L-Glutathione: Overview

Glutathione is one of the major sulfur-containing compounds in the human body.  L-glutathione is a powerful antioxidant; it is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism; it has anti-aging properties and breaks down oxidized fats.

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Glutathione is found in high concentrations in the lens of the eye.  While there is still some debate about the intestinal absorption of oral glutathione, serum levels of glutathione can be increased by the ingestion of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).


The body produces L-glutathione from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine.

Glutathione is found as a stereoisomer and should be in the 'L' configuration (L-glutathione).  It is listed in the U.S.P. and can be purchased as such.

Function; Why it is Recommended

L-glutathione, in its reduced form is a master antioxidant and detoxifier.  It protects tissues by neutralizing free radicals, and improves the immune system by promoting antigen presentation and stimulating CD8 cells.  Glutathione is involved in various liver detoxification processes.  Alpha lipoic acid, selenium, vitamin C, TMG, NAC, Milk Thistle (silymarin), coffee enemas, cold-processed whey proteins, colostrum, certified raw milk and L-glutamine support increased glutathione levels.

Glutathione is a major antioxidant, especially able to reduce disulfide bonds.  It also acts as a coenzyme for various enzymatic reactions.

Supplementation with reduced glutathione does not necessarily raise tissue levels of glutathione, and it can be expensive.  While the unreduced form is much cheaper, it is not metabolically active.  Doctors often report that clinical benefits achieved with intravenous reduced glutathione are not seen when it is taken orally.  Riboflavin and niacinamide are essential cofactors for generating reduced glutathione.

Common toxins that glutathione may help protect against are car exhaust, cigarette smoke, heavy metals, aspirin and alcohol, as well as many pesticides and industrial chemicals.

The sulfur molecule is able to stimulate the secretion of bile in the liver.  This effect, along with its antioxidant ability, makes it useful in liver detoxification products.

Increased levels of glutathione have been shown to slow the progression of cataracts.

References & Further Information

Glutathione status can be evaluated by labs such as Metametrix, Antibody Assay Labs, Great Smokies and Diagnos-Techs – see our links page.

L-Glutathione can help with the following:

Environment / Toxicity

Heavy Metal Toxicity

One of the body's normal mechanisms for dealing with heavy metals involves glutathione and normal levels of this protein should thus be ensured.  The rate-limiting precursors are the amino acids cysteine (or N-acetyl-cysteine) and glutamine.

Mercury Toxicity (Amalgam Illness)

Glutathione can cross the blood-brain barrier; it can remove mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals from the brain.

Eyes / Ocular

Macular Degeneration

Researchers have found that age-related macular degeneration correlates with low glutathione levels.  When taking into consideration other variables such as smoking, age, cardiovascular disease and multivitamin use, depletion of glutathione by itself was thought to be a major contributing factor behind macular degeneration. [British Journal of Ophthalmology, 1994; 78 [10], pp.791-4)]


Immune System Imbalance (TH2 Dominance)

Glutathione levels in antigen-presenting cells determine whether Th1 or Th2 response patterns predominate [Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1998 Mar 17;95(6): pp.3071-6].  Increasing glutathione levels helps reduce a Th2 dominance.

Organ Health


Glutathione (500mg twice a day) or N-acetyl cysteine (200mg two to three times per day) provide liver cleansing and antioxidant support.

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L-Glutathione can help prevent the following:


Parkinson's Disease

Since the discovery more than a decade ago that Parkinson's patients suffer from a profound deficiency of the powerful brain antioxidant glutathione, medical researchers have been actively exploring techniques to administer this naturally-occurring chemical.  It is currently used intravenously.

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