[ Intravenous Glutathione Therapy ]

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Glutathione was discovered in 1888 and introduced into biochemistry in the 1920s In the late 1920s and 1930s, there was a burst of research activity on glutathione, particularly in ophthalmology. The reason the research tapered off was the instability of glutathione assays. Being a powerful antioxidant, it is very sensitive to air, light and heat. It oxidizes so fast it is hard to assess its true value before it degrades or oxidizes.

Reduced glutathione (GSH) is a substance made in the cells of our body and is unique because it is both a reducing and a conjugating agent. This means that it is a major antioxidant as a free radical scavenger and an essential component of phase two liver detoxification. It’s an unusual amino acid because it can do two jobs to protect us from toxins: First, it neutralizes free radicals in our body, like toxic compounds from Phase 1 detoxification. Second, it combines with Phase 2 toxic chemicals to form a water-soluble conjugate that can be excreted in the bile and urine. Because glutathione is not broken down easily by digestive enzymes in the intestines, it’s available to intestinal cells for local “first pass” detoxification.

There are also other important functions of glutathione. Besides protecting cells against the destructive effects of radicals and detoxifying substances such as drugs and environmental pollutants, it also maintains cell membrane stability. Glutathione has been found to regulate protein and DNA biosynthesis, cell growth and it enhances immunologic function through it's effects on lymphocytes.

Ninety percent of the glutathione in a normal cell is in the cell cytosol or fluid, the rest is in the powerhouse of the mitochondria. Doctors specializing in nutritional medicine feel that small decreases in mitochiondrial GSH can result in cell death. Unfortunately mercury such as the material found in dental amalgams, preferentially targets mitochondria and GSH depletion. This is one of the main reasons dental mercury can do so much damage.

The body must manufacture glutathione from other amino acids in the liver for more efficient detoxification in the blood. It is found in fruits and vegetables and is assembled in the body from the amino acids glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. Glutathione deficiency comes from poor diet, free-radical stress, and toxic overload. The recommended dosage of glutathione consists of daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Biological Aging And Glutathione

Glutathione, the tripeptide amino acid composed of glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine got its’ first link between aging when it was discovered in the aging human lens. Today, all eye diseases are linked to depleted levels of glutathione. The widespread functions of glutathione indicate that the level of glutathione in ones body has major health effects on the molecular, cellular and organ levels of the individual. One author’s research showed that correction of glutathione deficiency can enhance longevity in the mosquito by 40%. In studies of healthy men and women, glutathione levels were significantly lower in the elderly (60 to 79 years) when compared to mature (40 to 59 years) subjects. However, levels in the very old (80-99 years) were similar to those of the mature group. People who maintain high levels of glutathione represent survivors with extreme longevity.

There are few studies with definitive answers on how to correct glutathione deficiency efficiently. Two basic approaches are to usevprecursors of glutathione such as N-acetylcysteine and secondly to give glutathione itself. Instead of waiting for disease to occur and then treating it, physicians should use glutathione tests as a diagnostic tool and use glutathione in the form of drug or food supplements to slow down or reverse accelerated aging changes at the cellular level before they advance into predisease or frank disease states.

Why Use Inravenous Glutathione?

Witschi, Reddy and Stofer and Lauterburg have established that glutathione in oral doses does not cross the inntestinal barrier. Taking oral glutathione does not increase plasma glutathione levels because the hydrolysis of glutathione by intestinal and liver enzymes (gamma-glutamyl transferase). In one study 7 healthy volunteers were given oral glutathione and it was found that the concentrations of glutathione, cysteine and glutamate in plasma did not increase significantly. To significantly increase glutathione in the blood stream, intravenous application is necessary. Although studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of glutathione supplementation in some conditions, we feel that boosting glutathione levels, other than by dietary means, is not a good idea. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides adequate glutathione for localized intestinal detoxification. Other oral agents besides supplemental glutathione which help maintain or elevate glutathione levels include N-acetyl-cysteine, cruciferous vegetables, resh fruits, grape seed and pine bark extract, melatonin, milk thistle, bilberry, turmeric, lipoic acid, selenium and vitamins E and C.

Who Should Use Intravenous Glutathione?

For many patients who have problems with severe toxicity, central nervous system damage, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, Meditrine Clinic has been using intravenous glutathione with excellent results. Since it does not absorb well from the gut, the intravenous route has shown promise as a powerful way to offer protection to the body with a tool that is fast and effective. Two very interesting medical studies have been published showing dramatic results with intravenous glutathione. One study showed that patients after a heart attack were benefited by intravenous glutathione. Another study was done in Italy by a neurologist named Sechi who showed that intravenous glutathione (600mg twice daily) significantly improved patients with early Parkinson’s disease giving a 42% decline in disability.

Glutathione and Aging

Julius, M Sc.D. "Glutathione and Morbidity in a Community-Based Sample of Elderly,"  The Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1994;47(9):1021-1026.
This study evaluated blood glutathione levels in 33 subjects over the age of 60.  Higher glutathione levels were associated with fewer number of illnesses and higher levels of self-rated health, lower cholesterol and lower body mass index and lower blood pressures.  Those who had diagnoses of arthritis, diabetes or heart disease had at least marginally significant lower glutathione levels than those who were disease-free. Glutathione, together with age and measure of suppressed anger, accounted for 39% of the variance of an index of morbidity. Glutathione by itself accounted for 24% of the variance.  The authors note that this study appears to be the first study showing an association of higher glutathione levels with higher levels of physical health in a community-based sample.

Glutathione and Heart Attack

Altomare, Emanuele, et al."High-Dose Antioxidant Therapy During Thrombolysis in Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction," Current Therapeutic Research, February, 1996;57(2):131-141.
This study evaluated 67 patients with a myocardial infarction treated with recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA), of which 35 received glutathione at an intravenous bolus initially of 1800 mg followed by 20 ug/kg per minute for the next 24 hours. Intravenous glutathione appears to limit the adverse effects associated with reperfusion-induced oxidative stress.  If confirmed, the authors feel that glutathione administration should be considered a natural free radical antagonist that has a high specificity and low toxicity in humans.
This study highlights the clinical fact that intravenous glutathione is a powerful way to treat many acute and chronic diseases that have oxidative damage as the cause. In my clinic, intravenous glutathione is a standard treatment for neurological diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diseases related to toxicology.

Glutathione and AIDS

Vallis, K.A., "Glutathione Deficiency and Radiosensitivity in AIDS Patients", The Lancet, April 13, 1991;337:918-919.

It is known that AIDS patients have low glutathione levels. The author states that N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) inhibits HIV replication and it may do so by replenishing intracellular glutathione. It has been suggested as a beneficial therapeutic agent in AIDS and though untested it may be of benefit in glutathione deficient AIDS patients who are undergoing radiotherapy.  This may help prevent some of the unwanted side effects in tissue destruction due to radiation therapy.

Cathcart, Robert F., III, M.D., "Glutathione and HIV Infection", The Lancet, January 27, 1990;335:235. 

Dr. Cathcart points out that very high dose vitamin C can reduce oxidized glutathione (GSSG) to GSH. Dr. Cathcart has treated over 250 HIV-positive patients since 1983 and has been found that with an increased severity in AIDS there is an increased bowel tolerance to ascorbate.  The sickest individuals could tolerate between 100 to 200 gms/d in hourly dosages titrated to the point of diarrhea.  He goes on to point out that high dose vitamin C can cause a slowing or reduction in the depletion of CD4 T-cells, reduced allergic reactions to antibiotics, reduction in lymphadenopathy and improvement in malaise.  To achieve this he advocates to use vitamin C as intravenous sodium ascorbate without preservatives at ph of 7.0 in 60 gram dosages in 500 mls of Ringer's Lactate over three to four hours one to three times daily.  Oral ascorbic acid was also given concurrently. Intravenous ascorbate does not produce diarrhea as does the hyperosmotic diarrhea induced by oral administration.  Ascorbate is utilized as a free radical scavenger in these massive dosages when glutathione is exhausted and is effective in protecting glutathione levels therefore intravenous vitamion C should be considered a type of adjunctive glutathione therapy.

Glutathione and Cancer

Glutathione therapy can reduce the toxicity of some chemo agents. In one study (Tedeschi), the toxicity of cisplatin, an effective drug in the treatment of solid tumors, was greatly reduced. It is proposed in this article that glutathione is a promising antidote. Glutathione is a safe compound that prevents cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity without affecting its antitumor activity. This would enhance the ability to use higher doses of cisplatin and improve efficacy against certain tumors. The advantage of the combination of glutathione with high doses of cisplatin was demonstrated by the impressive response rate in the treatment of ovarian cancer.


  • Sechi G, M.D. "Reduced Intravenous Glutathione in the Treatment of Early Parkinson's Disease," Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacol & Biol Psychiat, 1996;20:1159-1170.
  • Tedeschi M, et al Glutathione and Detoxification, Cancer Treatment Reviews, 1990;17:203-208.
  • Witschi A, Reddy S, Stofer B, Lauterburg BH, "The Systemic Availability of Oral Glutathione," Eur J Clin Pharmacol, 1992;43:667-669

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Dr. Peter Bennett - Naturopathic Doctor
Meditrine Naturopathic Medical Clinic: #104 - 5171 221A St. Langley, BC V2Y 0A2 • Phone: (604)534-5756