Supplements 101: What is NAC?

One supplement you may have never heard of, and may want to know about is AcetylCysteine, also known as N-AcetylCysteine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, and NAC.

Whatever you want to call it, there are several effective clinical uses for NAC and numerous potential uses for NAC, as more research needs to be done.

The uses for NAC stem from its role as a powerful antioxidant and ability to support the body’s nitric oxide system during stress, infections, toxic assault, and inflammatory conditions.  Supplementation with NAC has been shown to increase levels of glutathione, the body’s major antioxidant.

Effective uses for NAC:

1.  Aids the clearance of mucus and reduces mucus from the airway.  This may help with breathing in various lung conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

2.  Helps prevent crusting in people with a tube in their windpipe (people who have undergone a tracheostomy).

3.  Counteracts acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning.  NAC has been shown to prevent permanent harm to your liver and reduce the death rate caused by acetaminophen poisoning.

Potential uses for NAC:

Animal and human studies have shown NAC to be a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of cancer, heart disease, HIV infection, and heavy metal toxicity.  Other uses for NAC shown to be of some value include treating Sjogren’s syndrome, smoking cessation, influenza, hepatitis C, and myoclonus epilepsy. 


  NAC is generally considered safe but do not take in combination with nitroglycerin or charcoal.  Always check with your health care provider prior to starting a new supplement.

For more information about NAC, here are two great references: 

1.  Alternative Medicine Review.  N-Acetylcysteine. Volume 5, Number 5, 2000

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