1,2,3-propanetriol, Alcool Glycériné, Glicerol, Glucerite, Glycerin, Glycerine, Glycérine, Glycérine Végétale, Glycerol Monostearate, Glycérol, Glycerolum, Glyceryl Alcohol, Monostéarate de Glycérol, Vegetable Glycerin.


Overview Information

Glycerol is a naturally occurring chemical. People use it as a medicine. Some uses and dosage forms have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Glycerol is most commonly used for constipation, improving hydration and performance in athletes, and for certain skin conditions. It is also used for meningitis, stroke, obesity, ear infections, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

How does it work?

Glycerol attracts water into the gut, softening stools and relieving constipation.

In the blood, it attracts water so that the water stays in the body longer. This might help an athlete exercise for longer.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Likely Effective for

  • Constipation. Giving glycerol into the rectum, as a suppository or as an enema, decreases constipation.

Possibly Effective for

  • Athletic performance. There is some evidence that taking glycerol by mouth along with water helps to keep the body hydrated for longer. The increase in fluids in the body might help people exercise for a few minutes longer and possibly go a bit faster, especially if it is hot.
  • Dandruff. Using a hair lotion containing glycerol, stearic acid, and sunflower seed oil 3 times each week can reduce dandruff by a small amount and moisturize the scalp.
  • Dry skin. Applying a product containing glycerol and paraffin to the skin reduces the thickness of scales and itching in people with xerosis.
  • An inherited skin disorder that causes dry, scaly skin (ichthyosis). Applying a specific, prescription-only product (Dexeryl, Pierre Fabre Laboratoires) containing glycerol and paraffin to the skin reduces symptoms like itching and scales in children with ichthyosis.

Possibly Ineffective for

  • Swelling (inflammation) of membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Taking glycerol along with medicines used to treat meningitis doesn't reduce the chance of death, seizures, or stomach and intestinal injury. But it might reduce the chance of deafness in children who survive the infection.
  • Growth and development in premature infants. Giving glycerol into the rectum, as a suppository or as an enema, is sometimes used in premature infants to help them pass their first stool. It's thought that this will help them start to take food by mouth earlier. But glycerol doesn't seem to have much benefit for this purpose.

Likely InEffective for

  • Stroke. Receiving intravenous (IV) glycerol from a healthcare professional does not improve symptoms after a stroke.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Obesity. Early research in adults on a low-calorie diet shows that taking glycerol before meals does not increase weight loss.
  • Swimmer's ear (otitis externa). Early research shows that having a doctor place a gauze soaked in ichthammol and glycerol into the ear canal reduces pain and swelling as much as using prescribed ear drops.
  • Wrinkled skin.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate glycerol for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Glycerol is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth, short-term. Glycerol can cause side effects including headaches, dizziness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and diarrhea.

When applied to the skin: Glycerol is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin. When applied on the skin, glycerol might cause redness, itching, and burning.

When given in the rectum: Glycerol is LIKELY SAFE when inserted into the rectum.

When given by IV: Glycerol is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when injected intravenously (by IV). This might damage red blood cells.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if glycerol is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Glycerol is LIKELY SAFE when inserted into the rectum or applied to the skin in children at least 1 month old. Glycerol is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth, short-term in children 2 months to 16 years of age.



We currently have no information for GLYCEROL Interactions.



The following doses have been studied in scientific research:



  • For athletic performance: Glycerol 1-1.5 grams/kg taken with about 6 cups of water starting an hour or two before competition. Glycerol is banned during competition in some sports because it might alter the amount of fluid in the blood and change the results of some laboratory tests.
  • For dandruff: A leave-in hair lotion containing glycerol 10%, stearic acid 2.5%, and sunflower seed oil 0.6%, applied to the scalp 3 times weekly for 8 weeks.
  • For dry skin: An emulsion containing glycerol 15% and paraffin 10% applied to the skin twice daily for 1-8 weeks.
  • For constipation: Glycerol 2-3 grams as a suppository or 5-15 mL as an enema.

  • For an inherited skin disorder that causes dry, scaly skin (ichthyosis): A specific, prescription-only product (Dexeryl, Pierre Fabre Laboratoires) containing glycerol 15% and paraffin 10% applied to the skin for 4-12 weeks.
  • For constipation: For children younger than six years old, the dose is 1-1.7 grams as a suppository or 2-5 mL as an enema. For children older than six years of age, the dose is 2-3 grams as a suppository or 5-15 mL as an enema.

View References


  • Inder WJ, Swanney MP, Donald RA, et al. The effect of glycerol and desmopressin on exercise performance and hydration in triathletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:1263-9. View abstract.
  • Knight C, Braakhuis A, Paton C. The effect of glycerol ingestion on performance during simulated multisport activity. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2010 Jun;81(2):233-8. View abstract.
  • Koehler K, Thevis M, Schaenzer W. Meta-analysis: Effects of glycerol administration on plasma volume, haemoglobin, and haematocrit. Drug Test Anal. 2013 Nov-Dec;5(11-12):896-9. View abstract.
  • Livingston MH, Shawyer AC, Rosenbaum PL, Williams C, Jones SA, Walton JM. Glycerin enemas and suppositories in premature infants: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2015;135(6):1093-106. View abstract.
  • Montner P, Stark DM, Riedesel ML, et al. Pre-exercise glycerol hydration improves cycling endurance time. Int J Sports Med 1996;17:27-33. View abstract.
  • Murray R, Eddy DE, Paul GL, et al. Physiological responses to glycerol ingestion during exercise. J Appl Physiol 1991;71:144-9. View abstract.
  • Peltola H, Roine I, Fernández J, Zavala I, Ayala SG, Mata AG, Arbo A, Bologna R, Miño G, Goyo J, López E, de Andrade SD, Sarna S. Adjuvant glycerol and/or dexamethasone to improve the outcomes of childhood bacterial meningitis: a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Nov 15;45(10):1277-86. View abstract.
  • Rajagopal R, Srinivasan M. Oral glycerol ingestion causes pseudohypertriglyceridemia. Am J Med. 2017;130(12):e543-e544. View abstract.
  • Robergs RA, Griffin SE. Glycerol. Biochemistry, pharmacokinetics and clinical and practical applications. Sports Med 1998;26:145-67. View abstract.
  • Sankar J, Singhi P, Bansal A, Ray P, Singhi S. Role of dexamethasone and oral glycerol in reducing hearing and neurological sequelae in children with bacterial meningitis. Indian Pediatr. 2007 Sep;44(9):649-56. View abstract.
  • Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, et al. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: effects on plasma lipid concentrations and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:423-7. View abstract.
  • van Rosendal SP, Strobel NA, Osborne MA, Fassett RG, Coombes JS. Hydration and endocrine responses to intravenous fluid and oral glycerol. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Jun;25 Suppl 1:112-25. View abstract.
  • Van Rosendal SP, Strobel NA, Osborne MA, Fassett RG, Coombes JS. Performance benefits of rehydration with intravenous fluid and oral glycerol. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Sep;44(9):1780-90. View abstract.
  • Wagner DR. Hyperhydrating with glycerol: implications for athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc 1999;99:207-12. View abstract.
  • Wall EC, Ajdukiewicz KM, Bergman H, Heyderman RS, Garner P. Osmotic therapies added to antibiotics for acute bacterial meningitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2:CD008806. View abstract.
  • Yu YL, Kumana CR, Lauder IJ, et al. Treatment of acute cerebral hemorrhage with intravenous glycerol. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Stroke 1992;23:967-71. View abstract.
  • Yu YL, Kumana CR, Lauder IJ, et al. Treatment of acute cortical infarct with intravenous glycerol. A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Stroke 1993;24:1119-24. View abstract.
  • Arnall DA, Goforth HW. Failure to reduce body water loss in cold-water immersion by glycerol ingestion. Undersea Hyperb Med 1993;20:309-20. View abstract.
  • Balaskas E, Szepietowski JC, Bessis D, Ioannides D, Ponticelli C, Ghienne C, Taberly A, Dupuy P. Randomized, double-blind study with glycerol and paraffin in uremic xerosis. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011 Apr;6(4):748-52. View abstract.
  • Bayer AJ, Pathy MS, Newcombe R. Double-blind randomised trial of intravenous glycerol in acute stroke. Lancet 1987;:405-8. View abstract.
  • Bjorvell H, Hylander B, Rossner S. Effects of glycerol addition to diet in weight-reducing clubs. Int J Obes 1984;8:129-33. View abstract.
  • Blanchet-Bardon C, Tadini G, Machado Matos M, Delarue A. Association of glycerol and paraffin in the treatment of ichthyosis in children: an international, multicentric, randomized, controlled, double-blind study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Aug;26(8):1014-9. View abstract.
  • Brooks J, Ersser SJ, Cowdell F, Gardiner E, Mengistu A, Matts PJ. A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of a new skincare regimen on skin barrier function in those with podoconiosis in Ethiopia. Br J Dermatol. 2017;177(5):1422-1431. View abstract.
  • Butler-O'Hara M, Reininger A, Wang H, Amin SB, Rodgers NJ, D'Angio CT. A randomized controlled trial of glycerin suppositories during phototherapy in premature neonates. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2017;46(2):220-228. View abstract.
  • Covington TR, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 11th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.
  • Dry skin management. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter 2008;24(3):240316.
  • Fawer R, Justafre JC, Berger JP, Schelling JL. Intravenous glycerol in cerebral infarction: a controlled 4-month trial. Stroke 1978;9:484-6. View abstract.
  • Frei A, Cottier C, Wunderlich P, Ludin E. Glycerol and dextran combined in the therapy of acute stroke. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial with a planned interim analysis. Stroke 1987;18:373-9. View abstract.
  • Friedli W, Imbach P, Ghisleni-Steinegger S, et al. [Treatment with 10% glycerin in acute ischemic cerebral infarct. Doubleblind study]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1979;109:737-42. View abstract.
  • Goulet ED, Aubertin-Leheudre M, Plante GE, Dionne IJ. A meta-analysis of the effects of glycerol-induced hyperhydration on fluid retention and endurance performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2007 Aug;17(4):391-410. View abstract.
  • Goulet EDB, De La Flore A, Savoie FA, Gosselin J. Salt?+?glycerol-induced hyperhydration enhances fluid retention more than salt- or glycerol-induced hyperhydration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018;28(3):246-252. View abstract.
  • Harding CR, Matheson JR, Hoptroff M, Jones DA, Luo Y, Baines FL, Luo S. A high glycerol-containing leave-on scalp care treatment to improve dandruff. Skinmed. 2014 May-Jun;12(3):155-61. View abstract.
  • Hornigold R, Gillett D, Kiverniti E, Harries M. The management of otitis externa: a randomised controlled trial of a glycerol and icthammol ribbon gauze versus topical antibiotic and steroid drops. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Oct;265(10):1199-203. View abstract.
  • Ibrahim T, Li Wei C, Bautista D, Sriram B, Xiangzhen Fay L, Rajadurai VS. Saline enemas versus glycerin suppositories to promote enteral feeding in premature infants: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Neonatology. 2017;112(4):347-353. View abstract.

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