Glutathione, or GSH (glutathione sulfhydryl), hailed as the master antioxidant, is increasingly recognized for its vital role in health and wellness, but what are the different types of glutathione, and which one is best?

The molecule itself is large, unstable, and highly reactive—traits that are beneficial within the body as it aggressively neutralizes free radicals, but these same characteristics pose significant challenges for pharmaceutical development. 

The quest to create a stable, bioavailable form of glutathione has been a formidable hurdle in the industry. This may explain why, despite its importance, glutathione has remained relatively under the radar until recent advancements in delivery systems have begun to change the landscape.

In this article, we’ll review the different forms of glutathione available and their effectiveness, including glutathione:

IV Drips

glutathione IV therapy

When you get glutathione through an IV, mixed in with some other good-for-you nutrients, your body soaks it all up like a sponge — we’re talking 100% absorption. 

But the problem is that supercharge doesn’t stick around for long, usually peaking at about half an hour to three hours max. Our bodies are greedy with glutathione; we use it up really quickly because we need it that much. 

While getting a glutathione IV is like a fast-track ticket straight into your bloodstream, it’s not the best plan for the long haul. But for instances when your body may require a rapid, substantial boost of this antioxidant, particularly during periods of acute stress, like battling fatigue or the flu. In such scenarios, a more intensive approach is often warranted.

While the scientific community has not extensively researched IV glutathione, its efficacy is supported by a wealth of anecdotal evidence and its longstanding use by healthcare practitioners. However, it is always advised that anyone considering IV therapy, especially those managing other health conditions with medication, should consult with their healthcare provider first.

It’s important to note that the FDA has not officially endorsed IV glutathione but is actively ensuring that the substances used are of injectable grade. 

History of IV Therapy

The practice of IV therapy itself has a rich history, spanning over 25 years. It includes the specific technique known as a glutathione “push”—the administration of glutathione at the conclusion of an IV nutrition session.

The evolution of IV therapy is fascinating, with its origins dating back to 1492, though it wasn’t perfected until 1832 by an English physician who successfully treated cholera patients. By the 1970s, IV nutritional therapy had become a standard part of hospital care. Today, the legacy of those early pioneers continues as IV wellness centers become increasingly commonplace, particularly in bustling metropolises like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

Diverse Applications of IV Glutathione Therapy

IV glutathione therapy is sought for a variety of reasons:

  • To revitalize individuals dealing with the demands of a fast-paced, stressful lifestyle.
  • To supplement poor nutrition and digestive issues, providing a catalyst for healthier habits.
  • To aid in recovery from illness or injury, leveraging glutathione’s role in immune support and inflammation reduction.
  • To complement treatments for chronic diseases, where glutathione can contribute to symptom management and overall health improvement. For instance, many patients with Parkinson’s disease report significant benefits from regular IV glutathione therapy.
  • Glutathione IV therapy also shows promise in addressing conditions such as heavy metal toxicity, elevated triglycerides, metabolic syndromes like type 2 diabetes, viral infections, tuberculosis, and various viral diseases, offering a multifaceted approach to health and wellness.

Glutathione Injections

glutathione injection

Glutathione injections and IV therapy both deliver the antioxidant directly into the bloodstream, but IV therapy typically allows for higher concentrations to be administered and may offer a more controlled absorption process.

IV therapy requires more time, often 30 minutes to an hour to administer, depending on the amount and speed of administration.  A glutathione injection takes seconds.

Oral Supplements

Despite its convenience, the effectiveness of oral glutathione supplementation is a subject of ongoing debate. The challenge lies in its bioavailability—the extent to which it is absorbed and utilized by the body. The digestive tract has enzymes that break down glutathione, which can significantly reduce the amount that eventually enters the bloodstream. 

While some studies suggest that regular intake of oral glutathione can effectively increase its levels in the body, the absorption rate is generally low [1]. Some guesses range around 10-15%. 

Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which means that the responsibility for ensuring these products’ safety, quality, and efficacy falls primarily on the manufacturers. As a result, there can be significant variability in the quality of supplements available on the market. 

GSH Sublingual drops

The concept behind these oil-based drops is that they’re supposed to be absorbed through the lining of the mouth and the saliva-producing glands. However, there’s not much proof that this actually happens. The studies that have been conducted show a small improvement compared to pills[2]


Liposomes are like tiny spheres made of similar material as cell membranes, which are the protective coverings of cells. These spheres can be filled with medicines, nutrients, or other substances that scientists want to deliver to the body. Because they’re made out of a similar material as cell membranes, they can theoretically merge with cells easily and deliver their contents into the cells, making them a handy tool for delivering drugs to specific body parts.

structure of a liposome

Glutathione is a large and unstable molecule, making it difficult to formulate into a bioavailable oral form. Some studies show that liposomal glutathione is effective [3, 4] but don’t compare them to other forms. Because liposomes are expensive to produce, it’s unclear whether the extra cost is worth it. 

Topical GSH Creams

As mentioned earlier, glutathione is a large and unstable molecule, making it difficult to deliver into the bloodstream by non-direct means. It’s unlikely that glutathione in cream or topical liposomal form will be effective. 

However, GSH used in skincare only needs to penetrate the top layer of the skin to have an effect on the skin. It won’t necessarily deliver the overall health benefits of GSH into the bloodstream, but depending on the formulation, you may notice a lightening or glowing effect on the skin. 

The Revolutionary Glutathione Spray 

Nayan Patel, PharmD, Compounding Pharmacist and author of The Glutathione Revolution created a new form of glutathione delivery along with his research partner, Dr. Chinh Tran. 

They discovered in the laboratory that they could manipulate the actual glutathione molecule to keep it in a reduced (meaning that it’s ready to stabilize free radicals) and water-soluble form. In this form, GSH can be delivered through the skin’s subnano water channels (pores) via a simple topical solution. These minuscule water channels act as a highway, allowing for rapid absorption. A pharmaceutical company produces glutathione in their topical products through a fermentation process.

Their topical glutathione is identical to how the body naturally produces GSH, using the same three amino acids in the correct sequence.

I met Dr. Patel and must disclose that I am a big fan of his. He helped me with advice on some health and hormonal issues separate from glutathione. And he introduced me to the benefits of glutathione, which helped me recover from an illness that left me bedridden and unable to keep anything down for ten days. 

Since then, I have used his spray on a regular basis, especially when I’m experiencing added stress or illness coming on. But mostly because I love how it gives my skin an unmistakable, healthy glow. I consider it my fountain of youth as it makes my skin look younger and more vibrant. 

I noticed that I don’t have to apply it directly to my face to get that “glutathione glow,” as I like to call it. I rub four sprays in my hand and rub it into my forearm, thigh, butt cheek or stomach. 

It’s much more convenient than an injection, which I try to get occasionally. The only downside is the smell. It has a strong smell of sulfur, which disappears after a few minutes. It also has a sticky texture, but you don’t notice it if you let it dry properly. But if it really bothers you, you can wash it off after 45 minutes. 

Here’s more information about Glutaryl if you’re interested.

S-Acetyl Glutathione

When it comes to supplements, it’s easy to think they’re all the same, especially if they’re supposed to give you the same vitamin or antioxidant. But that’s not really the case. Take vitamin C tablets, for example – not all of them are made the same way, and the same goes for glutathione supplements. One type of glutathione is called S-acetyl glutathione, which you can find as a tablet or even in creams. It’s got this extra bit attached to it – an acetyl group, which is just a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms – and this changes how it works in your body. Some experts in the medical world think this new version of GSH is absorbed better and stays more stable when it goes through your digestive system compared to other types. Lab tests have even shown that S-acetyl glutathione can bump up the amount of glutathione inside cells and seems to help with oxidative stress.

So, could S-acetyl glutathione be a good choice for boosting your glutathione levels? That depends on your opinion of using synthetic forms vs the most natural form of glutathione, known as L-glutathione. The kind with the most research behind it. 

But it’s important for you to know about all your choices. S-acetyl glutathione is a synthetic version, and there’s some evidence that changing its structure might help it better survive the journey through your gut, so more gets into your blood. If research keeps backing this up, we’ve got to ask: could it cross into the brain, too? That could be a game-changer for things like Alzheimer’s disease or even autoimmune conditions, which is pretty exciting, though we need more studies to be sure.

For now, if you want to add a glutathione supplement to your daily routine, there’s more evidence of the effectiveness of L-glutathione than popping S-acetyl glutathione pills. But it’s all about staying informed and watching the latest research.

Which form of glutathione is best?

The best form of glutathione depends on individual specific health needs; intravenous glutathione provides the most direct delivery into the bloodstream and offers a high bioavailable dose of glutathione. Glutaryl Spray offers good absorption of glutathione into the system, but at lower doses, and is best for consistent, daily use. 

Which is better, glutathione or L-glutathione?

L-glutathione, also known as reduced glutathione, is the active form of glutathione in the body and is generally considered more effective for supplementation due to its bioavailability and ability to be readily utilized by the body.

What is the difference between L-glutathione and liposomal glutathione?

L-glutathione is the biologically active form of the antioxidant, while liposomal glutathione is L-glutathione encapsulated within liposomes, or microscopic spheres, in an attempt to enhance its absorption and protect it from being degraded in the digestive tract.

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Ann Bertholf

Ann is a skincare geek, product tester and ingredient sleuth. She looks past the marketing hype and searches for effective, evidence based ingredients and formulations. She is a writer and cat mom.

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