An excellent remedy for congestion and a superb antioxidant
NAC, short for N-Acetyl Cysteine, is an old medication that has been used since the 1960s for cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that impacts the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and sweat glands. NAC primarily acts as a mucous thinning agent and antioxidant, thereby protecting the lungs.
NAC is a derivative of cysteine which is an amino acid (a building block of protein) and as such its safety profile is excellent. Some people who have difficulty with sulfur metabolism may experience some side effects such as headache or nausea/bloating with oral doses of NAC, especially over 1000 mg three times per day.
Cysteine is a component of glutathione. Glutathione is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants and helps to protect cells from damage caused by toxins and reduces inflammation. In animal studies, administration of NAC protects brain from damage following stroke, reduces pain and inflammation from infection and protects the thyroid damage caused by various irritants.
NAC is used in hospitals for acetaminophen overdose. It can protect the liver from life-threatening damage. In this case it is used intravenously in high doses.
In my practice, I use NAC for viruses including colds, flus and COVID, as it helps to thin mucus and reduce inflammation. It is also used for any number of chronic lung conditions including pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis. Historically it was used as an inhaled agent, but inhalation is more likely to result in negative side effects and it smells like rotten eggs due to its sulfur content. I also find it very useful in liver diseases. It is one of my favorite agents for side effects from vaccines.
There are also a number of studies using NAC in kidney disease, male infertility, autism, cancer and many other chronic inflammatory conditions.
While NAC is very safe to use, some people do react to it negatively and there have been reports of severe reactions particularly to inhaled or intravenous forms. It can also impact the drug levels of certain medications so should be used with caution or taken away from other medications, and at lower dosages to avoid serious interactions.
A good starting dose for NAC IS 500-600 MG three times per day. In acute infections with congestion, that dosage can easily be doubled as tolerated.
In summary, N-acetyl cysteine is a useful supplement to have for many folks, especially as the Fall and Winter months come in.
Dr. Jennifer Means welcomes you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. Contact us at 503-641-6400.