What is Glycerin, Its Use, and Its Health Benefit

Do you know what your soap, your sweetener, your ink, and your cosmetic have in common with dynamite? They contain the same chemical substance called glycerin.  This is a multi-purpose compound and various industries, from food industry to warfare industry, need glycerin for their product. Not only that, medical world also get a lot of benefits ever since glycerin is found. Keep reading to know more about glycerin, its use, and its health benefit.


What is Glycerin

Glycerin, also called glycerol, is an organic compound originated from both animal fat and oil extract. Glycerin producer usually use animal tallow or oil extract from plant, typically palm and soybean. Of course, glycerin is also available in synthetic form, usually derived from petroleum jelly or sugar corn syrup.
In room temperature, its form is thick, colorless, and odorless liquid. It tastes very sweet; in fact its name is derived from Greece word glukeros, means sweet. It has boiling point of 554°F or 290°C and melting point of 65°F or 18°C. Glycerin’s another distinct is its capability to absorp water. In fact, it can absorb water up to 20% its body weight. Because of this capability, glycerin is often used as moisturizer.
Glycerin is generally safe to use, both as food additive or cosmetics. Adults and children are safe to consume glycerin. So far, there is no carcinogen (which can cause cancer), mutagen (which can cause mutation or change in DNA), or teratogen (which can cause birth defect) found in glycerin. Despite that, some people prefer to strictly use vegetable glycerin for their cosmetics

Its Use
Glycerin is used in various products, from food until explosive. In food industry, glycerin is used as humectants to keep things moist, as solvent to dissolve other substance, and also as sweetener due its sweet taste.
Glycerin is also the main component of e-liquid in electronic cigarette. When it is heated, it produces the flavor of cigarette. Antifreeze industry also uses glycerin because when mixed with water, glycerin can slow down the forming of ice unless the temperature is very low. Chemical laboratory and automotive industry uses glycerin for this purpose.
Explosives such as dynamite and gelignite use glycerin a lot to produce nitroglycerin, it mains ingredients. Personal care products, such as soap, skin moisturizer, shaving cream, toothpaste, and even lube.

Its Health Benefit
Glycerin also has plenty of health benefits. They can act as medicine for some illnesses, some of them are:

  • Skin Disease: The humectants quality in glycerin will help your skin from drying, getting rough, getting scaly, or other minor irritation. Diseases with these symptoms are usually minor skin disease such as diaper rash or sunburn. According to this research, glycerin is more suitable to treat dry skin compared to another popular moisturizing agent urea/sodium chloride.
    According to another research, glycerin is not only excellent at keeping moisture that can ensure your skin hydrated well, but it can also bring your youngest layer of skin to go up and mature. That way, it can produce enough lipid that will protect your skin from foreign object infection. Glycerin as humectants can help aiding to cure psoriasis and even non-melanoma skin cancers.
  • Eye Disorder: Patient of eye disorder caused by pressure in the interocular area, such as glaucoma, can get help from glycerin. Glycerin can reduce the pressure occurred in the eyes when it dehydrates the tissue in the body. There are other dehydrating agents for this purpose, such as dextrose, sucrose, magnesium sulphate, and sorbitol; but they come with side effect such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting, change in electrocardiogram, and hardening of local trombosit. This research shows that glycerin is safer option for glaucoma, because its side effects are usually only consist of nausea and vomiting.

Because of this quality, eye disorder can also reduce pressure before and after ocular surgery, or when doctor wishes to perform a diagnosis for patients. For these patients, their doctor will usually prescribe glycerin as oral medicine.

  • Constipation: Another use of glycerin in medicine is as laxative for constipated person, because glycerin is hyperosmotic agent. It means that glycerin will help the intestines to keep more water inside, which will induce osmotic reaction in the digestive system and finally causing bowel movement. This particular use of glycerin is already proven effective and so it is widely practiced.

Doctors will usually prescribe glycerin for this disease in a form of suppository to insert into patient’s rectum or in a form of enema liquid. But, it could also cause some side effect in the form of irritation in rectal area.

  • Cerebral Edema:Cerebral edema or brain swelling is caused by various diseases, for example stroke, meningitis, central nervous system trauma, and so forth. Doctors also uses it to reduce brain volume before surgery. Many research have been conducted to confirm the effectiveness of glycerin for this purpose, this research is one of them. Usually doctors will give glycerin to patients by infusing it via IV.
    Glycerin’s humectants quality will absorbs water into the bloodstream and then prevents them to be re-absorbed in the kidneys. This will lessen intracranial pressure it dehydrates the tissue and reduces blood volume.
  • Angina : Some diseases are caused by the constricting of your blood vessel due to various reasons. These diseases are collectively called coronary artery disease (CAD). One of these diseases is angina, a condition where your blood vessel gets narrower in the heart.

Nitroglycerin is the recommended medicine for angina and it is derived from glycerin. Nitroglycerin can relax your blood vessels, allowing blood in your body to flow better in the short time. In the long term, according to this research, using nitroglycerin before exercising will increase your physical exercise tolerance. Exercising is important to burn fat that clogs your blood vessels, so if you manage to exercise longer and better than before, you can recover from CAD, including angina.

  • Improve Exercise Performance: Athletes need to hydrate themselves before exercise to prolong their endurance time and increase their power. But, hydrating themselves using water or common beverages usually don’t work because their body can get rid of those liquid rapidly, particularly during exercise.
    Again, because of its ability to absorb water, glycerin can solve this problem for athlete. This research shows that beverages containing glycerin can increase endurance time by 24% and power by 5%. Glycerin prolongs their endurance time and lowers their heart rates. It also reduces urine volume and increases sweat rate. All of those will help an athlete to keep their tissues well hydrated during exercise, thus improve their performance.
  • Medium for Other Medication: Because glycerin can act as humectants, solvent, and also emollient, it is often combined with other medicine as their medium. For example, medication in the form of ointment and cream will add glycerin in its ingredients. In this case, glycerin will not add its value as medicine but it will prevent the ointment from drying out too fast, ensuring the other ingredients last longer to heal.

Glycerin made from natural source is generally safe to use. There is less risk from glycerin when you use it topically, or by applying it on your skin, rather than when you consume it orally. The side effect is usually bloating, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and thirst.
Because of its sweetness, people who consume glycerin often get hyperglycemia. Its humectants ability can also absorb water from your system, causing you to dehydrate. So, people with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease should use glycerin only when their doctors prescribe it.