Glutathione is an antioxidant that is naturally synthesized in the body. It is involved in numerous biochemical pathways and may have some role in different diseases, but there is a lack of robust evidence linking supplementation to changes in health outcomes. In spite of this, glutathione seems to be a darling of the alternative medicine industry. Dr. Oz calls glutathione “the superhero of antioxidants.” Mark Hyman calls it “the mother of all antioxidants.” Importantly, while glutathione i
s also found in food, dietary consumption doesn’t appear to relate to blood levels, suggesting that oral supplementation may not be that effective. And given our bodies synthesize glutathione, the relationship between supplementation, blood levels, and disease is not established.
There have been preliminary studies of glutathione for a number of uses, such as Parkinson’s disease. The best scientific evidence for infusions seems to be for its possible use to reduce the side-effects of cancer therapy.
When it comes to skin whitening, glutathione may have anti-melanogenic effects. There have been some studies conducted on the oral version and on a topical lotion. The trials have been small but generally positive.
I could locate no published evidence that demonstrates that intravenous glutathione is an effective skin-lightening agent. I could locate no clinical trials that have studied the injection or established that it is effective for this purpose. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database makes not comment on the effectiveness of glutathione (injection or oral) for skin lightening at all, reinforcing the overall lack evidence supporting its use.
Dugoua makes the following safety statement about glutathione injections:
Glutathione injections are not only safe, they are beneficial for your health. Glutathione helps eliminate toxins from the body, supports the central nervous system, aids in fertility and supports a healthy and strong immune system.
Are there negative long-term effects? There are no known side effects or interactions with IV administration of glutathione.
What are the side effects? I have not observed any side effects with respect to the Skin Brightening IV.
I looked to the medical literature for safety studies and statements. There is very little published safety information on injectable glutathione. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says
the tablets and injection are “possibly safe.” As noted above, there are some clinical trials of IV glutathione published for other purposes, and no serious safety signals have been identified. The most authoritative safety statement seems to be from the Philippines Food and Drug Administration[PDF], which notes:
The alarming increase in the unapproved use of glutathione administered intravenously as a skin-whitening agent at very high doses is unsafe and may result in serious consequences to the health of users. There is inadequate safety documentation on the use of high doses of glutathione administered at 600 mg to 1.2 grams once weekly and even up to twice weekly. The only approved indication of the intravenous format of glutathione is as an adjunctive treatment to reduce neurotoxicity associated with cisplatin chemotherapy. Adverse drug reactions resulting from the use of glutathione IV for skin whitening have been reported and include the following:
1. Reports of adverse drug reactions ranging from skin rashes to the serious and potentially fatal Steven Johnsons Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.
2. Derangements in the thyroid function
3. Suspected kidney dysfunction potential resulting in kidney failure.
4. Severe abdominal pain in a patient receiving twice-weekly glutathione administered intravenously had been reported.
5. Incorrect technique in intravenous administration especially in association with administration by untrained persons can result in the following:
- Introduction of harmful microorganisms that can result in serious infections including potential fatal sepsis.
- Injection of air can lead to embolus which is also potentially fatal.
- Unsafe use of needles (recycling, sharing) can result in the transmission of hepatitis B and even HIV.
- Counterfeiting of glutathione has been reported and may lead to use of non-sterile preparations which could lead to serious infections.
Is the Canadian product that’s offered for sale safe? I was unable to find any glutathione products for injection that have been approved for sale by Health Canada (Canada’s version of the FDA). It’s possible the product is being compounded from imported ingredients. Compounded products can be safe when prepared properly, but when problems occur that can be disastrous. Dugout’s advertisement notes that “ingredients are regulated by Health Canada” and that the “treatment is performed in compliance with licensure in Ontario.” Other providers make few if any statements about where they are obtaining the product and the conditions under which it is being prepared. Buyer beware.