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Glycerol

What other names is Glycerol known by?

1,2,3-propanetriol, Alcool Glycériné, Glicerol, Glucerite, Glycerin, Glycerine, Glycérine, Glycérine Végétale, Glycerol Monostearate, Glycérol, Glycerolum, Glyceryl Alcohol, Monostéarate de Glycérol, Vegetable Glycerin.

What is Glycerol?

Glycerol is a naturally occurring chemical. People use it as a medicine. Some uses and dosage forms have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Glycerol is taken by mouth for weight loss, improving exercise performance, helping the body replace water lost during diarrhea and vomiting, and reducing pressure inside the eye in people with glaucoma. Athletes also use glycerol to keep from becoming dehydrated.

Healthcare providers sometimes give glycerol intravenously (by IV) to reduce pressure inside the brain in various conditions including stroke, meningitis, encephalitis, Reye's syndrome, pseudotumor cerebri, central nervous system (CNS) trauma, and CNS tumors; for reducing brain volume for neurosurgical procedures; and for treating fainting on standing due to poor blood flow to the brain (postural syncope).

Some people apply glycerol to the skin as a moisturizer.

Eye doctors sometimes put a solution that contains glycerol in the eye to reduce fluid in the cornea before an eye exam.

Rectally, glycerol is used as a laxative.

Likely Effective for...

Possibly Ineffective for...

Likely Ineffective for...

  • Improving exercise performance when taken by mouth.
  • Treating acute stroke when used intravenously.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Helping maintain the body's water levels (hydration) in athletes and people with intestinal problems.
  • Wrinkled skin.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate glycerol for these uses.

How does Glycerol work?

Glycerol attracts water into the gut, softening stools and relieving constipation.

Are there safety concerns?

Glycerol seems to be safe for most adults. When taken by mouth, glycerol can cause side effects including headaches, dizziness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and diarrhea.

Glycerol may not be safe when injected intravenously (by IV). Red blood cells might get seriously damaged.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of glycerol during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Dosing considerations for Glycerol.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

RECTAL:

  • As an adult laxative for constipation: The common dose of glycerol is a 2-3 grams in suppository form or a 5-15 mL enema. For children younger than six years old, the dose is a 1-1.7 grams as a suppository or a 2-5 mL enema.

QUESTION

Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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Reviewed on 9/17/2019
References

Arnall DA, Goforth HW. Failure to reduce body water loss in cold-water immersion by glycerol ingestion. Undersea Hyperb Med 1993;20:309-20. View abstract.

Bayer AJ, Pathy MS, Newcombe R. Double-blind randomised trial of intravenous glycerol in acute stroke. Lancet 1987;:405-8. View abstract.

Bjorvell H, Hylander B, Rossner S. Effects of glycerol addition to diet in weight-reducing clubs. Int J Obes 1984;8:129-33. View abstract.

Covington TR, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 11th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.

Dry skin management. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter 2008;24(3):240316.

Fawer R, Justafre JC, Berger JP, Schelling JL. Intravenous glycerol in cerebral infarction: a controlled 4-month trial. Stroke 1978;9:484-6. View abstract.

Frei A, Cottier C, Wunderlich P, Ludin E. Glycerol and dextran combined in the therapy of acute stroke. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial with a planned interim analysis. Stroke 1987;18:373-9. View abstract.

Friedli W, Imbach P, Ghisleni-Steinegger S, et al. [Treatment with 10% glycerin in acute ischemic cerebral infarct. Doubleblind study]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1979;109:737-42. View abstract.

Inder WJ, Swanney MP, Donald RA, et al. The effect of glycerol and desmopressin on exercise performance and hydration in triathletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:1263-9. View abstract.

Montner P, Stark DM, Riedesel ML, et al. Pre-exercise glycerol hydration improves cycling endurance time. Int J Sports Med 1996;17:27-33. View abstract.

Murray R, Eddy DE, Paul GL, et al. Physiological responses to glycerol ingestion during exercise. J Appl Physiol 1991;71:144-9. View abstract.

Robergs RA, Griffin SE. Glycerol. Biochemistry, pharmacokinetics and clinical and practical applications. Sports Med 1998;26:145-67. View abstract.

Stanko RT, Reynolds HR, Hoyson R, et al. Pyruvate supplementation of a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet: effects on plasma lipid concentrations and body composition in hyperlipidemic patients. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:423-7. View abstract.

Wagner DR. Hyperhydrating with glycerol: implications for athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc 1999;99:207-12. View abstract.

Yu YL, Kumana CR, Lauder IJ, et al. Treatment of acute cerebral hemorrhage with intravenous glycerol. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Stroke 1992;23:967-71. View abstract.

Yu YL, Kumana CR, Lauder IJ, et al. Treatment of acute cortical infarct with intravenous glycerol. A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Stroke 1993;24:1119-24. View abstract.

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