Alpha-lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical called an antioxidant. Yeast, liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes are good sources of alpha-lipoic acid. It is also made in the laboratory for use as medicine.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used for diabetes and nerve-related symptoms of diabetes including burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms. High doses of alpha-lipoic acid are approved in Germany for the treatment of these symptoms.
Some people use alpha-lipoic acid for memory loss, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), HIV/AIDS, cancer, liver disease, diseases of the heart and blood vessels (including a disorder called cardiac autonomic neuropathy) and Lyme disease.
Alpha-lipoic acid is also used to treat eye-related disorders, such as damage to the retina, cataracts, glaucoma, and an eye disease called Wilson’s disease.
How does it work?
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to help prevent certain kinds of cell damage in the body, and also restores vitamin levels such as vitamin E and vitamin C. There is also evidence that alpha-lipoic acid can improve the function and conduction of neurons in diabetes.
Alpha-lipoic acid is used in the body to break down carbohydrates and to make energy for the other organs in the body.
Alpha-lipoic acid seems to work as an antioxidant, which means that it might provide protection to the brain under conditions of damage or injury. The antioxidant effects might also be helpful in certain liver diseases.
Possibly Effective for:
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Research suggests that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid, CoQ10, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and selenium up to 2 months before and 1 month after surgery seems to decrease complications following CABG surgery.
- Diabetes. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth or intravenously seems to improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. However, there is some inconsistent evidence that shows it does not affect blood sugar.
- Prediabetes. Some research shows that receiving 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid intravenously once daily for 2 weeks decreases blood sugar after eating.
- Diabetic nerve pain. Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth seems to improve symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms of people with diabetes. It may take 3 to 5 weeks of treatment for symptoms to improve.
- Vitiligo. Taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, and polyunsaturated fatty acids along with light therapy daily for 8 months seems to improve skin discoloration in people with patchy skin due to vitiligo.
- Weight loss. Research suggests that taking 1800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 20 weeks reduces body weight in people who are overweight.
- Wound healing. Some research suggests that taking 300 mg of a specific alpha-lipoic product once before and once after oxygen therapy for 14-30 days reduces the wound area in people with ulcers.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- Alcoholic liver disease. Taking 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for up to 6 months does not improve alcoholic liver disease.
- Altitude sickness. Taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid together with vitamin C and vitamin E does not seem to prevent altitude sickness.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Early research suggests that taking a product containing 600-900 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for up to 2 years does not seem to have an effect on mental function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Heart-related nerve problems (cardiac autonomic neuropathy). Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth seems to improve measures of heart-related nerve problems, but not the associated symptoms.
- Damage to the retina caused by diabetes. Taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 24 months does not improve damage to the retina associated with diabetes.
- HIV-related brain problems.Taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth has no effect on HIV-associated brain problems.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Taking 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 12 weeks does not seem to affect pain or inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Aging skin. Early research suggests that applying a cream containing 5% alpha-lipoic acid to the face may reduce fine lines and roughness due to sun damage. Other research shows that taking a product containing alpha-lipoic acid (DermaVite) twice daily for 6 months improve skin thickness and fine wrinkles.
- Amanita mushroom poisoning. The use of alpha-lipoic acid in treating mushroom poisoning is controversial. Some researchers recommend against using alpha-lipoic acid for this purpose.
- Burning mouth syndrome. Research suggests that taking 800 mg of alpha-lipoic acid by mouth daily for 8 weeks does not reduce burning symptoms in people with burning mouth syndrome. However, other early research suggests that it does seem to reduce burning in the mouth.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Early research suggests that taking a combination product containing 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid for 90 days improves function in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Dementia. Early evidence suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid might slow down the decline of thinking skills in people with various kinds of dementia. However, almost a year of treatment may be needed.
- Glaucoma. Research suggests that taking 75-150 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 1-2 months might improve vision in people with glaucoma.
- Heart failure. Early evidence suggests that taking alpha-lipoic acid might reduce pressure in the arteries in people with heart failure.
- HIV. Early evidence suggests that taking 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 6 months improves white blood cell counts in people with HIV.
- High blood pressure. Research shows that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily with medication does not decrease blood pressure compared to medication alone.
- Migraine headache. Early research suggests that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 3 months improves the severity and frequency of migraines. However, it does not improve the number of monthly migraine attacks.
- Nonalcholic liver inflammation (steatohepatitis). Early evidence suggests that taking 600-900 mg of alpha-lipoic acid dialy for 2 months might reduce liver size and symptoms in people with nonalcoholic liver inflammation.
- Radiation exposure. Early evidence suggests that taking 400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid alone or together with vitamin E for 28 days might reduce symptoms of radiation exposure in children living near contaminated areas.
- Clogged arteries (peripheral artery disease). Early research suggests that taking 300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily might reduce pain associated with exercise in people with clogged arteries.
- Leg weakness and pain (sciatica). Early research shows that taking 600 mg of alpha-lipoic acid daily for 60 days improves leg pain and weakness due to damage of the sciatic nerve. However, it does not seem to benefit sleep quality in people with this condition.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Lyme disease.
- Wilson's disease.
- Heart disease.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Alpha-lipoic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth , when used intravenously or when applied to the skin. People taking alpha-lipoic acid by mouth might get a rash. People at risk for thiamine deficiency should take a thiamine supplement.
People with diabetes should be careful to check their blood sugar levels because alpha-lipoic acid might lower blood sugar.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of alpha-lipoic acid during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Diabetes: Alpha-lipoic acid can decrease blood sugar levels. Your diabetes medications might need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Excessive use of alcohol/thiamine deficiency: Alcohol can lower the amount of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Taking alpha-lipoic acid when there is a shortage of thiamine might cause serious health problems. If you drink a lot of alcohol and take alpha-lipoic acid too, you should take a thiamine supplement.
Thyroid disease: Taking alpha-lipoic acid might interfere with treatments for under-active or over-active thyroid.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Medications for cancer (Chemotherapy) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant. There is some concern that antioxidants might decrease the effectiveness of some medications used for cancers. But it is too soon to know if this interaction occurs.
Minor Interaction Be watchful with this combination
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID
Alpha-lipoic acid might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking alpha-lipoic acid along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. But more evidence is needed to know if this interaction is a big concern. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating type 2 diabetes and improving symptoms such as burning, pain, and numbness in the legs and arms: 600 or 1200 mg daily.