Generic Name: glutathione

Brand and Other Names: gamma-L-glutamyl-L-cysteinylglycine, GSH, L-glutathione, N-(N-L-gamma-glutamyl-L-cysteinyl) glycine

Drug Class: Herbals

What is glutathione, and what is it used for?

Glutathione is a natural substance that plays crucial roles in many body processes and is produced by the liver from three amino acids, glycine, cysteine and glutamic acid. Glutathione is used along with chemotherapy for cancers, to help reduce drug toxicity and promote cell repair.

Glutathione levels decline with age and are associated with poorer health. People use glutathione to treat male infertility, age-related conditions, and liver and heart diseases, however, there is insufficient evidence to support its efficacy in many of these uses.

Glutathione is a powerful natural antioxidant that neutralizes reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (free radicals) and prevents cellular damage caused by them. Glutathione plays an important role in the liver's detoxification process, helping break down drugs, toxins and carcinogens. Glutathione is also essential for the synthesis of DNA and proteins, tissue building and repair, and immune system function.

Substances such as curcumin, silymarin, selenium, vitamins C and E, and N-acetylcysteine may enhance glutathione production in the body. Asparagus, avocado, broccoli, garlic, and spinach are some of the natural food sources for glutathione.

Glutathione is typically administered intravenously (IV) or intramuscularly (IM) when given as an adjunct to chemotherapy. Glutathione may also be inhaled or taken orally, however, oral ingestion is thought to be less effective because the stomach enzymes break it down. Glutathione’s uses include:

Glutathione is also being investigated (orphan designation) for use in:

  • Glutathione deficiency in people with inborn errors of metabolism of glutathione (IEMG)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lung dysfunction following lung transplant

Warnings

  • Do not inhale glutathione if you have asthma; it can trigger bronchospasm
  • Do not use glutathione if you are allergic to glutathione or any of its components
  • Taking glutathione for long periods is associated with lower zinc levels

What are the side effects of glutathione?

There is insufficient information about side effects of glutathione. Side effects may include:

  • Gastric cramping
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Allergic reactions
  • Low zinc levels in blood
  • Bronchospasm with inhaled glutathione

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.

Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What are the dosages of glutathione?

There isn't enough reliable information to know what an appropriate dose of glutathione might be. Suggested dosing of glutathione:

Chemotherapy Adjunct

  • 600 mg/day intramuscularly (IM) days 2-5 of chemotherapy
  • 1.5 g/m2 intravenously (IV) before chemotherapy

Male Infertility

  • 600 mg intramuscularly every other day for two months

Oral

  • 250 mg orally once daily
  • Dose range: 50-600 mg/day

Inhaled

  • 600 mg via nebulizer twice daily

What drugs interact with glutathione?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • Glutathione has no known severe interactions with other drugs.
  • Glutathione has no known serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Glutathione has no known moderate interactions with other drugs.
  • Glutathione has mild interactions with at least 89 different drugs.

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

What else should I know about glutathione?

  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Natural products are not always necessarily safe; use with caution.
  • Glutathione is marketed as a dietary supplement and does not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the FDA; use with caution.

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Summary

Glutathione is an antioxidant naturally produced by the liver from three amino acids, glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. Glutathione is used as an adjunct to chemotherapy. It is also used to treat male infertility, age-related conditions, and liver and heart diseases. Side effects include gastric cramping, nausea, abdominal bloating, allergic reactions, low zinc levels in blood, bronchospasm.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/22/2022
References
https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_glutathione/drugs-condition.htm

https://reference.medscape.com/drug/gamma-l-glutamyl-l-cysteinylglycine-gsh-glutathione-344599#0

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-717/glutathione

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/glutathione-uses-risks

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/glutathione

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/nutritional-and-non-medication-supplements-permitted-for-performance-enhancement#H1052496279