ALA, the Super Antioxidant

| Modified: May 10, 2018
Add New Post ALA Health Benefits

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a powerful metabolic antioxidant that offers a natural means of treating and preventing a broad range of ailments.

Earth Clinic readers have reported that ALA has been helpful as a home treatment for painful neuropathy (pain, weakness or numbness, usually in hands and feet). This advice is supported by practice in Europe, where ALA is a recognized treatment for neuropathy.

In addition to alleviating diabetic neuropathy for those suffering from diabetes, ALA can help to control blood sugar levels by helping the body to use glucose.

Earth Clinic posters have also reported using ALA as a natural home remedy for a range of medical ailments, including cancer, liver disease, burning mouth syndrome, edema and hepatitis C.

ALA was first seriously studied in the 1950s, when it became known as a “universal antioxidant.” Researchers determined that ALA could be helpful in “recycling” Vitamins C and E, other important antioxidants. Antioxidants are generally depleted as they do their work, but there is evidence to suggest that ALA has the unique quality of being able to regenerate other antioxidants, enabling them to continue their vital metabolic function, that of preventing the damage that can be incurred by the over-production of free radicals linked to premature aging, heart disease and inflammation.

The Unique Advantages of ALA

  • Universal antioxidant that works both inside and outside the cells, giving increased protection from free radicals;
  • Water-soluble and fat-soluble, unlike other antioxidants;
  • Beneficial in the treatment of many ailments;
  • Helps diabetics control neuropathy and sugar;
  • Being investigated for treatment of strokes and dementia;
  • May treat or prevent onset of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol, macular degeneration, cataracts, cancer, early aging, wrinkled skin, heart disease and liver problems.

There are two types of ALA: R-Lipoic Acid (R-ALA) (natural) and S-Lipoic Acid (S-ALA) (synthetic).

Many of the commercial ALA supplements are a 50/50 mixture of the two forms, R-ALA and S-ALA. Due to the fact that pure R" (natural) lipoic acid was not commercially available for many years, being unstable without the “S” type, most of the research that has been done with ALA has been with this mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA, known as a racemic mix. Though they are considered mirror images of each other, there is evidence to suggest that they function very differently in the body.

Users of pure R-ALA have had to therefore rely on the intravenous delivery of R-ALA. Nowadays, however, some ALA capsule manufacturers claim that they have been able to solve the problem of instability and can produce capsules containing pure, natural R-Lipoic Acid.


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


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

As this is not an officially recognized treatment in the US, there is no established dose. In Europe, 200-300 mg a day is recommended for diabetic neuropathy, although some take much higher doses. When used as a general antioxidant, 20-50 mg. a day may be 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 label. If label only says that capsule contains "ALA," it is likely to contain a mixture of R-ALA and S-ALA.
  • Anti-aging specialists often recommend 400 mg per day.
  • Those with diabetes or liver disease may take 800-1,600 mg. daily, divided into doses taken 30 minutes before meals. ALA may be better absorbed on an empty stomach.

ALA is sometimes used in conjunction with other treatments in varied doses. Several studies have documented longer than expected survival rates and improved symptoms after treatment with ALA and low dose naltrexone.

ALA and the Foods You Eat

Many foods contain ALA in small amounts, including red meat, especially organ meat. Other sources include: spinach, yams, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, carrots, yeast and rice bran.

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 check with their doctor first.

Diabetics should check with their doctor before taking ALA as it could react with insulin and cause blood sugar levels to become too low. It is also recommended that anyone with liver or kidney disease, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or a thyroid disorder should check with their doctor first.

The most serious reported side effect is that high doses of ALA could cause heart rhythm irregularities.

ALA is highly regarded as a natural remedy by many Earth Clinic readers. If you have been using ALA, please let us know the dosage that you have been taking and how it has been working for you.

Note: Do not confuse alpha lipoic acid, described above, with alpha-linolenic acid, which is also referred to as ALA.


Report on ALA from Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre
Alpha-lipoic acid as a pleiotropic compound with potential therapeutic use in diabetes and other chronic diseases

Additional Pages of Interest on Earth Clinic: 
Liver Disease
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Hepatitis C

ALA Contraindications

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

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

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

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.

Replied by J-dub
Oc, Ca
1 out of 5 stars



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.

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

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

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 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.

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.

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.


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.

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, of ALA divided into at least 4doses per day to help with neuropathy AND healing of my foot surgery.