Mental Health 4232031 340

NAC and Mental Health

Please note the below post speaks about themes regarding self-harm and suicide which may be triggering to some. If this article brings up anything please call life line on 13 11 14 as well as speaking to someone in your life that you trust.


Self harm is a common issue many people experience, especially young adults and teens. Prevalence of non-suicidal self injury has been increased over the last few years, with COVID-19 and lockdowns aggravating the mental health of many people. Self harm is commonly associated with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, eating disorders, depression, borderline personality disorder and substance abuse. Self-harm increases the risk of suicide and therefore it is of high importance to reduce its occurrence.

Seeing a psychologist or counsellor for cognitive behavioural therapy and other methods of counselling is vital to the ongoing management of self-harm and mental health conditions. Medications such as anti-depressants, are a first line treatment for mental health, alongside psychotherapy and other medications.

Naturopathy can be a beneficial adjunctive treatment to assist in reducing self-harm occurrence and to improve mental health. Improving nutritional status, engaging in regular exercise, practicing meditation and mindfulness and having a supportive network of people around you can be a great start to feeling better.

Alongside dietary and lifestyle modifications, one treatment which emerging research is N-acetyl-cysteine or NAC.

NAC is an amino acid derivative of L-cysteine, one of our amino acids which are the building blocks for making up proteins. NAC acts as a potent antioxidant to reduce oxidative damage to cells and organs and it is apart of the pathway in forming glutathione, our most prevalent antioxidant. Glutathione assists in regenerating other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and acts to reduce the effects of toxic substances on the body via assisting in their removal and supporting detoxification processes.

NAC has been found to have various other effects in the body including:

  • Acting as a mucolytic to break up and thin mucus
  • Improving the activity and secretion of insulin to enhance glucose metabolism
  • Reducing inflammation in the body
  • Assisting in reducing the severity of influenza infections
  • Improving the function of your mitochondria which supports your body’s production of energy
  • Supporting liver health, detoxification processes and liver function
  • Improving sperm counts, motility and morphology via acting as an antioxidant

NAC exerts its effects in mental health via:

  • Reducing oxidation, inflammation and damage in the brain to improve functioning
  • Improving brain structure and function via acting as an anti-inflammatory
  • It prevents the negative effects stress has on harming the brain
  • It plays a role in the chemical pathways which control addictive behaviours, leading to improved coping and reduced anxiety via restoring the neurotransmission pathways of glutamate
  • NAC also modulates the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate which have important roles in modulating behaviour and motivation as well as enhancing neuron survival

In a 8 week study people aged 13-21 with self-harm tendencies were given varying dosages of NAC. Overall there was a reduction in the amount of self-harm injuries by week 6 of the trial. The participants also had reductions in feelings of low mood and improved quality of life, with NAC being well tolerated. Another study also found that NAC was useful alongside pharmaceutical treatments in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with mood disorders.

Book in a consult with our naturopath Monique to discuss if NAC is suitable for you to support your mental health or if any other herbal and nutritional remedies may be indicated.

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top