Alpha-Lipoic Acid

AL-fa li-POH-ik A-sid

What are other names for this remedy?

Type of medicine: natural remedy

Scientific and common names: alpha-lipoic acid, biletan, lipoic acid, dihydrolipoic acid, lipoicin, thioctacid, thioctan, thioctic acid

What is alpha-lipoic acid?

Alpha-lipoic acid is a chemical called an antioxidant. It is found naturally in foods such as yeast, liver, kidney, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes. It can also be made in the laboratory.

Do not confuse this remedy with alpha-linolenic acid, which is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants.

What is it used for?

This remedy has been used to treat several conditions. Studies in humans or animals have not proved that this remedy is safe or effective for all uses. Before using this remedy for a serious condition, you should talk with your healthcare provider.

This remedy is helpful to treat:

  • Diabetes
  • Neuropathy (nerve problems)

This remedy has been taken by mouth to treat:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, or problems with the retina
  • Liver disease
  • Lyme disease
  • Wilson’s disease

This remedy has also been used on the skin to reduce wrinkles and fine lines due to sun damage.

This remedy does not appear to help treat or prevent alcoholic liver disease or heart problems.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve uses for natural remedies. The FDA does not inspect or regulate natural remedies the way they do prescription medicines.

How is it taken?

Alpha-lipoic acid comes in the form of tablets, capsules, or cream. Check the label on the package for the specific dose. It may also be given by injection (shot) under your healthcare provider's supervision.

What if I overdose?

Symptoms of an acute overdose have not been reported.

What should I watch out for?

Do not use alpha-lipoic acid if you have:

  • Thiamine deficiency (more common in people who drink a lot of alcohol)
  • Thyroid disease

If you have HIV, tell your healthcare provider you are taking alpha-lipoic acid. This remedy may affect your blood tests.

Diabetics: This remedy may affect your blood sugar level and change the amount of insulin or other diabetes medicines you may need. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.

If you need emergency care, surgery, or dental work, tell the healthcare provider or dentist you are taking this remedy.

Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any natural remedy that you are using or thinking about using. If your provider does not tell you how to take it, follow the directions that come with the package. Do not take more or take it longer than recommended. Ask about anything you do not understand. Remember:

  • Natural remedies are not always safe.
  • You should not take them if you are pregnant or breast-feeding without your healthcare provider's approval. They should not be taken by infants, children, or older adults without your provider's approval.
  • They affect your body and may interact with prescription medicines that you take.
  • Natural remedies are not standardized. They may be contaminated. They may also have different strengths and effects.

What are the possible side effects?

Along with its desirable effects, this remedy may cause some unwanted side effects. Some side effects may be very serious. Some side effects may go away as your body adjusts to the remedy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that continue or get worse.

Life-threatening (Report these to your healthcare provider right away. If you cannot reach your healthcare provider right away, get emergency medical care or call 911 for help.): Allergic reaction (hives; itching; rash; trouble breathing; chest pain or tightness in your chest; swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat).

Serious (report these to your healthcare provider right away): High doses may cause tingling or numbness in hands and feet.

Other: Rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache.

What products might interact with this remedy?

When you take this remedy with other medicines, it can change the way the remedy or the medicines work. Vitamins and certain foods may also interact. Using these products together might cause harmful side effects. Before taking this remedy, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking:

  • Diabetes medicines such as glipizide (Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab), insulin, metformin (Glucophage), pioglitazone (Actos), repaglinide (Prandin), and rosiglitazone (Avandia)
  • Medicines used to treat cancer such as cisplatin, doxorubicin (Adriamycin, Doxil), hydroxyurea (Hydrea), vinblastine, and vincristine (Vincasar)
  • Natural remedies such as ephedra, ginger, gotu kola, stinging nettle, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, ginseng, and psyllium
  • Thyroid medicines such as levothyroxine (Levothroid, Levoxyl, Synthroid, Unithroid), liothyronine (Cytomel, Triostat), liotrix (Thyrolar), and thyroid (Armour Thyroid)
  • Vitamin E

Do NOT drink alcohol while taking this remedy unless your healthcare provider approves.

If you are not sure if your medicines might interact, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider. Keep a list of all your medicines with you. List all the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Be sure that you tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all the products you are taking.


Keep all natural remedies and medicines out of the reach of children.

This advisory includes select information only. The information was obtained from scientific journals, study reports, and other documents. The author and publisher make no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the information. The advisory may not include all side effects associated with a remedy or interactions with other medicines. Nothing herein shall constitute a recommendation for the use of any remedy. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information.

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