backup og meta
Health Screening
Ask Doctor
Table of Content

Glycerin (glycerine, glycerol)

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 13, 2021

Glycerin or glycerol is an organic compound that is frequently used as an ingredient or excipient in a wide variety of medications. It is available as a clear, colorless liquid and in solid form as suppositories.


Know the basics

What is glycerin used for?

Glycerin is used as a:

  • Intraocular (eye) pressure lowering agent
  • Laxative
  • Sweetener
  • Humectant (moisturizer)
  • Ingredient or excipient in cosmetics
  • How should I take glycerin?

    Topical: Some products need to be shaken before use. Check the label to see if you should shake the bottle well before using. Apply to the affected areas of the skin as needed or as directed on the label or by your doctor. How often you apply the medication will depend on the product and your skin condition. To treat dry hands, you may need to use the product every time you wash your hands, applying it throughout the day.

    If you are using glycerin to help treat diaper rash, clean the diaper area well before use and allow the area to dry before applying the product.

    If you are using glycerin to help treat radiation skin burns, check with radiation personnel to see if your brand can be applied before radiation therapy.

    Suppositories: Wash your hands before and after using glycerin suppositories.

    If the suppository is too soft to use, put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or run cold water over it. Then remove the wrapper and moisten the suppository with cool water. Lie down on your side. Insert the pointed end of the suppository into the rectum, then use your finger to push it in completely.

    How do I store glycerin?

    This product is best stored in a cool place or refrigerator (8°C-15°C) away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store it in the bathroom or the freezer. 

    There may be different brands of this drug that may have different storage needs. So, it is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

    You should not flush this product down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Additionally, it is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

    Know the precautions & warnings

    What should I know before using glycerin?

    Before using this drug, tell your doctor if you are/have:

    • Pregnant or breastfeeding.
    • Taking any other medicines. This includes any prescription, OTC, and herbal remedies.
    • An allergy to any of the ingredients of this product.
    • Any other illnesses, disorders, or medical conditions.

    Is it safe to take glycerin during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

    Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information about the safety of using this drug during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking any medication.

    This medication is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

    • A=No risk
    • B=No risk in some studies
    • C=There may be some risk
    • D=Positive evidence of risk
    • X=Contraindicated
    • N=Unknown

    Know the side effects

    What are the side effects of glycerin?

    Like all drugs, glycerin may have side effects. If they occur, side effects are generally mild and resolve once treatment is finished or the dose is lowered. Some reported side effects include:

    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Thirst
    • Dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Severe dehydration
    • Hemolysis
    • hemoglobinuria
    • Acute renal failure
    • Local irritation (e.g. rectal discomfort, burning sensation)

    Potentially Fatal: Cardiac arrhythmias; circulatory overload, pulmonary edema and CHF.

    However, not everyone experiences these side effects. In addition, some people may experience other side effects. So, if you have any concerns about a side effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

    Know the interactions

    What drugs may interact with glycerin?

    This medication may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. 

    To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. 

    Drugs with known interactions:

    • Arsenic trioxide
    • Licorice

    Does food or alcohol interact with glycerin?

    This drug may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

    What health conditions may interact with glycerin?

    This drug may interact with underlying conditions. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. Therefore, it is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

    • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
    • Altered mental states
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disease

    Understand the Dosage

    The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. Therefore, you should always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using any medication.

    What is the dose for an adult?

    Adjunct in acute glaucoma

    Initially, 1-1.8 g/kg orally as a 50% solution.

    Short-term reduction of vitreous volume and intraocular pressure before and after ophthalmic surgery

    Initially, 1-1.8 g/kg orally as a 50% solution.


    Insert one suppository, as needed.

    What is the dose for a child?


    Insert one suppository, as needed.

    How is glycerin available?

    Glycerin is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

    • Ophthalmic solution: 1%
    • Liquid: 5.6g/5.5 mL (7.5 mL)
    • Rectal suppositories: 2g, 2.5 g

    What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

    In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.

    What should I do if I miss a dose?

    If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Jun 13, 2021

    advertisement iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    advertisement iconadvertisement
    advertisement iconadvertisement