- Glutathione is an antioxidant that is produced by the body.
- Glutathione helps counter oxidative stress, which has been linked to age-related diseases including cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.
- Some research suggests glutathione injections could help extend lifespan and offer other health benefits.
Nicknamed “the master antioxidant” by some researchers (1), glutathione is generating buzz for its potential health benefits. Proponents have hailed it as an immune system booster, an anti-aging powerhouse, and a cancer preventer—which may be why glutathione supplements and glutathione injections are becoming increasingly popular.
But does it live up to the hype? Here’s what you need to know about glutathione, its potential health benefits, and whether you need to get more through supplements or glutathione injections.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is an antioxidant that’s made up of three amino acids—cysteine, glycine, and glutamine. Produced in the liver and by nerve cells in the central nervous system, glutathione’s main functions are:
- Building and repairing tissues
- Supporting your immune system (2)
- Producing proteins such as sex hormone-binding globulin, and elements such as magnesium, which are helpful for your health.
In addition to your body’s own glutathione, you can also get the powerful antioxidant from foods like asparagus, avocado, and cucumber (3).
As an antioxidant, glutathione helps fight free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and have been linked to inflammation and a host of age-related diseases from high blood pressure and Alzheimer’s (5) to heart disease and cancer (6).
Oxidative stress—an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body—and low amounts of vitamin E and alpha-lipoic acid can cause glutathione levels to decline (4). Why that should concern you: Some research indicates that imbalances in glutathione levels play a role in the aging process (7).
Glutathione at a Glance
- Proponents have hailed glutathione as an immune system booster, an anti-aging powerhouse, and a cancer preventer
- Glutathione supplements and glutathione injections are becoming increasingly popular
- You can get the powerful antioxidant from foods like asparagus, avocado, and cucumber
What Are Glutathione Injections?
If you’re looking to supplement with glutathione, there are several options, including oral supplements, topical creams, IV infusions, and injections. Glutathione injections have been found to be better at boosting levels of the antioxidant than oral supplements because some benefits can be lost during digestion.
IV infusions also bypass the digestive tract, but you have to have infusions in a clinic; you can give yourself injections at home if your doctor prescribes them.
Glutathione injections are administered directly into your muscle—typically your buttocks or upper arm—or under the skin, where the compound is absorbed and carried into the bloodstream.
Once glutathione injections enter your bloodstream, here’s what the antioxidant may do:
Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently found that glutathione increases lifespan in mice by 24%. However, more research is needed to confirm its efficacy in humans (8).
Reduce oxidative stress
Low levels of glutathione have been linked to age-related diseases. That may be because if your body lacks glutathione, it can’t fight off the free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
Researchers have found that glutathione has a positive effect on oxidative stress in lab studies (9). A recent small study of healthy older adults given glyNAC, a supplement that increases glutathione levels, showed lower oxidative stress and inflammation after 24 weeks of treatment (10). This suggests that glutathione might protect against age-related diseases including cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, which have been linked to high levels of oxidative stress.
Reduce cell damage caused by fatty liver disease
Antioxidant deficiency—including a lack of glutathione—can exacerbate cell death in the liver and lead to fatty liver disease.
One study reported that glutathione was most effective when given to people with fatty liver disease intravenously, in high doses. Another study showed that oral daily glutathione supplementation over 4 months combined with improvements in lifestyle habits led to positive effects on the liver for some people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (11).
One study from Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found that glutathione has skin brightening benefits and can smooth wrinkles and promote skin firmness (12).
Glutathione can also help reduce unpleasant bumps on the skin. A small study found that taking whey protein isolate—which can increase natural glutathione levels—improved psoriasis without additional treatment (13).
Some people get glutathione injections online or at spas to lighten their skin. However, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against using glutathione for this purpose because the shots might contain unknown harmful ingredients or contaminants (14). Glutathione injections should only be used if you have a prescription from your doctor and they come from a licensed pharmacy.
Support your immune system
Glutathione may keep your immune system strong so it can better fight off infections. One small clinical trial found that people who took glutathione supplements had elevated levels of natural killer (NK) cells and lymphocytes, your body’s front-line infection fighters (15).
Glutathione plays an important role in the brain and levels are decreased in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (16). One small study of patients with early, untreated Parkinson’s disease given high dose intravenous glutathione twice a day for 30 days showed symptom improvement that lasted for 2-4 months after treatment ended (17). Cognition in healthy, older adults may also be improved with supplementation that improves glutathione levels (10).
Boost physical performance
When used before a workout, glutathione may enhance your sweat session. In one small study, men who received glutathione before they exercised performed better, felt less fatigued and had lower levels of lactic acid in their blood (18). Another study in healthy older adults showed supplementation with glyNAC, which increases glutathione levels, led to improvements in strength, gait speed, and body composition (10).
Glutathione is the first line of defense against oxidative stress. Now available through Hone.
Side Effects of Glutathione
Glutathione injections have a few side effects, including:
In rare cases, you could have an allergic reaction such as itching, irritation, or redness at the injection site.
If you take glutathione as prescribed by your doctor and you encounter any of these side effects, call your doctor immediately to avoid any complications.
Used before a workout, glutathione may enhance your sweat session
Who Is a Good Candidate for Glutathione Injections?
If you are looking to protect against age-related illness or want to achieve clear skin, and are considering glutathione, talk to your physician about glutathione injections or supplements. Mention any medications you take (prescription and over-the-counter) and if you’ve been diagnosed with a specific condition. Inhaled glutathione may trigger asthma attacks in people who have asthma.
You can also work with Hone to see if glutathione injections are right for you. Simply create an account, then describe your symptoms using Hone’s online form. A board-certified physician will review your answers, and prescribe glutathione if appropriate. If your prescription is approved, glutathione injections will be sent straight to your door.
Dose and Frequency
The dose for glutathione can vary from person to person. Each patient doesn’t require the same level of treatment. Your doctor will take these factors into consideration and suggest the dose and frequency that’s right for you.
How Do You Inject Yourself With Glutathione?
If your healthcare provider has determined that glutathione injections are right for you, they will give you a prescription and guidelines on correctly administering it.
FAQs About Glutathione Injections
How much do glutathione injections cost?
The cost can depend on the quality of the shot and how many sessions are required to achieve your desired result.
What are glutathione injections used for?
Glutathione injections may help to detoxify and eliminate poisons and toxins in the liver, lungs, intestines, and kidneys. They can also clear toxins from your cells and free your body from radicals that lead to age spots, wrinkles, acne, and hyperpigmentation. Glutathione can also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent and to counter oxidative stress.
How many glutathione injections do you need to see results?
Results will depend on your metabolism, the consistency of the treatment, and your general health. But the majority of patients typically see results after three weeks of treatment.
What can I expect after a glutathione injection session?
After taking a glutathione shot, you may experience bloating, cramping, or rashes. You may also notice itching, irritation, or redness at the injection site.
The Bottom Line