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Ranking the best glutathione supplements of 2021

Written by John Davis

Last updated: November 26, 2020

Glutathione is a powerful and versatile antioxidant that can fight inflammation, scavenge free radicals, and capture toxins like heavy metals.

It’s a key ingredient to many detox diets thanks to these health-promoting abilities, and it’s quite popular for boosting your ability to recover from the oxidative stress of exercise, and it’s been investigated as an anti-aging immune system booster as well.

If fighting oxidative damage, improving exercise recovery, and augmenting your immune system are what you’re looking for, read on: we’ve ranked the ten best glutathione supplements on the market.

Rankings

1. Jarrow Formulas Reduced Glutathione

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Jarrow Formulas makes a 500 mg glutathione supplement that’s contained in a vegetable cellulose capsule. It’s pretty simply designed and at a high enough dose to be effective, all without any unnecessary additives.

It’s an all-around strong source of glutathione regardless of the purpose you need it for.

2. aSquared Nutrition Reduced Glutathione

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aSquared Nutrition has a high dose and super-minimal glutathione supplement. It uses animal-sourced glycerin (sorry, vegetarians) and rice flour as its only ingredients other than glutathione.

With 500 mg of glutathione per capsule, it’s got plenty of potency for use as an antioxidant.

3. Pure Encapsulations Reduced Glutathione

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Pure Encapsulations has a simple low dose glutathione supplement. Each capsule, made of vegetable-derived cellulose, contains just 100 mg of glutathione.

This won’t be the right call if you want a high dose, but if the usual 500 mg dosage is far too much for you, Pure Encapsulations is the way to go.

The fact that there are zero additional ingredients, aside from glutathione and the cellulose capsule, is great to see as well

4. Core Med Science Liposomal Glutathione Softgels

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Core Med Science has a glutathione supplement that’s a big name in the detox community. Its main distinguishing factor is that its glutathione (500 mg per capsule, the usual standard) is delivered alongside 350 mg of phospholipids, which Core Med Science claims compliment the bioavailability and efficacy of the glutathione.

Thus far, there hasn’t been any research to back this up, though users do rate this supplement very highly.

5. NOW Glutathione

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NOW Glutathione is a more comprehensive glutathione supplement that supplies alpha-lipoic and milk thistle extract alongside 500 mg of glutathione per cellulose capsule.

These added ingredients are supposed to enhance the antioxidant and detox capabilities of this supplement. Milk thistle extract in particular is known as a regenerative and detoxifying herbal compound, though including it in the same supplement as glutathione limits your ability to use this for the wide range of applications that is one of the strengths of glutathione.

6. Drinkwel Welessentials Reduced Glutathione

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Welessentials Reduced Glutathione includes 500 mg of glutathione among a suite of antioxidant-promoting ingredients, including milk thistle extract, alpha lipoic acid, n-acetyl-cysteine, and grape seed extract. It’s specifically made for detoxing after a night of partying and drinking.

The supplement gets a little bloated with all of these ingredients, and it makes it difficult to isolate the effects of glutathione or to follow the same protocols as a clinical trial, as the interactions between the ingredients might change the results you get or the side effect profile.

If you’re explicitly looking for a supplement that uses glutathione alongside other ingredients for a synergistic antioxidant effect, that’s what this product does, but if you just want pure glutathione, there are better options.

7. We Like Vitamins Reduced Glutathione

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We Like Vitamins makes a pretty basic glutathione supplement, delivering 500 mg of glutathione per capsule. It lands lower in the rankings because it uses a few unnecessary binders and fillers, like silica, without offering much in return.

8. Bulksupplements Pure Glutathione

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Bulksupplements is the way to go if you are a die-hard do it yourselfer. Their plastic satchels of glutathione come as free-form powder, have zero additional ingredients, and are tested by a third party for purity.

While this is great for something like protein powder, it’s more difficult with something like glutathione, where you want precise doses.

You’ll need a very precise micro-scale to accurately measure out doses, so unless you are making large batches of pre-mixed workout shakes, a capsule-based supplement is probably going to be the easier way to go.

9. Fresh Nutrition Glutathione

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Fresh Nutrition makes a super-pure glutathione supplement. The only price you pay is in dosage – per capsule, it’s only got about 165 mg of glutathione. If you are specifically in the market for a lower dose, it’s a good pick, but otherwise you should opt for something else.

10. CCL Advanced Glutathione

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CCL presents its glutathione supplement in a unique way—a spray bottle designed for oral and sublingual absorption. A serving size is twelve sprays, and the product promises better absorption and quicker bioavailability compared to tablets or capsules.

Unfortunately, the spray isn’t just a straight shot of glutathione. It’s got several different ingredients, all mixed into a proprietary blend, which makes it impossible to tell exactly how much glutathione you’re getting.

This, combined with the inherent difficulty in getting accurate and repeatable doses in spray-form supplements, hurts CCL Advanced Glutathione in the rankings.

Category winners

Best glutathione overall: Jarrow Formulas Reduced Glutathione

High-dose, vegan-friendly, and super-pure—Jarrow Formulas checks all the boxes with their glutathione supplement. If you’re looking for the all-around best glutathione supplement on the market, there’s no question it’s Jarrow Formulas.

Best glutathione for skin: NOW Supplements Glutathione

NOW Supplements  includes ALA (alpha lipoic acid) alongside an already high dose of glutathione to boost its ability to increase your body’s antioxidant levels, which is particularly important for improving skin health.

Best glutathione for workout recovery: Pure Encapsulations Reduced Glutathione

For optimal workout recovery, you don’t want too high of a dose—that could tamp down on your body’s natural supercompensation response. With 100 mg of glutathione per capsule, Pure Encapsulations is the ideal choice for athletes. 

Best glutathione for immune function: Jarrow Formulas Reduced Glutathione

At 500 mg of glutathione per capsule, Jarrow Formulas has one of the highest dosages on the market. It’s great if you are looking for a supplement to rapidly boost your body’s glutathione levels for enhanced immune function. 

Best glutathione for chronic fatigue: aSquared Nutrition Reduced Glutathione

For combating chronic fatigue, the most common strategy is a consistent and ultra-pure dose of reduced glutathione. aSquared Nutrition fits the bill perfectly, providing 500 mg of glutathione and nothing in the way of extraneous ingredients that could cause adverse responses from your body. 

Best glutathione for hangovers: Drinkwel Glutathione

Feeling out of it after a night out? Try Drinkwel – it uses glutathione in combination with grape seed extract, NAC, and ALA to detox your body and restore your body’s antioxidant levels.

Who should buy glutathione?

Glutathione is a particularly powerful antioxidant that appears to have beneficial effects on your immune system. It’s a good option if you are looking to keep a strong and healthy immune system as you get older.

Likewise, glutathione has a small but growing number of people who claim that it is a useful way to reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, which may be linked to a dysregulated immune system. Athletes may also benefit from glutathione, as some research shows that it can reduce the oxidative damage induced by exercise.

Glutathione supplementation is also useful for people looking to amplify the benefits of NAC or ALA. These biologically active compounds are both involved in the same biochemical pathways as glutathione, so many nutrition experts suspect that taking both in conjunction might amplify the overall benefits for antioxidant levels or immune system function.

How we ranked

Glutathione has been tested in clinical trials in humans, and the approximate dosage range that appears to be effective is pretty well-characterized, so our first criteria when formulating our rankings was to ensure that all of our glutathione supplements were able to deliver a dose within the biologically active and useful range. We screened out everything on the market which didn’t have about the right dose.

Then, we looked at supplement purity. Was the glutathione accompanied by additives, fillers, and binders? If so, we dropped these products from our list, or penalized them heavily in the rankings.

To make sure the top glutathione supplements were acceptable to the broadest swath of the population, we rewarded companies that used plant-derived cellulose in the capsules, and penalized companies that used animal-derived gelatin.

We also kept an eye out for products which included potentially helpful glutathione precursors like NAC or ALA.

While our primary concern was still the delivery of effective and pure glutathione in supplemental form, some nutritionists argue that including these kinds of precursors, or other biologically active compounds like phospholipids, can enhance the bioavailability of glutathione or increase its absorption.

The inclusion of these additional ingredients is what allowed Viva Naturals Glutathione and Welessentials Reduced Glutathione to score so well.

Since some research that uses only glutathione in clinical settings has been underwhelming or unsuccessful, more sophisticated supplementation strategies are now trying to supply several ingredients in the glutathione synthesis pathway.

If you want to follow clinical studies to date, which only use glutathione, we have several brands in our rankings that are well-suited for this application.

On the other hand, if you want to try these more cutting edge glutathione supplementation strategies, several products in our top ten are good fits for this application as well.

Benefits

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that can fight oxidative damage, reduce inflammation in the body, and even capture toxic compounds like heavy metals. Because of this, it’s quite a popular supplement among people trying to detox or treat chronic diseases.

Scientifically, there is strong support for its use as an agent to combat oxidative damage in the body, whether that’s from disease or more mundane sources like exercise.

As you might expect given its versatile function, there are a wide range of potential benefits that you can gain from a glutathione supplement.

Glutathione can help maintain a healthy immune system. One of the myriad challenges of getting older is a deterioration in the capabilities of your body’s immune system.

There is evidence that glutathione could help battle back against this decline, possibly because of its antioxidant activities. A scientific paper published in the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development by researchers at Tufts University investigated the effects of glutathione supplementation in both young and old mice (1).

The researchers found that administering a glutathione supplement to older mice made their immune system stronger and more similar to that of the younger mice.

Specifically, the glutathione supplement was associated with an improvement in T-cell responses in the older mice, which is a good metric for evaluating how well your immune system can fight back against infection.

While these results haven’t yet been replicated in humans, it’s a promising start—glutathione could prove to be very useful at maintaining the strength of your immune system as you get older.

Glutathione can reduce the oxidative stress on your body caused by exercise. One necessary consequence of exercise is an increase in oxidative stress, due to the simple fact that your body goes through a lot more oxygen in a short amount of time when you are exercising at a high intensity.

One problem with this is that it causes a lot of oxidative damage to the cells of your body, and although this doesn’t offset the health benefits of exercise, it’s still not ideal.

Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition by Chad Kerksick and Darryn Willoughby at Baylor University discusses the potential role of glutathione in reducing this oxidative damage (2).

Because glutathione acts to directly counter oxidative stress, it could be a way to reduce the damage to your body that occurs as a result of high intensity exercise.

According to the authors, glutathione can prevent oxidation of lipid membranes on the outside of cells in the body, and as a result, could lead to both improved performance and better health.

Glutathione could help combat chronic fatigue syndrome. A small but growing number of people with chronic fatigue syndrome are claiming impressive benefits thanks to supplemental use of glutathione.

While no clinical trials have evaluated the benefits of glutathione for chronic fatigue syndrome, some interesting evidence suggests a possible mechanism that could explain this effect. A scientific paper published in 2014 by researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University investigated how chronic fatigue syndrome was related to oxidative stress, and cited glutathione levels as a potential explanatory factor (3).

In the paper, the scientists used neuroimaging techniques to examine the levels of glutathione along with other antioxidants in the cortical area of the brain in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. They found that decreases in glutathione were associated with ventricular lactate levels, a biomarker for fatigue.

This association explained many of the functional limitations in the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, which led the researchers to conclude that people with chronic fatigue syndrome have increased biochemical fatigue levels as a result of (at least in part) abnormally high oxidative stress on the body.

Glutathione could potentially fight back against this oxidative damage, leading to an improvement in symptoms.

Glutathione by itself might not be enough to improve your antioxidant status. So far, the biggest clinical trial of glutathione was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington (4).

Their study used 40 adult volunteers, split into two groups. One group took 500 mg of glutathione twice per day, while the other was given a placebo. After four weeks, the researchers did not find any differences in antioxidant status between the two groups.

This might be because the study was too small to detect a difference, or it might be that external glutathione by itself isn’t effective at raising the levels of glutathione inside your body.

Some supplements combine glutathione with ALA or NAC in an attempt to address this problem, so if you aren’t getting results with glutathione by itself, you might want to try a combined-antioxidant supplement instead.

Glutathione may help reduce gastrointestinal problems related to harmful gut bacteria. One of the biggest frontiers in medical research is the importance of probiotic bacteria in your stomach and intestines when it comes to determining your overall health.

Broadly, the presence of a large number of diverse “good bacteria” is beneficial for everything from body weight to gastrointestinal health to mental well-being. On the other hand, several “bad bacteria” have been associated with health problems.

One of these bad bacteria types is the helicobacter genus, which has been linked to gastrointestinal problems like ulcers and chronic gastritis. New research published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that glutathione might be able to combat the problems associated with helicobacter bacteria (5).

The study, published in 2016, used an animal model to show that oral supplementation with glutathione was able to reduce inflammation in the stomach, and slow the proliferation of helicobacter bacteria.

While the full scope of glutathione’s interaction with both healthy probiotics and harmful gut bacteria has yet to be clarified, glutathione may eventually be considered as a prebiotic supplement, and this mechanism may help explain its apparent outsized impact on immune system function.

Side effects

In the largest and most comprehensive clinical trial of glutathione use, the only side effects reported were increased gas, loose stools, and flushing (6).

This study also took the extra step of taking blood samples to test for biomarkers of organ function, and found no disturbance in normal healthy functioning in any of the patients as a result of the glutathione supplement.

The lack of major side effects might be because glutathione is naturally produced in your body when you consume foods rich in the sulfur-based amino acids, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage.

Recommended dose

So far, direct clinical trials of glutathione are lacking. The biggest study to date used a dose of 500 mg twice per day, but did not find that this produced a significant increase in antioxidant status.

It may be that glutathione needs to be combined with other antioxidant-boosting ingredients like n-acetyl-cysteine or alpha-lipoic acid to be effective. Going with a higher dose than this is a little risky, because studies haven’t evaluated higher doses for their side effect profiles.

FAQ

Q: What are the symptoms of glutathione deficiency?

A: Glutathione deficiency is a serious medical problem, and is associated with anemia, loss of coordination, and muscle stiffness, among other symptoms.

Deficiency in glutathione is usually caused by a genetic mutation, so in these cases, supplementation is typically not helpful. Lower, but still biologically normal, levels of glutathione don’t have a well-characterized symptom set.

Glutathione supplementation, as discussed earlier, might be helpful for improving antioxidant status and immune function, though.

Q: What does glutathione do to your skin?

A: Glutathione has achieved rapid popularity as a way to lighten skin, with the thought that melanin in skin will undergo structural changes in response to the increased antioxidant activity of glutathione.

Unfortunately, according to a review of the latest medical research published in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, there are no high-quality studies suggesting that glutathione can actually lighten skin to a significant degree (7).

While glutathione supplements and creams appear to be safe, some people turn to injections or IV drips of glutathione, which have been associated with several dangerous side effects, so this method of application is discouraged barring future research.

Q: What foods are high in glutathione?

A: Glutathione is present in high concentrations in whey protein, grass-fed beef, and eggs, as well as in healthy plant sources like broccoli, cauliflower, and black mustard seed.

Since glutathione is built from amino acids, and is reliant on the presence of sulfur for its chemical structure, foods like broccoli and cauliflower that have sulfur-containing nutrients and amino acids are an excellent way to get high levels of glutathione through natural foods.

Even when getting glutathione naturally, it’s worth checking to see if your diet is also high in NAC and alpha-lipoic acid (not to be confused with alpha-linoleic acid, a different nutrient), as these nutrients can further enhance your body’s ability to use glutathione to improve immune and antioxidant function.

Q: What are the uses of glutathione?

A: Glutathione is primarily used either to boost your body’s antioxidant capabilities or to bolster your immune system. On the antioxidant front, glutathione acts as a potent scavenger of free-radicals, which cause oxidative damage to your cells.

In keeping with this function, glutathione has been successfully used to reduce oxidative damage in athletes after challenging workouts.

When it comes to immune system function, some research in rats suggests that glutathione could help keep the immune system functioning well in spite of aging, which can degrade the ability of the immune system to function properly.

Glutathione also shows some potential in emerging research as a way to reduce the severity of chronic fatigue syndrome, which may be linked to both oxidative stress and to immune system function (or dysfunction).

Finally, new animal research also suggests that glutathione might play a role in keeping harmful bacteria in check in your stomach and intestines, cutting down on inflammatory reactions to helicobacter bacteria.

Q: How should you choose the best glutathione supplement?

A: Our strategy for choosing good glutathione supplements revolved around finding supplements that delivered at least a few hundred milligrams of pure glutathione, hopefully in a pure, simple supplement without any unnecessary ingredients or fillers.

If you are looking to follow clinical research as closely as possible, this is the avenue you want to use for choosing a good glutathione supplement.

However, some research suggests that you may want to take glutathione alongside NAC, alpha-lipoic acid, or phospholipids to enhance the biological activity of glutathione, so a few products on the market, like Viva Naturals Glutathione and Welessentials Reduced Glutathione (both of which made our rankings) are good choices for that strategy.

Q: How can you take glutathione effectively?

A: As more scientific research emerges, it’s starting to look like taking glutathione may require supplementation of glutathione alongside Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) or N-acetylcysteine (NAC).

The glutathione dosage itself is important too, but one large study that used 500 mg of pure glutathione per day did not find a significant effect on whole-body antioxidant levels.

To this end, adding either a separate NAC and ALA supplement to your routine, or choosing one of the more sophisticated glutathione supplements with ALA or NAC added alongside glutathione, might be more effective.

Some supplement manufacturers claim that phospholipids (the same kind you’ll find in krill oil) can enhance the absorption of glutathione as well, though this claim hasn’t been directly assessed with independent scientific research.

Q: What does glutathione do?

A: Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that protects your body’s cells from reactive oxygen species. This oxidative damage can cause inflammation, which is in turn associated with risk factors for chronic disease, not to mention aging and decreased immune function.

Experimental research suggests that glutathione may help maintain the ability of your immune system to fight off infections, limit the inflammation caused by harmful bacteria in your stomach, and reduce the amount of oxidative damage your body sustains.

Actually increasing your glutathione levels is tricky, though, since the natural bioavailability of glutathione is not very good.

Some research attempts to counter this by taking high doses of glutathione, but other avenues of work suggest that taking ALA and NAC alongside glutathione might enhance your body’s ability to take advantage of the antioxidant and immune-boosting properties of glutathione.

Q: What is liposomal glutathione?

A: Liposomal glutathione is a blend of regular glutathione alongside a (usually proprietary) mixture of phospholipids, which are fat molecules that make up the cell walls of plants and animals.

At least according to the manufacturers of liposomal glutathione, these phospholipids should help enhance the absorption of glutathione, since glutathione is both fat and water soluble. One of the challenges of traditional glutathione supplementation is that your body doesn’t have any specific mechanisms to shuttle glutathione into your system after consuming a supplement.

However, this phospholipid supplementation strategy hasn’t been independently validated in scientific experiments, so it’s not clear whether liposomal glutathione is actually more effectively absorbed using liposomal glutathione versus regular glutathione, and nobody has tested whether liposomal glutathione combines better with NAC and ALA to enhance the glutathione pathways in your body.

Q: What is reduced glutathione?

A: Glutathione can come in two forms, reduced or oxidized. In your body, glutathione exists in the reduced state prior to performing its oxidation-fighting duties; after stopping oxidizing chain reactions, glutathione itself becomes oxidized.

This is not a problem, though, because your body has an enzyme that can regenerate reduced glutathione once it is spent. Pretty much all glutathione supplements are in the reduced form, so you don’t need to worry about what form glutathione is in when it’s taken as a supplement.

Q: How can you boost glutathione?

A: Actually increasing glutathione is tricky; not all of the evidence suggests a plain glutathione supplement will do the trick. On one hand, animal research suggests that some of the immediate and direct benefits of glutathione can be had by a normal glutathione supplement.

These include suppressing the proliferation of harmful bacteria in your intestines, as well as reducing inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract and potentially reducing the symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, actually raising blood levels of glutathione (and presumably reaping the antioxidant benefits that are associated with this increase) has proven to be more difficult.

The biggest clinical trial to date, which used 500 mg of glutathione per day, was not able to raise blood levels of antioxidants significantly.

Because of this result, some experts have hypothesized that other supplements, like NAC and ALA, contribute to either glutathione absorption or glutathione synthesis.

Some supplement companies have suggested that packaging glutathione alongside phospholipids may enhance absorption, but it’s not clear whether this is a scientifically valid strategy or just a marketing gimmick.

Related articles

Recap

Though much of the research on direct supplementation of glutathione is lacking or is in the early stages, there’s a lot of more fundamental biological research that attests to its importance as a protective agent against oxidative damage.

Glutathione may be able to help you maintain a young and healthy immune system as you get older, and it could be useful for decreasing the oxidative damage that results from high-intensity exercise.

Glutathione could even help with symptoms of chronic fatigue symptom, though these benefits are mostly theoretical and anecdotal at this point.

It might be better to take glutathione along with other glutathione-boosting compounds like NAC or ALA, versus just glutathione by itself.

Doses of 500 to 1000 mg per day seem like a good place to start, though research is lacking on an optimal dosage level. These doses deliver a solid amount of glutathione and aren’t associated with any serious side effects, though you might experience mild gastrointestinal side effects or flushing.

If oxidative damage is negatively affecting your health and well-being, glutathione could be a good supplement to help reverse the problem.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 glutathione recommendation, click here.

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John Davis

John Davis is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer with over 7 years of experience researching the science of high performance athletics, long-term health, nutrition, and wellness. As a trained scientist, he digs deep into the medical, nutritional, and epidemiological literature to uncover the keys to healthy living through better nutrition.