energy to test everything exactly right. It’s great to be conservative. That takes away a lot of the fun and magic and hope that we find in trying something new though.

Here is another article from Sciencebasedmedicine. It even mentions creationism as an example of how people crave certainty and are uncomfortable with the changing nature of scientific knowledge:

quote from the article:
“The core tenets of the theory of evolution are supported by an enormous body of mutually-reinforcing evidence from a number of different disciplines built up over many decades. The controversies in evolution, such as they are, tend to be at the bleeding edge of the science, and the bleeding edge is always way more uncertain than the core. (Otherwise they wouldn’t be bleeding edge.) Yet creationists use those scientific controversies to cast doubt on the very core of evolution. It’s how science denial works. Similarly, climate science deniers use controversies at the very edge climate science to cast doubt on the entire conclusion of climate science…”


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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