Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Mar;5(1):27-35.
The treatment of pulmonary diseases and respiratory-related conditions with inhaled (nebulized or aerosolized) glutathione.
Prousky J. The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, 1255 Sheppard Avenue East, Toronto, ON M2K 1E2, Canada and International Primary Health Care, The External Program, University of London, London, UK.
Reduced glutathione or simply glutathione (gamma-glutamylcysteinylglycine; GSH) is found in the cytosol of most cells of the body. GSH in the epithelial lining fluid (ELF) of the lower respiratory tract is thought to be the first line of defense against oxidative stress. Inhalation (nebulized or aerosolized) is the only known method that increases GSH's levels in the ELF. A review of the literature was conducted to examine the clinical effectiveness of inhaled GSH as a treatment for various pulmonary diseases and respiratory-related conditions. This report also discusses clinical and theoretical indications for GSH inhalation, potential concerns with this treatment, its presumed mechanisms of action, optimal doses to be administered and other important details. Reasons for inhaled GSH's effectiveness include its role as a potent antioxidant, and possibly improved oxygenation and host defenses. Theoretical uses of this treatment include Farmer's lung, pre- and postexercise, multiple chemical sensitivity disorder and cigarette smoking. GSH inhalation should not be used as a treatment for primary lung cancer. Testing for sulfites in the urine is recommended prior to GSH inhalation. Minor side effects such as transient coughing and an unpleasant odor are common with this treatment. Major side effects such as bronchoconstriction have only occurred among asthma patients presumed to be sulfite-sensitive. The potential applications of inhaled GSH are numerous when one considers just how many pulmonary diseases and respiratory-related conditions are affected by deficient antioxidant status or an over production of oxidants, poor oxygenation and/or impaired host defenses. More studies are clearly warranted.