Acetylcysteine Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Acetylcysteine is considered as a helpful derivative of the semi-essential amino acid L-cysteine, which can improve the body’s glutathione levels and can also provide additional health benefits.


When the natural amino acid L-cysteine goes through certain processes, there is a derivative that can be extracted and finally formed into medication or supplement. It can help in many health conditions such as lung and liver problems and this is acetylcysteine.

L-Cysteine: The Source of Acetylcysteine

L-cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid that serves as a vital building block of the supposed most important antioxidant glutathione. Also, there are a lot of other derivatives that can be obtained from the L-cysteine amino acid; like the derivative called N-acetylcysteine or NAC for short that can be made into supplements in order to provide additional amounts of glutathione.

L-cysteine as a semi-essential amino acid

So far, the amino acids are categorized into essential and non-essential amino acids. But did you know that such a thing as semi-essential amino acids exist? L-cysteine is a good example of a semi-essential amino acid since the body is able to create a few amounts of it, and at the same time these kinds of amino acids can also be taken in additional quantities if a person wants to gain the health benefits it can provide.

How is L-cysteine made in the body

Another quality of semi-essential amino acids is that they are made from other kinds of amino acids. In the case of L-cysteine, the primary amino acids that the body uses to fully transform them into cysteine are methionine and serine. And to completely produce L-cysteine, the body also needs different B vitamins such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate.

The importance of L-cysteine in the body

Other than being one of the building blocks for glutathione, the L-cysteine amino acids are capable of breaking down mucus formations in the body which are commonly caused by lung issues. This is another reason why the amino acid is converted into NAC since it can act as a treatment for mucus problems and most pulmonary and respiratory conditions. It is also said that L-cysteine can help in promoting brain health and may also regulate the nerve cells within the central nervous system of the body.

N-Acetylcysteine: Cysteine in Supplement Form

Since researchers saw the benefits of cysteine, they decided to make its supplement form which was named as N-acetylcysteine, NAC, or just acetylcysteine. Through this supplement, the body is provided with additional cysteine amino acids that can, later on, be converted into glutathione and at the same time benefit other organs in our bodies.

So far, the acetylcysteine boasts a lot of health benefits, and the following are:

It can help add more glutathione supply for the body.

Being one of the main components that are able to provide more glutathione is probably the most well-known benefit of NAC. As the production of glutathione requires more than acetylcysteine, it needs two other amino acids known as glutamine and glycine for the body to fully convert them into glutathione.

Glutathione, as it is the most important antioxidant, is much needed by the body especially when it comes to fighting off the free radicals which may harm the cells and tissues and will further cause more serious health conditions.

As researchers continued their studies regarding glutathione, they identified it as the top antioxidant that each human needs. Also, they have been trying to connect a person’s lifespan with the amount of glutathione in their body; so they claimed that getting more glutathione may also help in achieving a longer life.

What more can glutathione offer? It is an essential component in the boosting of the immune health, it leads the prevention of cellular damage, plus it can fight off illnesses resulted by oxidative stress.

The supplement can aid in detoxifying the kidneys and liver to prevent further damage.

When NAC is consumed orally, it is for the purpose of detoxification or treatment for the kidney and liver.

So far, the reason why NAC is advised for detoxification is because of its ability to eliminate the toxins and it can also prevent the effectivity of the side effects one can get from a certain medication.

It is also possible for NAC to be given intravenously, especially when there is a need to immediately treat a drug overdose which may soon affect the functioning of the kidney and liver.

Also, as a treatment for liver problems, the researcher has acknowledged the anti-inflammatory properties of NAC.

Acetylcysteine may be used to prevent the development of psychological disorders.

According to specialists, the NAC is an excellent regulator of the central nervous system. This is because of how it directly balances the glutamate levels in the system which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is considered to be the most important.

The researchers have concluded that the supplement has potential benefits against psychological disorders like bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, schizophrenia, and even addiction or addictive behavior. They also provided a few studies that show how NAC may improve bipolar disorder and OCD symptoms. Also based on their studies, it is said that the NAC enhance the overall functioning of the brain and the whole nervous system as it works on the symptoms of a certain mental disorder.

People who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from their cocaine addiction are also given NAC supplements, and it is said that they are working effectively for them. The same goes for addiction issues with drugs such as marijuana and nicotine.

It can be used as a treatment for respiratory and pulmonary issues.

Another reason why specialists thought of making acetylcysteine into supplements is for it to serve as a treatment that involves problems in the respiratory system.

Most of the time, people who encounter respiratory and pulmonary issues are aware of the unnecessary buildup of mucus it may cause; and this is where the NAC works its magic. Because of the additional glutathione production and anti-inflammatory properties of NAC, the airways in the lungs are relieved and it results in a decrease in mucus buildup that are the main contributors to the clogged airways.

When NAC is desired for respiratory and pulmonary treatment, it is made into mist and inhaled by the patient.

Side Effects of Acetylcysteine

So far, it is rare to experience side effects from using NAC since it is prescribed by the doctors most of the time. The doctors are especially mindful of the dosage to give their patients since they prefer to avoid any case of side effect.

However, consuming too much NAC can indeed cause a few side effects but they are not that dangerous and life-threatening. The side effects are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Also, there are chances when some people accidentally inhale NAC. When that happens, some side effects are:

  • Runny nose
  • Drowsiness
  • Mouth swelling
  • The tightness of the chest

The best thing to do is to consult your doctor first before you plan to try using NAC, or they will prescribe it to you if you are in a situation that really needs the use of NAC. Be sure to provide your doctor with all necessary information like your medical history and the medications you are currently using since it is said tacetylcysteinehat NAC is not suitable for people with bleeding issues because the supplement can cause slower blood clotting processes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *