NAC Benefits: Helps Lung Problems, Addictions, Autism, Bipolar, and More

Don’t overlook the multitude of NAC benefits you can gain by supplementing with this remarkable natural compound—particularly if you have any type of chronic lung, respiratory, mood, or brain-related condition.

NAC benefits

Don’t ignore the powerful NAC benefits to be had from this form of the amino acid L-cysteine.

You may have seen the acronym but wondered, “What is NAC?” It stands for N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a form of the amino acid L-cysteine. NAC benefits both the brain and body, which is why it has been in use as a supplement for decades. In clinical trials, supplementation with NAC is effective for treatment of a variety of health problems.

Before looking at the multitude of NAC benefits, however, it’s useful to understand the three primary ways in which NAC exerts its actions.

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NAC Benefits: The Big Three

Science has proven that N-acetyl cysteine helps us because it’s:

  1. An antioxidant. NAC is most well known for its antioxidant effects. While it can act as an antioxidant directly, NAC is remarkable in its ability to increase glutathione, the body’s most potent self-made antioxidant and detoxification compound. Glutathione is especially important for proper brain function, lung function, and liver detoxification processes. Our bodies make their own glutathione using the amino acid cysteine, but levels may be depleted in a number of health conditions. Because of glutathione’s chemical structure, it is not possible to take glutathione as a supplement and absorb it. However, studies show that taking the form of cysteine known as NAC as a supplement will raise glutathione levels within the brain and body tissues.[1]
  2. Mucus-dissolving. Second, NAC supplements break up mucus, especially in the lungs and respiratory tract. Therefore, in addition to its glutathione-increasing effects, NAC is popular as a supplement for its “mucolytic” effects; it is able to break up or loosen sputum. making it easier to cough up. NAC does this by removing specific bonds in mucus proteins.[1]
  3. A glutaminergic. Third, NAC is considered a “glutaminergic” compound, meaning it can modulate levels of glutamate, the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. Glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behavior, and memory. NAC, for example, has been shown to modulate the levels of excessive glutamate, which cause toxic damage in brain disorders like schizophrenia and addiction.[1]

NAC Benefits for Lung and Respiratory Diseases

Glutathione is the primary antioxidant in the lungs. Because of NAC’s ability to break up mucus and its powerful antioxidant effects in terms of boosting glutathione, NAC has been studied as a natural remedy for lung and respiratory conditions like COPD, bronchitis, the flu, and more.

  • Chronic bronchitis. In this respiratory disease, the mucus membrane in the lungs’ bronchial passages becomes inflamed, swelling and shutting off the tiny airways in the lungs. This leads to coughing spells that may be accompanied by phlegm and breathlessness. Smokers and people with asthma and COPD (see below) can be susceptible to chronic bronchitis. A review of almost 40 clinical trials of NAC found that it was safe and effective as a natural treatment for chronic bronchitis.[2] How? It reduces exacerbation episodes of the disease, and because it helps reduce the viscosity (thickness) of sputum, NAC benefits patients’ ability to expectorate and to reduce the severity of coughs.[3] In addition to helping break up mucus, NAC may reduce the elevated bacterial counts that are often seen in the lungs of some people, particularly smokers, with chronic bronchitis.[4]
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a common but serious progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and causes coughing that produces large amounts of mucus. Long-term high-dose NAC treatment can decrease COPD exacerbations, according to a recent meta-analysis of 11 studies evaluating NAC supplementation for COPD.[5] In one recent study, treatment for one year with 600 mg NAC twice a day resulted in significantly improved lung function and decreased frequency of COPD symptom exacerbation in patients with stable COPD.[6]
  • Flu treatment and prevention. Taking NAC during the winter months may help prevent and treat flu-like symptoms. In one double-blind study in 262 adults, 600 mg NAC twice a day was well tolerated and resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of influenza-like episodes, severity, and length of time confined to bed.[7]
  • Other respiratory conditions. In addition to bronchitis and COPD, there is some evidence that taking NAC as a supplement can be helpful for other conditions related to the lungs and respiratory tract, including cystic fibrosis, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion due to allergies or infections.[8]
FYI

HOW TO TAKE NAC SUPPLEMENTS

Don’t ignore the powerful NAC benefits for conditions characterized by excessive mucus, including many lung conditions, colds, flu, and allergies. Just as important are NAC’s remarkable effects on symptoms of many brain-related conditions, even addictions!
The optimal dose of NAC is 600 mg two to three times a day. Oral NAC supplements are safe and generally well tolerated, although they may infrequently cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

NAC Benefits for Nervous System and Mood Disorders

In addition to being of paramount importance in maintaining healthy lung tissue, glutathione is the principle antioxidant in the brain. NAC is also, as you learned above, able to modulate levels of the important neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain.

Both glutathione depletion and abnormal glutamate neurotransmission have been found in a number of mental health conditions and nervous system disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pathological gambling, and cocaine dependence.

  • Addictions. NAC supplement benefits include decreasing withdrawal symptoms and cravings and helping prevent relapse in cocaine addicts.[9,10] Preliminary studies indicate that NAC supplementation can also decrease marijuana and nicotine use and cravings.[11,12]
  • Autism. Like addiction disorders, autism is a brain disorder in which there is an imbalance in the brain’s excitatory/inhibitory systems with abnormal regulation of glutamate. Imbalances in the brain’s antioxidant systems are also found in those with autism. Two published, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have tested NAC supplementation in children with autism and both found that NAC significantly lessens the symptom of irritability.[13,14]
  • Bipolar disorder. Glutathione levels are depleted in patients with bipolar disorder.[15] By increasing glutathione,  NAC can reduce depressive and manic symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder.[15-17]
  • Other brain-related conditions. In addition to bipolar disorder, addictions, and autism, small studies have shown that NAC benefits symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.[18]

Have You Experienced the Amazing NAC Benefits?

If you’ve tried NAC and found it useful for your health condition, please tell us your story in the comments section below. Share your experience with the health benefits of NAC.


[1] Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Aug;1830(8):4117-29.
[2] Eur Respir J 2000;16:253-62.
[3] Clin Ther. 2000 Feb;22(2):209-21.
[4] Eur Respir J 1994;7:94-101.
[5] COPD. 2013 Dec 30. [Epub ahead of print]
[6] Chest. 2013 Jul;144(1):106-18.
[7] Eur Respir J. 1997 Jul;10(7):1535-41.
[8] Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Mar 21;103(12):4628-33.
[9] Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Aug;37(9):2143-52.
[10] Am J Addict. 2006; 15(1): 105–110.
[11] Am J Addict. 2010 March 1; 19(2): 187–189.
[12] CNS Drugs. 2014 Feb;28(2):95-106.
[13] Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Jun 1;71(11):956-61.
[14] BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 25;13:196.
[15] BMC Med. 2012; 10: 91.
[16] Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;47(6):564-8
[17] Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2011 Dec;33(4):374-8.
[18] Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Mar;34(3):167-77.


Originally published in 2014, this post is regularly updated.

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Comments
  • This is an amazing article on what sounds to be an amazing supplement. Thank you!
    One question, how does it compare to an oxaloacetate supplement,or are they the same? Thanks again.

  • LifeIsGood

    Appreciate this update as there were studies on mice that seemed less than positive. Should I get a cold of flu, I will try NAC which I’ve purchased and will report back here on its effectiveness.

  • I have suffered acute bronchitis for many years, and coupled with colds and flu, have been rendered physically wrecked. In the last 12 months, i have taken n.a.c faithfully, and to date have not had any recurring bronchitis, or colds or flu for that matter. Day one of taking this supplement, i awoke the next day and my sinuses cleared completely. I have noticed an increase in physical stamina, well being, and mood. I have been a heavy smoker for decades, and was diagnosed with borderline copd. friends and relatives have remarked on how well i look, and i really do believe in the power of this amazing antioxidant, and am doing my best to extol its virtues to anyone i meet who appears to be suffering some malaise or other. I also consume 12mg of Boron daily, and i no longer suffer with stiff joints and mild arthiritis. There have been a couple of friends that reported no difference to their health at all. I have read that this may be because they already have sufficient levels of glutathione in their system!

  • Michael V.

    Take it daily. Feel great. No colds. Lungs good.

  • leslie

    NAC is the supplement that helped both my husband and me with watery/dry eye symptoms. My eyes watered, his were dry…we started taking NAC and our respective problems cleared up. (Both are due to the same thing: inflammation of eye duct). We take NAC for other things as well but we were elated that it cleared up these small but super annoying problems.

  • jNemes65

    I used NAC for my dog! After appropriate a month he quit licking his junk!

  • I have been on before, but because of tummy aches stopped, but am so concerned with lack of deep breathing efforts am retrying it……I pray it helps me, I have COPD, Histo and Fibro….am a mess but hopeful…………any comments appreciated….

  • Been taking NAC (along with vitamin C) for several years now. It has really helped with the mucin (NOT the same as mucus) so many hypothyroid patients have, myself included.

  • Karem P.

    Carter Jayden
    Four years ago I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I have had asthma all my life. I have just been to the doctors and seen a senior nurse who has told me I no longer have COPD and Asthma. My breathing is great and I don’t feel I need inhaler anymore,The COPD and Asthma herbal remedies i purchased online from Dr George (Good Health Herbs Home) worked perfectly just like a miracle,am living COPD and Asthma free now ,all thanks to Dr George God bless…

  • After my 3rd pulmonary embolism in 2003, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and I read that people usually die within 5 years. My specialist has me on blood thinners, prednisone and other steroids that I inhale daily. October 2006 I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to Green House Herbal Clinic natural organic idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this pulmonary fibrosis Herbal formula treatment. The infections, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry cough and other symptoms has subsided. Somehow, the herbs managed to keep me alive for 13 years.Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official website w ww.greenhouseherbalclinic .com or email herbs@ greenhouseherbalclinic. com. I have had great improvement with my over all respiration with this product and i breath very much easier, i can never be thankful enough to nature

  • After my 3rd pulmonary embolism in 2003, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and I read that people usually die within 5 years. My specialist has me on blood thinners, prednisone and other steroids that I inhale daily. October 2006 I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to Green House Herbal Clinic natural organic idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this pulmonary fibrosis Herbal formula treatment. The infections, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry cough and other symptoms has subsided. Somehow, the herbs managed to keep me alive for 13 years.Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official website I have had great improvement with my over all respiration with this product and i breath very much easier, i can never be thankful enough to nature

  • Hasley J.

    BEST HEALTH

    First, please always have an inhaler with you. Nothing else will be as effective and not seeking medical help could cost you your life. I have asthma and COPD, caused by smoking. I use an inhaler 1 to 2 times a day; when feeling wheezy and coughing more than usual. My father came across a forum where so people was writing about (Best Health Herbal Centre). They sell herbs supplements for different kinds of deadly diseases, so me and my family decided to give it a try. We contacted Dr linda (Best Health Herbal Centre) immediately and purchased herbal remedy for Asthma and COPD. I used the herbal remedy as instructed and It totally reversed my Asthma and COPD within 6 weeks of usage, all thanks to Best health Herbal Centre, God bless. Please check out their website for more information ww w.besthealthherbalcentre. com

  • Karem P.

    I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis 2015. I was put on high doses of prednisone in 2016. In December 2017 I was hospitalized for 14 days with pneumonia. I was on oxygen 24/7 and the bottom lobes of my lungs are destroyed! I lost hope because my doctor said he have no idea how long I have to live but Glory be to Almighty for leading to Best Health Herbal Centre. I purchased pulmonary fibrosis herbal remedy from Best Health Herbal Centre, the herbal remedy slowed the progression within 5 weeks of usage, 80-85% success rate!

  • I have had extreme joint (back and knees) for 30 years I have OCD I have struggled with gambling depression anxiety I have been taking 600 mg of NAC for two weeks all conditions have gone away It’s a miracle my blood pressure is back to 117/69 from a high norm of 148/90 I’m happy I feel 20 years younger I can do full knee squats I now have a true disbelief in conventional doctors and medicine also no side effects at all love it take it change my life it will change your life!!

  • Cathy R.

    My Husband was diagnosed with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis 5 years ago and was on minimum daily dosage prednisone (7.5 mg), azathioprine and N-Acetyl. They put him on 6 liters of oxygen and steroids to slow down progression. His symptoms have always been shortness of breath, and coughing badly. the prednisone wasn’t really working and he could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects, There has been little if any progress in finding a cure or reliable treatment. So this year his primary physician suggested we started him on Natural Herbal Gardens Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Herbal formula which eased his anxiety a bit,, We ordered their IPF herbal treatment after reading alot of positive reviews, i am happy to report with the help of Natural Herbal Garden natural herbs we have been able to reverse my husband symptoms using herbs, his symptoms totally declined over a 9 weeks use of the Natural Herbal Gardens IPF natural herbal formula. His Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is totally reversed! Their official web page is naturalherbalgardens . c o m After the herbal treatment he also finally was able to give up smoking after 20 years. We are thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God

  • Lori M.

    About 4 years ago, no risk factors, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with TB. I had a bad cough, was losing weight. It wasnt until I could not breathe, that I went to the Dr. So six months of quarantine and a year of antibiotics later, I was told I had 20 percent of my lung function remaining and would need inhalers, steriods, respirators to aid me during my downhill slide. I never. Took any of those, was doing ok, but began suffering periodic bouts of pnuemonia. I did some research and put myself on a regiment of medicinal mushrooms (cordyceps, reishi, chaga) a tea I make with ginger, tumuric and raw honey and 600 mg of NAC twice a day. Now I should be on oxygen, I’m not running any marathons, but as a rustic artist/carpenter, I work hard, hike evey day the weather permits, generally exibit a higher level of health then others my age (51) And I hate to admit, but I still smoke. I’m not sure which of my supplements has the greatest effect, but I did run out of NAC for a week once and noticed greater congestion. I am completely med free and living normally.

  • I’ve been taking NAC for about a week now and noticed that I’m actually coughing more right after taking. I take 500 mg in the morning and immediately it feels like I have a dry cough. Is this normal?

  • I wanted to quit tobacco for the last 10yrs and I could not with any of those suggested methods, and now just by taking this once daily….The Craving is gone! I mean. So low that you can handle it, and I quit! along with that, it feels far better altogether. I wake up and feel fresh, and have far more energy. It feels like I have a new body again… I was missing this NAC in my body all my life… I mean since like the age of 25! Honestly, there is nothing negative about this. I also lost weight as well! (the cravings of all kinds have gone away such as eating too much, drinking too much, smoking too much!). Healthy levels in the blood, blood pressure, and really mentally better. It’s really insane that I didn’t know about this all my life.

  • Raymond T.

    I actually discovered NAC on my own research, by constantly digging for information through my Amazon account I was reading other people’s comments about different things one thing led to another thing I kept reading all these ups and downs good and bad comments about different supplements and I decided from my own conclusion that I would try NAC and L-CITRULLINE, I purchased the ingredients from bulk supplements this product was pure Crystal powder form uncut unblemished. I have COPD and other health issues kidney problems and I could not get any relief from any doctor that I went to the prescription medications not working for me and I took these prescriptions for about 24 years. It was about 4 years ago that I noticed, that every time I would eat watermelon I could breathe better so I started asking different doctors that I went to, why, I ask the doctors why is it everytime I eat watermelon I can breathe better and my sinuses are open my lungs feel like I’m getting enough air and every doctor that I asked would say I have no idea, never heard of it. Anyway l-citrulline is a product that comes from watermelon so along with l-citrulline and The NAC supplements I have been taking them approximately six months now and how about the first month I started taking them is when I quit taking my prescription inhalers I don’t even use them anymore I am so glad that I found something that is actually curing not just masking but actually curing my COPD along with the chronic bronchitis the phlegm the mucus I’m a happy person now and I’m 65 years old an ex-smoker. After doing some further research I’m fixing to add two more supplements 2 my supplements that I am now taking and those are L-Carnitine and magnesium glycine there are many different types of magnesium. If there is anyone out there that would like to discuss this further with me you can email me my email address is,,,rayzone.rt@gmail.com

  • I have been taking N-A-C for a couple of weeks. Yes, my depressive symptoms are down, I do not obsessed as much as I did before. I have more energy – but I have a hard time sleeping,feeling so energetic. My nose is stuffed and I have a hard time blowing it – the mucus is so thick.

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