Alpha-Lipoic Acid Benefits, Uses and Dosages

| Modified: Oct 28, 2020
Add New Post Alpha Lipoic Acid Health Benefits

by Deirdre Layne
Updated: October 27, 2020

Alpha-lipoic Acid, or ALA, is a powerful metabolic antioxidant that offers a natural means of treating and preventing a broad range of ailments. For years, Earth Clinic readers have reported ALA as an effective and inexpensive supplement for weight loss, inflammation, diabetes, neuropathy, and liver health.

Even though it has become an increasingly popular supplement over the past 20 years, researchers were studying ALA as far back as the 1930s!

This article reviews Alpha-lipoic Acid, benefits, widespread uses, recommended dosages and side effects to watch out for.

History

Alpha-lipoic acid was first discovered in 1937 when researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that a type of bacteria relied on potato juice to reproduce. (1)

This led to alpha-lipoic acid being known as the potato growth factor for some time after its discovery.

It was later isolated in 1951 (2), but the first clinical use of ALA was not recorded until 1959 in Germany to treat poisoning from a particular type of mushroom. This was when it became known as a “universal antioxidant.”

Researchers soon determined that ALA could help “recycle” Vitamins C and E, other essential antioxidants.

Antioxidants are generally depleted as they do their work. Evidence suggests that ALA has the unique quality of being able to regenerate other antioxidants.

This enables them to continue their vital metabolic function, preventing the damage caused by the over-production of free radicals linked to premature aging, heart disease, and inflammation.

ALA and Cell Damage

Studies show that Alpha-lipoic Acid can prevent cell damage from oxygen deprivation in the following conditions:

1. Ischemia (restricted or reduced blood flow in a part of the body, especially the heart muscles) (3)

2. Diabetes (4)

3. Diabetic neuropathy (5)

4. Atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque or fatty deposits on artery walls) [6]

5. Neurodegeneration (progressive atrophy and loss of function of neurons) [7]

6. High Blood Pressure (8)

ALA for Tumors and Cancer Cells

ALA also shows pro-oxidant activity in tumor cells, damaging them in this study.

In other studies, ALA reduced cancer cell proliferation and increased levels of cell death, called apoptosis, in the cells (9, 10)

ALA for Weight Loss

One of the most popular uses of ALA is to help weight loss.

Studies show that ALA reduces the activity of the enzyme in your brain's hypothalamus that triggers hunger. This enzyme is called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). When AMPK is active, hunger pangs increase. (11)

Multiple studies have shown that Alpha-lipoic acid treatment produced small but significant short-term weight loss compared with placebo. The scientists concluded that further research is needed to examine the effect of different doses and the long-term benefits of ALA on weight management. (12)

ALA Benefits - Reported by Earth Clinic Readers

For the past 15 years, Earth Clinic readers have reported that ALA supplementation has alleviated or eliminated painful neuropathy (pain, weakness, or numbness, usually in hands and feet). Their positive feedback is supported by practice in Europe, where ALA has long been a recognized treatment for neuropathy.

In addition to alleviating diabetic neuropathy, EC readers report that ALA brings down high blood sugar.

Readers have also written about ALA for many other conditions like liver disease, burning mouth syndrome, edema, and hepatitis C, to name a few.

The Unique Advantages of ALA

  • ALA is a universal antioxidant that works both inside and outside the cells, giving increased protection from free radicals.
     
  • It is water-soluble and fat-soluble, unlike many other antioxidants.
     
  • It is beneficial in the treatment of many ailments.
     
  • It helps diabetics control neuropathy and high blood sugar.
     
  • Currently being investigated for the treatment of strokes and dementia.
     

Online reviews indicate that ALA may help or prevent the following conditions:

  • Parkinson's
     
  • Alzheimer's
     
  • High Cholesterol
     
  • Macular Degeneration
     
  • Cataracts
     
  • Early Aging
     
  • Wrinkled Skin
     
  • Heart Disease
     
  • Liver Problems

Difference Between Natural and Synthetic ALA

Carefully do your research on brands before you buy a bottle of ALA. Many are a 50/50 mixture of the natural and synthetic forms.

R-ALA = Natural ALA

S-ALA = Synthetic ALA

Because pure lipoic acid (R-ALA) was not commercially available for many years and unstable without the addition of synthetic (S-ALA), much research until recently has been done using a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA. This is known as a racemic mix.

Though R-ALA and S-ALA are considered mirror images of each other, there is evidence to suggest that they function very differently in the body.

Previous users of pure R-ALA took an intravenous delivery of R-ALA. Nowadays, however, many ALA manufacturers claim that they have been able to solve the problem of instability and produce capsules containing only pure, natural R-Lipoic Acid.

What is R-ALA?

R-Lipoic Acid is naturally found in plants and animals. It is located in every cell of our bodies, where it works to turn glucose into energy.

It is valuable because it helps the body fight infection while reducing free radical damage to organs and tissues.

Most antioxidants are either water-soluble (vitamin C) or fat-soluble (vitamin E), but R-ALA is both water and fat-soluble, able to work anywhere in the body.

What is S-ALA?

S-Lipoic Acid is a synthetic form not found in nature. S-ALA stabilizes natural R-ALA, but many believe that it lowers the effectiveness of R-ALA.

There are several different ways to take ALA.

  • Intravenous (IV) ALA is available for high-dose treatments.
     
  • Injections of ALA may be given by a health practitioner.
     
  • Capsules are widely available. Check to see if the capsules are R-ALA or a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA.

ALA Dosages

Neuropathy

As this is not an officially recognized treatment in the US, there is no established dose.  However, in Europe, 200-300 mg a day is recommended for diabetic neuropathy, although some people take a much higher dosage.

Antioxidant

When used as a general antioxidant, 20-50 mg. a day is recommended. It's reported that most people tolerate up to 600 mg. a day.

Capsules are available in varying doses. If pure R-ALA is wanted, check the label. If a label only says that the capsule contains "ALA," it is likely to contain a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA.

Anti-Aging

Anti-aging practitioners often recommend 400 mg per day.

Diabetes or Liver Disease

Those with diabetes or liver disease may take 800-1,600 mg. daily, divided into doses taken 30 minutes before meals.

ALA is better absorbed on an empty stomach.

Pancreatic Cancer

Studies have documented longer than expected survival rates and improved symptoms after treatment combing ALA and low dose naltrexone. (11)

Foods That Contain ALA

Many foods contain ALA in small amounts, such as:

  • Spinach 
  • Yams
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes 
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Yeast
  • Rice Bran
  • Red Meat (especially organ meat)

Supplements provide 1,000 times more alpha-lipoic acid than food sources, so definitely take a supplement if you want to get more ALA benefits (12).

Side Effects of ALA

Diabetics should check with their doctor before taking ALA as it could react with insulin and cause blood sugar to become too low.

It is also recommended that anyone with liver or kidney disease, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or a thyroid disorder should first check with their doctor.

The most severe reported side effect on Earth Clinic is that high doses of ALA could cause heart rhythm irregularities.

Where to Buy

ALA is a very inexpensive supplement. Here are some well-reviewed products on Amazon.

Stabilized R-Alpha Lipoic Acid ((True)) 600mg per Serving [[High Potency & up to 40x Increased Absorption]] (Na R-ALA) (Na R-LA) (Na R-Lipoate) (1 Bottle) - $28.99



Alpha Lipoic Acid 600mg Per Serving, 240 Vegan Capsules- Pharmaceutical Grade, Gluten Free, Pure Non-GMO ALA- Supports Healthy Blood Sugar, Energy & Anti Oxidant - $16.99


If you have been using ALA, please let us know the dosage you have been taking and how it has worked for you. Continue reading below for comments from Earth Clinic readers. Please do a site-wide search on ALA if you want to read all the posts written about it over the past 20 years!

Related Links:

Burning Mouth Syndrome
Cancer
Diabetes Type II
Edema
Hepatitis C
Liver Disease
Neuropathy


ALA Contraindications

Posted by Tammy (Temple, Tx) on 10/27/2020

I think it very important that you add a disclaimer or at least bring attention to at the beginning of this article about the problem with using ALA if ever have mercury fillings etc...Very Important!!


Posted by J-dub (Oc, Ca) on 03/19/2016

ALA WARNING:

ALA is a Mercury Chelator and can cross the blood brain barrier. If you have or ever have had silver (amalgam) fillings, vaccines, or any other mercury exposure, you have mercury in your body. Taking ALA without proper dosing and timing WILL MAKE YOU WORSE. Please see the Andrew Hall Cutler chelation protocol (Amalgam Illness). Most who have had mercury in their body start with 6mg of ALA every 3 hours for 3 days straight. You also have to take a ton of other vitamins and antioxidants at the same time to protect the body while moving this mercury. You have to take it ever 3 hours because of the half life of ALA's ability to hold the mercury, the ALA has to be followed up every 3 hours to pick up the mercury that is being dropped. ALA cannot be taken until all mercury is out of the mouth for at least 3 months. DSMA can be taken after 4 days but also in the proper amounts as explained in Andy Cutlers protocol.

In short, taking ALA in the massive amounts recommended in the above post without the warning that someone who currently has amalgam fillings or ever has had amalgams is extremely dangerous.

Replied by Dano
Idaho
10/27/2020
5 out of 5 stars

I disagree because I have been taking 500-1200 mg a day of R-ALA for years with occasional breaks.

I have numerous amalgam fillings. I had an MRI after a recent concussion and my brain looked fine. I am 67 years old.


Posted by Loraine (Orlando, FL) on 05/05/2014

Hey EC....Quick question guys...does anyone know if its safe to take Alpha lipoic acid if you are hypothyroid? Just read an article that says folks with low thyroid should not take Ala and since I am currently taking this supplement I am worried because I am hypothyroid. Please help guys with a quick answer. Thanks a million....

Replied by Tesslynn
Colorado, US
07/19/2014

I went off thyroid meds because I was taking more and more, and it wasn't helping...and instead I add tyrosine/bayberry/dulse, eat chia seeds, and I feel better than I have in a LONG time. I started getting hot flashes, so added ACV and that seem to help everything. It is all about balancing your system. I don't eat bread anymore, it was causing gastric distress, but then probably the GMO factor. My Dr had a cow that I did that, but really, why bother with meds, if other things work better. We are what we eat, and I am convinced meds are NOT the answer...eating better, supplementing with herbs (they are easier on your system) has been a WAY better solution for me!

Replied by Carmel
England
06/16/2015

I suspect that you can start off with an underactive thyroid and then when you take the medication your own thyroid turns off or gets lazy or gets over whelmed by the medication and become useless or dies so you need more and more medication. Not good.

Replied by John Jacobs
Usa
12/10/2015

I'm a strong proponent of ALA, it gives me very vivid dreams as well! Thioctic acid is a fat soluble form of ALA which, to my understanding, has a much longer half-life once within the body. I've been told any ALA one takes is pretty much used up in an hour.

Another great antioxidant is Glutathione.

Personally, I have to take it in moderation as it has quite the affinity with my kidneys, but have seen worthwhile improvement in gut health.


Posted by Susanna (Lexington, Sc) on 03/13/2014

I am so happy to have found this site and appreciate all the very helpful information. I have suffered from Burning Mouth Syndrome for 5 years. I have tried almost every home remedy (and some prescription medications) with minimal success. The toothpaste I used for several years recently changed their formula and the new formula irritates my tongue tremendously. I am now ready to try ALA. I hesitated previously because there seems to be some contraindications for its use in people with thyroid disorders. I have Graves Disease but have been in remission for two and a half years. So, I have two questions... First, is anyone aware of precautions for people with thyroid disease using ALA? Second, I am not particularly knowledgeable about supplements so can someone please clarify what type of ALA I should try? The discussion was very informative but a little over my head. Thanks in advance for any information.

Replied by Becca
Abilene, Tx
03/14/2014

There was clinical test done in the late 60's that said ALA MiGHT affect the T3 thyroid meds. I take thyroid medicine and have been on ALA now for a couple of months and have felt nothing but better. The type of ALA you want to take is STABALIZED R Alpha Lipoic Acid. I take 450 mg in the morning and another 150 in the afternoon if I am having issues with my mouth. Also, when it gets particularly bad, put about 1/2 tsp of cooking grade baking soda in about 6 oz of water and drink. This will alkalize your body quickly and provide relief. The ALA is an amazing supplement...good luck!

Replied by Majikat
South Africa
04/22/2014

Many lost suffering souls I see here. I am also suffering with BMS for the last 4 years. It's hell. It sucks the enjoyment out of life terribly and others who don't have it are simply unable to empathize.

Anyway, I see a lot of suggestions here and there. What you guys really need to do is check for mercury in your system (do a hair elements test at directlabs.com) they can ship the test back and forth from anywhere in the world. Also do a Stools MC&S test to check for fungal infection (most commonly C. Albicans will show up which is known to cause BMS).

Most likely the reason why some find relief with ALA is because it is the most powerful mercury chelator (or detoxifier). Most people are inadvertently moving mercury out of their mouths to other parts of their body using ALA. You must research Dr. Andy Cutler mercury detox protocol which involves small doses of ALA every 3 hours for 3 days on and then 3 days off. You do this for 1 - 5 years to get rid of all the mercury in your system which is probably the biggest hidden cause of BMS mainly from amalgam 'silver' looking fillings. The mercury leaks into your mouth and body, lowers your immune system and allows a Candida fungal infection to take hold. Both mercury and Candida cause BMS. You'll have to remove them both, starting with mercury.

Good luck. You should also check for nerve damage (lingual nerve damage).

Replied by Judy
Dexter Mi.
06/09/2015

I have had burning mouth and lip syndrome for 11 yrs. now, and am trying something new. I made my own tooth paste with 2/3 baking soda 1/2 tsp. sea salt 2 tsp. peppermint oil and filtered water enough to make a paste. This is my second day and I am starting to feel a little bit better. It could be the sls in the tooth paste. Sodium lauryl sulfate that might aggravate your mouth. I'm hoping this could be the culprit, and a cure. I'll keep you posted. It is one of the 10 most mysterious illnesses. Judy

Replied by Carolynne
Collierville, Tn.
01/22/2016

Be careful with the baking soda toothpaste. It will take the enamel off your teeth. Making them dull and subject to stains that the enamel once protected.

Jason
Uk
02/29/2016

Hi Carolynne - that's just a myth. Contrary to what many people believe Sodium Bicarbonate is actually far gentler on your teeth than commercial toothpaste.


Diabetes, Peripheral Neuropathy

Posted by ORH (TEN MILE, TN) on 10/27/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Your email on ALA

HI U D,,,, ORH here, and I too have been down this trail because of my diabetes. I also have peripheral neuropathy and take R-Lipoic Acid as a supplement along with ALA as an IV. I just had my Dr order me 4 IV's worth. Few people know how this helps.

The doctor that tested me said that sometime in my youth I had a severe back injury because my feet don't talk to my brain to keep me in balance. Thus, I suffer from falls. I don't have the leg pain yet. I met a woman that was in bad shape because of Hepatitis C. That really messes up your nerves. She taught me a l lot. Quality is bettern than quantity, according to her. This same practitioner has avoided many diabetics from losing a leg because of ulcers due to poor circulation. He gave them a few HYDROGEN PEROXIDE IV'S and their ulcers healed.

This is the same QUACK that gave me 100 EDTA Chelations and my blood vessels have no plaque. I have told you people to follow me over the years and see what happens. At 84, I am still raising a garden. Yep, I do need a heavy lifter. Our project today was to cut bamboo so he can drive it into the lake in front of our dock to bring in the fish. I cheats and you will too when there is no food to be had in the coming days. Hey, we so concerned..... that we spilling our apples to draw in the deer in front of our lake cabin. Stores empty?,,,,,,,, not a problem, as we will eat fish and venison and from our garden. So my admonition to all you OLE PATOOTS is to BE PREPARED. ====ORH====


High Blood Sugar

Posted by John (Annapolis) on 05/10/2018
5 out of 5 stars

I take ALA for blood sugar (prediabetes) and it helps, but I get side effects if I take too much. ALA binds to certain heavy metals, like mercury, which makes it one of the top supplements to chelate heavy metals. But lower dosages are safest if you have heavy metal poisoning. I open a 150 mg capsule and pour 1/3 (approx 50 mg )into a small amount of water and drink it. If I don't have any symptoms (headaches), I take another 1/3rd capsule 6-8 hours later. Very effective supplement for prediabetes.


Neuropathy, Foot Surgery Recovery

Posted by Marilee M. (Maine, Usa) on 08/20/2016
5 out of 5 stars

I found using 1,800.mg. of ALA divided into at least 4doses per day to help with neuropathy AND healing of my foot surgery.


Powerful Heavy Metal Chelator

Posted by Steeve J. (Catania (Sicily)) on 10/28/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Everybody willing to take R-ALA should be aware that it is a really powerful HV chelator and therefore could trigger some very weird reactions into your system ...

So it is really important to start with slow doses (under 100mg = 50mg) and to leave a couple of days in between each take in order for the body to eliminate toxic compounds such as Heavy Metals.

In addition, taking OptiMSM & Camu-Camu (natural occuring high dose Vit. C small berries from Amazonia) + some Chlorella will improve this chelation process ...It is the so called well renowned Dr. Klinghardt HV Chelation Protocol ...make your own research before starting this!!!!


Pre-Diabetes, Neuropathy

Posted by Robert S. (U.S.A.) on 10/27/2020
2 out of 5 stars

I did take ALA awhile ago but it did not do much for me. I had Pre Diabetes, Neuropathy, etc. but I found relief in other supplements. Dessicated Liver is very good for a variety of things, you get a lot of nutrition from it you won`t get elsewhere.

For the Pre diabetes, I like a strong Black seed oil, which helps with Nephropathy also.

Diet is the main thing, keep carbs as low as possible, under 10, per meal, for the heart and blood use 1-2 tbs of Real 100% virgin Olive Oil with 100% virgin Coconut Oil & fish oil omega 3-7-9 No 6 it`s a inflammatory and no seed oils.

Cod liver oil is best either liquid or capsul, krill oil is also good. My favorite for the Heart and Blood - Cod liver oil + Olive Oil + Coconut Oil + Garlic oil capsule...From a MD I went to for a Epidermal, he asked me if I was taking any blood thinners as when he stuck me with the needle I bled professedly he started to get a bit nervous as it was shooting out all over the floor and the gown I had on.

MD stated the next time don`t use them for at least a week before you come in again as I was bleeding too much.

Nose bleeds are very common with this protocol, I have had one for the past 2-3-years off and on. This is all backed by science, you can go to greenmedinfo.com and get all the info you want both for free and paid with more features and member funded so no conflicts of interest, all taken from PubMed and all references provided.