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The Ionophore Experiment

A year and some months ago, when the whole COVID-19 thing was just getting out of second gear, one of the doctors I see recommended that Carol and I take zinc and the OTC supplement quercetin every day. The explanation was simple: Quercetin is a zinc ionophore. Ionophores are chemicals able to transport certain ions through cell membranes through which those ions would not ordinarily pass. Zinc is known to attack viruses of all sorts, especially cold and flu viruses. Quercetin attaches to zinc ions and escorts them through cell membranes, into the cells where viruses replicate. Zinc stops virus replication cold.

This sounded familiar, and it was. About that time I had begun hearing of the work of Dr. Zev Zelenko, a New York physician who had begun treating early COVID-19 patients with a drug cocktail consisting of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Zinc, and an antibiotic. Dr. Zelenko has a wonderful metaphor describing the cocktail’s operation: Zinc is the bullet. HCQ is the gun. Sure, it’s a little more complex than that, but despite metric megatonnes of anti-HCQ bullshit in the media, the cocktail works.

I’ve seen quercetin described as a zinc ionophore in many places. HCQ is also a known zinc ionophore. It’s a prescription drug that must be taken under medical supervision to avoid certain side effects. However, people I know personally are taking it every day and have for years for autoiummune disorders. I’m not sure how you measure the effectiveness of one zinc ionophore vs. another, so it’s unclear how “strong” an ionophore has to be. Everything I’ve read suggests that quercetin is strong enough to kill viruses wholesale by escorting zinc into cells.

Quercetin has, at best, mild side effects. It’s found in many foods, including kale. Alas, I won’t eat kale, so I take it as an extract in a gelcap. Carol and I followed the physician’s advice, and we’ve been taking 800 mg of quercetin once daily in a formula that includes bromelain. We also take 50 mg zinc daily in the form of zinc gluconate. I’ve talked about this before here on Contra, though it may have been a whole year ago or more. I bring it up again because Carol and I have noticed something unrelated to COVID-19: Neither of us has gotten a cold since we began taking quercetin plus zinc.

And that, my friends, is worth something. My long-time readers have heard me bitch about catching colds and feeling miserable down the years. I get one or sometimes two bad colds a year, and a scattering of sniffles that last for a few days and vanish. We get flu shots, but we still got the flu really bad back at the end of 2017. So the experiment is this: Even though we’re fully vaccinated, we’re going to keep taking quercetin plus zinc, and see how long it is before either of us catches a cold or flu. (We’ll still get our flu shots. I’m a strong believer in vaccination.)

Now, a lot of the country is still hiding out, though here in Arizona mask mandates are mostly a thing of the past. So it’s possible that we ducked colds for the past fourteen months by simply not rubbing shoulders with people much. Those days are past. We shop at big stores like Safeway and Target and Costco even when they’re crowded and nobody has masks. In other words, we’re more or less back to normal life. And my experience of “normal life” prior to COVID was (at least) one cold a year.

Carol and I aren’t worried about COVID anymore. Is it possible that we don’t have to worry about catching colds either? I’m turning 69 in a week. I’ll recap in another year. There’s still no cure for the common cold, but if two OTC supplements can stop colds before they start, man, I call that a revolution–and one helluva birthday present!


  1. Jason Kaczor says:

    This is tough call – our family did not change any dietary or supplement intake over the course of Covid-19, and – none of 5 adults and one toddler caught any colds or flu’s since January 2020. Canada has been pretty mask-“ok” – and we are in a continued lockdown.

    So – from my personal perspective, I will continue to wear masks during cold/flu season from now on, when going out – after all, in other countries and cultures – that is considered the norm.

  2. Thank you for this Jeff. I will share this with Lisa. I’d like to see if taking the dose you and Carol works the same for us.

    1. I’d be curious to know that as well. So let’s call 7/1/2021 – 7/1/2022 our test period.

      Zinc shortages are common. I’ve never had mine tested, but many people–especially the elderly–have much less than they need. As for quercetin, it’s in a lot of plant foods, including most fruits and vegetables (especially those with strong pigment) as well as black and green teas, and red wine. I don’t eat a lot of fruit (it’s fattening) but the apples and blueberries I do eat are rich in quercetin. I take the supplements to give me a steady dose of both, since I don’t eat fruit every day.

  3. Keith says:

    Sort of in line with Jason, above, I think there is a fairly high probability that the masking and unsocial distancing practices put in place to try to combat Covid also strongly reduced the spread of other viruses, so I think it is not a slam dunk that the zinc and quercetin are what protected you from colds and flu this past year. Probably both contributed, when you get down to it.

    I’m not trying to argue that you should not continue to take zinc and quercetin. They probably are not harming you in any way, and very well could be helpful. My point is that your experience over the coming year or two, when the masking and unsocial distancing are not being practiced, would be much more informative on how well they protect against colds and flu. So I encourage you to continue taking them and look forward to your future reports of getting or avoiding colds and flu.

    A few proper clinical trials of zinc and quercetin would be a better test, of course, but I think it is very unlikely that any group could be found to fund a study of that large enough to be persuasive.

    1. Well, that’s my plan, and given that my birthday is at the end of June, I have a marker for a year’s experiment. I won’t credit Q+Z with anything until I spend a year in ordinary life without a full-on cold or a case of the sniffles. Masking is basically over in Arizona, and vaccination rates are high, so we’re not worried about catching SARS2. The question here is whether a combination of two OTC supplements can prevent viral infections. I won’t be heartbroken if they don’t. However, I am going to make a lot of noise if they do.

  4. Bob says:

    you will probably be interested in this video lecture from an “integrative medicine” doctor here in the Frisco bay area. that’s an MD that also has interest in non-traditional medicine. She mentions quercetin and zinc among other supplements:

  5. Jason Kaczor says:

    Oh – and apology – I guess I didn’t make myself clear – I wouldn’t argue against the benefit of zinc, my “anecdotal data point” was merely that for our family, masks seemed to do the trick.

    Also – only two of us work outside the home – and myself, the office I work in is completely private to myself, no one else even on the floor. So, outside of grocery shopping, we have had very limitted interactions with other people.

    (We are super-excited, now – since I posted my original message here, we all are scheduled to have our 2nd shots before July 12th)

  6. greatUnknown says:

    The efficacy of zinc vs. the “common cold” has been discussed for 40 years, with a general understanding that is is somewhat prophylactic and curative.

    However, and this is a big however, these studies did not use an ionophore to actually get the zn into the cells – normal cellular mechanisms were in play. It seems reasonable that actually focused insertion [e.g., via an ionophore] of the zn into the cell would be far more efficacious, even at lower levels of zn in the bloodstream.

    1. greatUnknown says:

      and yes, I have been taking the quercetin/zn combo bid since the beginning of last year. as you noted, no colds, either.

    2. Yes on all counts. Down the years I’ve taken zinc lozenges to shake off colds, with indifferent success. That puzzled me until I first learned of zinc ionophores. The big win here was learning of a zinc ionophore that was present in food and not associated with any significant side effects.

      Mayo has a reputation for being very slow to change their advice. (Carol is an alumna of their physical therapy school, and we get their newsletters.) Until fairly recently, they could not bring themselves to finger carbs as a root cause of obesity, and would not recommend low-carb diets for either weight loss or diabetes. They’ve been mostly quiet about it in the last couple of years.

      Most of the tests run on HCQ did not include zinc, which is an integral part of the drug’s operation on coronaviruses. If nothing else, SARS2 taught us that zinc and vitamin D deficiency inhibit immune function. I sure hope that when it’s all over we remember to extend that insight to other viruses, especially those behind the common cold.

      1. Orvan Taurus says:

        I recall one doctor saying, “There is no cold and flu season, only low vitamin D season.” and while I am not “never sick”, my D supplementing (due to night schedule) might have something to do with no being ill very often – and then not severely, nor for long. Zinc added.. well, we shall see. I need to get some (more) quercetin.

        1. Heh. “Low vitamin D season” is one of the many topics explored in a book I bought yesterday. I’ve posted a short description below. Not always easy reading, but it’s absolutely on point about COVID WRT vitamins D and C, zinc, HCQ, ivermectin, masks, lockdowns, etc.

  7. Update: I’m reading a book by Arizona physician Colleen Huber, and it’s basically a summary and explanation of several hundred studies that challenge conventional wisdom on COVID-19. The Book is The Defeat of COVID: 500 Medical Studies Show What Works and What Doesn’t. These are things you won’t see on conventional media, and many will get you in Twitter and/or Facebook Jail if you post them or even mention them. (I host my own instance of WordPress for a reason.) You may have heard that states that never went to lockdown fared better vis-a-vis COVID than states that didn’t. She presents the government stats and explains the tricky issue of excess deaths and what it tells us. She explains what HCQ and ivermectin are, and how they actually work. Ditto zinc ionophores. Probably the most potent portion of the book (at least of what I’ve read so far) is the discussion of how masks can harm your health. She brings up something I never thought about: inhaling microscopic fibers into your lungs by wearing cheap masks all day long. If the subject interests you at all, I encourage you to read it.

    Now, the book is dense, with a lot of medical jargon. That’s not my field, and I had to look up a lot of words. But the links to peer-reviewed research are priceless. The ebook is only $7 on Kindle. (There is also a paperback edition that costs $21.) As dense as it is, I’m having trouble putting it down.

  8. Alex says:

    Very interesting. I’d like to leave my ‘anecdata’ about another remedy. Some years ago I went through about three years where at least once a year I got a persistent viral cough. These coughs would last about two to three months, very annoying as you can imagine.

    Finally, fed up of this I decided to start drinking hot lemon and honey regularly. I started off drinking it daily on weekdays, and since then have had some periods where I don’t drink it all, or drink it less regularly, but have mainly stuck to that schedule.

    As for the coughs, since starting this regime I have not had a cough of any sort. Not ever. I do cough occasionally, obviously. I just have not had ‘a cough’.

    Of course, one person does not a study make – maybe I’ve just been lucky; but I’m not stopping the hot lemon and honey unless I get another viral cough whilst taking it.

  9. Olli says:

    “We get flu shots, but we still got the flu really bad back at the end of 2017.”

    Some years ago my parents took their flu shots and after that they had their worst flu ever. Vitamin D is my obsession.

    1. Keith says:

      The flu vaccine makers have to guess about which flu strains will be most common in the upcoming flu season. They can’t make a vaccine against all of the flu strains. Some years, the guess is good; some years, the guess is wrong. When the guess is wrong, the flu shot does not provide much, if any, protection against the strains that actually are circulating, and lots of people get pretty bad cases of the flu.

      It is not that the flu vaccine caused those bad cases of flu. It is that in those years, the flu vaccine provided no protection against the flu. Without the flu vaccine, every year would be one in which lots of people get very bad cases of flu.

      Using multiple ways to avoid the flu is a good strategy.

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