N-acetyl cysteine comes from the amino acid L-cysteine. Amino acids
are the building blocks of proteins. N-acetyl cysteine has many
uses as medicine.
N-acetyl cysteine is used to counteract acetaminophen (Tylenol) and carbon monoxide poisoning. It is also used for chest pain (unstable angina), bile duct blockage in infants, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, allergic
reactions to the anti-seizure drug phenytoin (Dilantin), and an eye infection called keratoconjunctivitis. It is also
used for reducing levels of a type of cholesterol called lipoprotein (a), homocysteine levels (a possible risk
factor for heart disease) and the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with seriouskidney disease.
Some people use N-acetyl cysteine for chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hay fever, a lung
condition called fibrosing alveolitis, head and neck cancer, and lung cancer. It is also used for treating some forms ofepilepsy; ear infections; complications of kidney dialysis; chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome;
preventing sports injury complications; radiation treatment; increasing immunity to flu and H1N1 (swine) flu; and
for detoxifying heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
N-acetyl cysteine is also used for preventing alcoholic liver damage; for protecting against environmental pollutants
including carbon monoxide, chloroform, urethanes and certain
herbicides; for reducing toxicity of ifosfamide and doxorubicin, drugs that are used for cancer treatment; as a hangover remedy;
for preventing kidney damage due to certain X-ray dyes; and for
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Healthcare providers give N-acetyl cysteine intravenously (by IV)
for acetaminophen overdose, acrylonitrile poisoning, amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), kidney failure in the presence of liver disease (hepatorenal syndrome), chest pain in combination with nitroglycerin, heart attack in combination with nitroglycerin and streptokinase,
and for helping to prevent multi-organ failure leading to death.
N-acetyl cysteine is sometimes inhaled (breathed into the lungs) or
delivered through a tube in the throat to treat certain lung
disorders such as pneumonia, bronchitis,emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and others.
How does it work?
N-acetyl cysteine treats acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning by
binding the poisonous forms of acetaminophen that are formed in the
liver. It is also an antioxidant, so it may play a role in