What is NAC?

January 28th, 2019

What is NAC, N-acetylcysteine.

What is NAC aka “N-Acetyl-Cysteine”?

To start off, NAC is a building block for an important amino acid L-cysteine. For decades, NAC is mainly used in hospitals to help treat tylenol overdoses and chemo-related toxicity. Recently, mainstream uses of NAC have been popping up around the United States and other parts of the world.

NAC used to treat Tylenol overdoses.

Benefits of NAC

Studies have shown that there are many benefits to NAC including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In addition, NAC helps regenerates molecules such as nitric oxide which dilates your blood vessels which may possibly help with oxygenation.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Improves oxygenation

NAC Supplement

There is no doubt that NAC is useful in the intensive medical setting. When is it beneficial to take NAC as a supplement? There have been uses of taking NAC as a hangover cure after a hard night of drinking. As mentioned above, NAC is used in tylenol overdoses which stresses the liver. Tylenol is removed and detoxified by your liver. Moreover, taking a massive amount of tylenol will cause your liver to go in overdrive. For instance, think of your liver as a car. When your gas tank is empty, your car stops. Your liver needs “gas” to keep working. NAC helps replace the gas (aka glutathione) in your liver but it is not a cure-all. It isn’t hard to reason why NAC is thought to help with hangovers since alcohol is removed by the liver as well. NAC isn’t meant to cure your hangover but it may help your liver recover in the meantime. The best way to prevent liver damage is to not drink at all.

The only real hangover cure is time.

NAC Side Effects

NAC sure sounds like a miracle drug if you read the above but are there side effects to be worried about? The short answer is that anything you put in your body could be harmful if taken in huge amounts. Some NAC side effects include:

  • nausea/vomiting
  • rash/hives/itching
  • increased heart rate
  • drowsiness

Serious (and rare) side effects of NAC:

  • spasm of the lung airways
  • anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction that needs emergent attention)

NAC Dosing

NAC is generally safe if taking the recommended amount. Remember to start low and go slow. 

Over-the-counter dosages include 500 mg capsules, 600mg capsules and up to 1000mg capsules. These are generally safe dosages for the average adult.

Dosing for Tylenol overdoses should always be done by a medical professional, do not attempt to treat this at home for your safety.

Avoid taking nitroglycerin with NAC

Nitroglycerin is a potent vasodilator. Nitroglycerin is a medication prescribed for chest pain. NAC is also a vasodilator. If taken together, this could result in severe low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness.

Always talk to a medical professional before supplementing any medications. If you experience any major side effects, we advise you to go to a medical center immediately.

NAC Supplement Mental Health

Can NAC be taken as a supplement for mental health? NAC has been studied in disorders with obsession and compulsive symptoms, such as trichotillomania aka hair-pulling addiction. It may help treat psychiatric disorders related to oxidative stress. These include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Since NAC is an antioxidant, it may reduce oxidative stress in mental disorders such as these. According to Psychology Today, NAC may play a role in the glutamatergic pathway in the brain that regulates reward and reinforcement. Therefore, NAC may help with glutamate levels bringing it to similar levels in a low-stress individual. This may translate to lower anxiety levels. Overall, NAC is definitely an interesting alternative or supplemental medication.

NAC for mental health and anxiety
NAC Mental Health Benefit
  • Anxiety
  • Obsession and compulsive symptoms
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Where can you buy NAC? Here are a few sources:

  1. Douglas Laboratories NAC 500mg
  2. NOW NAC 600mg capsules
  3. Pure Encapsulations NAC 600mg capsules
  4. NOW NAC 1000mg capsules

NAC Skin Benefits

The story is as old as time – humans have been searching for the anti-aging solution for centuries. It is a neverending quest for the perfect complexion. Ancient Greeks would spread olive oil over their skin to try to prevent dry skin. Ancient Egyptians were one of the first to invent what we call cosmetology today. They used products found in their natural environments such as aloe, myrrh, and frankincense.

What will be the antiaging product of the 21st century?

NAC for Antiaging and Skin Benefits

NAC, n-acetylcysteine, is an antioxidant that is being studied for skin benefits. More so, it is a building block or precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is one of the most important antioxidant in your body that can neutralize free radicals and decrease damage. We know that oxidative stress on skin cells can be a result of free radicals. Free radicals can come from the environment such as UV rays.

In some mice studies, NAC has been shown to improve the skin barrier by strengthening adhesion bonds.

In a study done in Japan, nine out of ten healthy volunteers had improvement in their skin hydration after applying a NAC cream twice a day for four weeks.

Read more about NAC Benefits Skin

NAC can potentially reduce oxidative stress thus strengthening adhesion bonds in skin. NAC seems to be promising in improving the skin. However, it is a limited study. Ten participants are not enough to draw a general conclusion.

They also studied patients with atopic dermatitis aka eczema. Those with eczema typically have lower skin hydration (although some have normal hydration). This means that less water is retained in the skin due to a dysfunction in the skin barrier. When applying the NAC cream, NAC improved skin hydration in those with eczema. However, the results were inconsistent. NAC is definitely an interesting and a promising antiaging supplement. More studies will need to be done to further evaluate NAC for skin benefits.

A penny for your thoughts? Comment below.

Buy NAC skin cream below

  1. ZetPil NAC Ultra Absorbable cream
  2. 111SKIN NAC Y2 Aqua Physics UV Blocking Sun Defence Cream
  3. 111SKIN NAC Y2 Daily Orbit Energizing Essence


Sources

  1. Chertoff, J. N-Acetylcysteine’s Role in Sepsis and Potential Benefit in Patients With Microcirculatory Derangements. Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. 2017;(2):87-89.
  2. Nakai K, Yoneda K, Murakami Y, et al. Effects of Topical N-Acetylcysteine on Skin Hydration/Transepidermal Water Loss in Healthy Volunteers and Atopic Dermatitis Patients. Ann Dermatol. 2015;27(4):450-1.
  3. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Getting a Knack for NAC: N-Acetyl-Cysteine. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011;8(1):10-4.
  4. Spapen H, Zhang H, Demanet C, Vleminckx W, Vincent JL, Huyghens L. Does N-acetyl-L-cysteine influence cytokine response during early human septic shock? Chest. 1998;113:1616-1624.
  5. Spies CD, Reinhart K, Witt I, et al. Influence of N-acetylcysteine on indirect indicators of tissue oxygenation in septic shock patients: results from a prospective, randomized, double-blind study. Crit Care Med. 1994;22:1738-1746.
  6. Steckert A, Castro A, Quevedo J, Dal-Pizzol F. Sepsis in the Central Nervous System and Antioxidant Strategies with Nacetylcysteine, Vitamins and Statins. Current Neurovascular Research. 2014;11:83-90.