NAC: N-Acetylcysteine


According to a recent study, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a supplement form of L-cysteine, is an effective, safe, and low-cost therapy option for various illnesses, both acute and chronic.

Advantages of consuming NAC

Not only has it been utilized as an efficient mucolytic agent (mucous-thinner) for over three decades, but it also has other applications such as decreasing inflammation, preserving the liver, and preventing/treating medication toxicity, insulin resistance, PCOS infertility, and more.

What Is NAC and How Does It Work?

N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a cysteine supplement, is an amino acid that aids the body’s production and use of beneficial antioxidants.

While cysteine may be found in a variety of high-protein meals, NAC can only be accessed via the use of supplements or prescription medications.

NAC is classified as a “semi-essential amino acid” since it may be synthesized by the human body from other amino acids, mainly methionine and serine. That implies there isn’t a daily need for NAC in your diet, but greater levels may benefit certain individuals.

What is the purpose of NAC? The following are some of the most prevalent applications:

  • Glutathione (an antioxidant) levels should be increased.
  • Acetaminophen treatment (a class of painkillers overdose)
  • Breaking up mucus is beneficial in persons with certain lung disorders, such as chronic bronchitis.
  • Keeping the liver healthy
  • Assisting in the prevention of bladder or brain damage induced by certain medicines
  • Possibly aiding in the prevention of colon cancer

The Top 7 Advantages

1. Antioxidant and aids in the formation of glutathione

NAC is involved in the glutamatergic system’s regulation. In other words, NAC (together with glutamine and glycine) is an amino acid that is required for the production of glutathione, perhaps the most essential antioxidant in the human body, as a precursor of L-cysteine, which results in glutathione biosynthesis.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of N-acetylcysteine are the most significant mechanisms of action. Its capacity to raise glutathione levels, scavenge free radicals, and decrease oxidative stress is responsible for these benefits.

Consequently, it’s suggested as a possible therapy for a variety of ailments caused by free oxygen radicals, including liver disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and possibly cancer.

2. Can Assist with Pregnancy Outcomes

Is it safe to use N-acetylcysteine when pregnant?

NAC therapy has been established in studies to have no negative effects on the mother or the fetus.

In conjunction with vitamin E, or vitamins A+E, and essential fatty acids, NAC has been shown in certain studies to lower reactive oxygen species (ROS) and increase pregnancy rates in people trying to get and remain pregnant, particularly women with PCOS.

This is because it raises antioxidant glutathione levels, which has a beneficial effect on insulin production and lowers insulin resistance, both linked to PCOS.

NAC seems to operate as a treatment method to enhance the amount of circulating insulin and insulin sensitivity in PCOS patients with hyperinsulinemia, according to a paper published in Women’s Health Reviews.

NAC also contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help improve pregnancy and birth outcomes in women who have infections and are at risk of premature labor. After week 16 of pregnancy, doses of roughly 0.6 grams of NAC per day may be given orally with progesterone to prevent a preterm birth recurrence.

Additionally, it may aid in treating acetaminophen overdose, which is the most prevalent drug overdose among pregnant women.

3. Breaks up mucus, which aids in the treatment of respiratory problems

NAC may help decrease mucus discharges and phlegm and coughing, wheezing, and breathing difficulties. This makes it effective in treating chronic bronchitis (defined as the presence of persistent productive coughs for more than three months in two consecutive years), as well as colds and flu.

Furthermore, there is evidence that it may be used as an adjuvant therapy for COPD (the fourth-leading cause of mortality in the United States) and emphysema.

4. It protects the liver and kidneys

What is N-acetylcysteine excellent for when it comes to detoxification? Another application is to help manage adverse effects associated with taking certain medications/drugs, particularly acetaminophen, and protect the organs from free radical damage.

NAC is an excellent treatment for acetaminophen intoxication and severe liver failure in emergencies.

NAC injections might be administered to decrease the adverse effects of overdose on the liver and kidneys. It seems to mitigate chemical toxicity in numerous ways:

  • Because of its dual action as a nucleophile and a donor of -SH
  • Glutathione replenishment
  • N-acetyl-pbenzoquinonimine is reduced
  • By acting as a hepatoprotectant due to its antioxidant capabilities

When administered within eight to ten hours of an overdose, it works best at lowering toxicity. Patients who consume NAC within eight hours usually recover quickly and have less than a 10% incidence of hepatotoxicity, as well as a minimal risk of significant liver or kidney damage.

5. Has Mood-Stabilizing/Mood-Lifting Effects

An imbalance of glutamate is thought to be one component in mood and cognitive disorders. Therefore, NAC for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may be an effective supplemental therapy since it affects levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain.

It’s been proven to have beneficial therapeutic effects on mental illnesses defined by oxidative stress or impulsivity and compulsivity, in particular.

According to a blog post on the Psychology Today website,

This molecule has been explored in various illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, addiction, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and addiction, according to several research, including neuroimaging studies.

While more study is needed to understand how NAC works in the brain, there are indications that it may aid with ruminations (difficult-to-control extreme negative self-thoughts). In addition, it may assist in making these thinking patterns less stressful and less likely to elicit severe anxiety or dread and melancholy.

6. It has the potential to help prevent the development of cancer

NAC has been found to protect against cancer by neutralizing free radicals that cause DNA damage, yet it isn’t a cancer therapy. In animal experiments, animals given NAC had less cellular damage and fewer lung, colon, and bladder cancers than animals given a standard diet.

“NAC inhibits tumor invasion, metastasis, and blood vessel formation in lab trials,” according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “although it’s unclear how effectively these effects translate to patients.”

NAC seems to help protect against cancer in various ways, according to clinical trials. These are some of them:

  • Influencing the expression of genes implicated in the pathways of oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Boosting antioxidant levels
  • Lowering inflammatory cytokines and proteins production

It may also be utilized to assist cancer patients in overcoming the side effects of certain medications and therapies.

7. Helps to Prevent Metabolic Disorders

As previously stated, NAC enhances insulin sensitivity and may aid people who are prone to metabolic diseases.

How to Use and Dosage Information

NAC is an over-the-counter supplement that may be found in capsule or tablet form at your local health food shop. It’s also accessible as an injectable with a prescription.

While cysteine (a sulfur-containing amino acid) may be found in meals such as chicken, turkey, various meats, garlic, yogurt, and eggs, NAC can only be obtained via the use of supplements or medications.

There is no agreed-upon “optimal dosage” for NAC supplements, nor is NAC’s daily need. However, experts advise taking a sufficient quantity for many months and carefully tracking its impact on key symptoms to determine if it is helpful and how much you need.

The following are standard NAC dose guidelines based on the symptoms/conditions you’re treating:

  • NAC in the range of 600–1,800 milligrams per day seems to be useful against various ailments; 600-milligram capsules taken two to three times per day is the suggested starting dose.
  • Most individuals are safe at 2,000 milligrams, according to research.
  • Certain chronic and degenerative conditions may need higher dosages, such as COPD, poor glucose control, and cancer. According to some research, dosages of around 2,800 mg per day for up to three months are beneficial for persons with COPD.

How long does it take NAC to start working?

This is dependent on the ailment being treated, the person, and the dose administered.

When administered intravenously, it may help alleviate overdoses and toxicity within hours. Other problems may take many months to improve; however, some individuals may see results in as little as a few weeks.

Is it better to take NAC in the morning or at night?

It may be done at any time of day that is convenient for you. NAC pills come in 500, 600, 750, and 1,000 mg dosages. To notice effects, you’ll probably need to split your dosage and take it twice or three times a day, so try taking it once in the morning and once at night.

Interactions, Side Effects, and Risks

Is NAC a risky substance?

While it is generally safe to use, there may be certain medication interactions and undesirable side effects. However, most experts generally agree that the possible advantages of using NAC exceed the hazards.

What are the negative consequences of using NAC?

The following are some of the possible NAC adverse effects:

  • Stomach ache/indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness and tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Rashes on the skin

It may not be safe for those with asthma, bleeding issues, or who are using nitroglycerin-containing drugs, such as blood thinners and blood pressure meds. If you have any of these conditions, consult your doctor before using NAC supplements to rule out any potential interactions.

Is NAC harmful to your kidneys? Is it possible for NAC to harm the liver?

Any supplement with a high dosage might cause liver or kidney issues; however, as previously said, NAC is typically thought to protect the liver and kidneys rather than damage them.

Last Thoughts

  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a supplement form of cysteine, is an amino acid that aids in the production and use of beneficial antioxidants, particularly glutathione (the “master antioxidant”).
  • In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, N-acetylcysteine protects the liver and kidneys and promotes detoxification processes. This is why drug overdoses and toxicity are treated with N-acetylcysteine injections.
  • Treatment of respiratory disorders, PCOS, infertility, metabolic syndrome, and some kinds of malignancies are among the other advantages.
  • Foods do not contain N-acetylcysteine, but cysteine does. Therefore, NAC may only be received from supplements or prescription medications.
  • A normal dosage is 600–1,800 milligrams per day; however, larger doses of up to 2,000 milligrams per day have also been demonstrated to be safe.

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


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