Generic Name: lycopene

Other Names: all-trans lycopene, psi-carotene, psi-psi-carotene, solanrubin

Drug Class: Herbals

What is lycopene, and what is it used for?

Lycopene is a natural pigment known as carotenoid that is abundant in tomatoes and responsible for their red color. Lycopene is a potent natural antioxidant and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products are associated with reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and cancers, particularly prostate cancer. Lycopene supplements are believed to be beneficial in many chronic diseases caused by oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is tissue damage caused by excessive oxygen reactive species (ROS), also known as free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen-containing molecules that result from natural biological processes in the body and are normally neutralized by the body’s natural antioxidants. Oxidative stress is associated with the development of many chronic diseases and cancers.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges the free radicals. Research suggests that lycopene supplements may prevent the growth of cancer cells, especially in prostate cancer. Some studies suggest that lycopene may also help in preventing the thickening of arteries (atherosclerosis) that can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. The study results, however, are mixed in lycopene’s efficacy in preventing these conditions or any of the other conditions for which lycopene is used. 

Lycopene is available over-the-counter as an herbal supplement, either as natural extracts or synthetic products. Lycopene is not naturally produced by the body and must be obtained from food, and the absorbed lycopene is primarily stored in the liver, adrenals and prostate, and to a lesser extent in other organs such as skin and brain. Rich natural sources of lycopene include tomato, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red orange, apricot, rose hip, guava and papaya.

The FDA recognizes lycopene supplements as generally safe, and they are available over the counter (OTC). In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund reported that a diet high in fruits and vegetables might help reduce the risk of cancer, including lycopene for prostate cancer. Suggested uses of lycopene as a supplement include:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancers
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Cataracts
  • Asthma
  • Inflammations
  • Skin conditions
  • Oral leukoplakia, a condition with white patches in the oral tissue, potentially malignant and usually associated with tobacco use
  • Maintenance of general health, including that of liver, nerves and bones
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Protection against toxins

Warnings

  • Lycopene may slow down blood clotting. Exercise caution with lycopene supplements if you are taking blood thinners. Stop lycopene supplements at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.

What are the side effects of lycopene?

The side effects of lycopene include:

  • Skin rashes (rare)
  • One report of lycopenemia, a benign orange discoloration of skin with consumption of extremely high amounts of lycopene

Seek medical care or call 911 at once if you have the following serious side effects while using this drug:

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 lycopene?

General Dosing Guidelines

Pure compound

  • 13-75 mg/day orally

Capsule

  • 10-30 mg twice daily orally

Prostate Cancer

  • 15 mg twice daily orally

Oral Leukoplakia

  • 4-8 mg/day orally
  • Specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed)

Preventing Exercise-Induced Asthma

  • 30 mg/day orally

SLIDESHOW

Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

Overdose

  • Lycopene is considered nontoxic and is unlikely to cause any serious adverse effects.
  • There is one case report of a 61-year-old woman consuming 2 liters of tomato juice daily for several years and developing orange discoloration of her skin (lycopenemia), which faded with 3 weeks of tomato-free diet.
  • In case of lycopene overdose, call Poison Control.

What drugs interact with lycopene?

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.

  • Lycopene has no known severe, serious, moderate or mild interactions with other 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

  • Small amounts of lycopene in food is likely safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • There isn’t enough reliable information on the safety of lycopene supplement use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, avoid use.

What else should I know about lycopene?

  • Lycopene is generally safe in food and as a supplement in most people.
  • Take lycopene supplements exactly as per label instructions.
  • Lycopene supplements are marketed as herbal supplements and are not stringently regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths; exercise caution in choosing your product.

Summary

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges the free radicals. Used as a supplement, lycopene may prevent the growth of cancer cells. Lycopene may slow down blood clotting. Exercise caution with lycopene supplements if you are taking blood thinners. The side effects of lycopene include skin rashes (rare). Lycopene is considered nontoxic and is unlikely to cause any serious adverse effects. Small amounts of lycopene in food is likely safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Treatment & Diagnosis

Medications & Supplements

Prevention & Wellness

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Medically Reviewed on 6/27/2022
References
REFERENCES:

https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_lycopene/drugs-condition.htm

https://reference.medscape.com/drug/all-trans-lycopene-psi-carotene-lycopene-344570#0

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-554/lycopene

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464847/

https://www.poison.org/articles/lycopene-171