Alpha-lipoic acid is a versatile antioxidant—it helps deactivate an unusually wide array of cell-damaging free radicals in many bodily systems.
Several studies suggest that treatment with ALA may help reduce pain, burning, itching, tingling, and numbness in people who have nerve damage (called peripheral neuropathy) caused by diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid has been used for years for this purpose in Europe. Other studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid speeds the removal of glucose (sugar) from the blood of people with diabetes and that this antioxidant may prevent kidney damage associated with diabetes in animals.
Alpha-lipoic acid may prove useful in the treatment of chronic hepatitis because it relieves stress on the liver and helps rid the body of toxins. There have been several case reports of use of alpha-lipoic acid in combination with silymarin (milk thistle) and selenium (a substance with liver-protecting and antioxidant properties) to help treat hepatitis C (a serious type of hepatitis contracted from blood and bodily fluids that does not have an adequate cure or treatment).
It has also been used in conjunction with silymarin to treat Amanita poisoning. Amanita is a highly poisonous mushroom that causes liver damage.
Brain Function and Stroke
Because alpha-lipoic acid can pass easily into the brain, it has protective effects on brain and nerve tissue and shows promise as a treatment for stroke and other brain disorders involving free radical damage. Animals treated with alpha-lipoic acid, for example, suffered less brain damage and had a four times greater survival rate after a stroke than the animals who did not receive this supplement. While animal studies are encouraging, more research is needed to understand whether this benefit applies to people as well.