What Is Inositol?

Natural compound may help boost mood and metabolism

Inositol is a type of sugar that influences both the body's insulin response and several hormones associated with mood and cognition. It's often referred to as vitamin B8, but it is not actually a vitamin. Inositol also has antioxidant properties that fight the damaging effects of free radicals in the brain, circulatory system, and other body tissues.

Inositol is found naturally in cantaloupe, citrus fruit, and many fiber-rich foods (such as beans, brown rice, corn, sesame seeds, and wheat bran). It is also sold in supplement form and used as a complementary therapy to treat a wide range of medical conditions, including metabolic and mood disorders.

D-chiro-inositol, inositol hexaphosphate (often referred to as "IP6"), and the compound myo-inositol are the most widely used inositol supplements. They are generally considered safe if taken appropriately.

This article discusses the potential health benefits and uses of inositol. It also covers dosage, preparation, potential side effects, and interactions you should consider before taking this substance.

Commonly Known As

  • Inositol
  • D-chiro-inositol
  • Inositol hexaphosphate (or "IP6")
  • Myo-inositol
possible side effects of inositol

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Health Benefits of Inositol

Inositol plays an important part in cell growth and functioning. It is thought that this substance may have a number of health benefits including:

  • Lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for a number of conditions including increased belly fat, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar
  • Lowering high cholesterol
  • Helping the body regulate and process insulin
  • Helping relieve anxiety and symptoms of panic disorder
  • Reducing the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Relieving symptoms of depression
  • Relieving symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

In addition, some believe that inositol may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and prevent certain cancers. Some people also use inositol to promote hair growth or overcome insomnia. Research on these claims is lacking.

Uses for Inositol

What is inositol used for? Alternative health providers recommend inositol supplements for a wide range of health conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD.

According to the latest research, inositol may benefit some disorders, including mental health issues, PCOS, and metabolic disorders. Here's a closer look at the science behind the different uses of inositol.

Mental Health Disorders

Inositol is believed to improve depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders by stimulating the production of the "feel-good" hormones serotonin and dopamine. A number of studies have investigated the use of inositol with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat a variety of depressive and anxiety disorders. The results have thus far been inconclusive.

Depression

Inositol may have some positive effects for depression, but the evidence remains inconclusive. Research has found that myo-inositol concentration in blood might be a reliable marker for clinical depression.

While an earlier double-blind study found that a daily 12-gram dose of inositol improved depression scores compared to people provided a placebo, the results have not been replicated elsewhere.

Panic Disorder

The compound may also be good for alleviating symptoms of anxiety conditions. The benefits have mostly been seen in people with panic disorder in whom depression is common. A small study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology investigated the effect of myo-inositol on 20 people with panic disorder.

After being provided a daily 18-gram dose of myo-inositol for four weeks, the participants were given a daily 150-mg dose of Luvox (fluvoxamine)—a commonly prescribed psychiatric drug—for the four weeks. Compared to a matched set of individuals not given myo-inositol, those who were given myo-inositol had an average of 2.4 fewer panic attacks per week.

Bipolar Disorder

While research is limited, some studies suggest that inositol might have the potential to reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. In one study, children affected by bipolar conditions experienced fewer symptoms of depression and mania after taking inositol and omega-3 fatty acids for 12 weeks.

Inositol has also been found to reduce psoriasis symptoms in people taking lithium, a drug commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. Depending on the usage, lithium-induced psoriasis can affect anywhere from 3% to 45% of people who take lithium.

Inositol may be useful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) given its effect on serotonin and dopamine levels.

Metabolic Disorders

There is evidence to suggest inositol can correct many metabolic disorders that contribute to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

A 2016 pilot study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology reported that people with type 2 diabetes given myo-inositol and d-chiro-inositol daily along with their anti-diabetes drugs had a significant drop in their fasting blood glucose (192.6 mg/dL down to 160.9 mg/dL) and A1C (8.6% down to 7.7%) after three months.

Another small study published in the journal Menopause suggested that myo-inositol may aid in the treatment of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women. According to the research, women assigned to six months of myo-inositol supplements experienced significantly greater improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels than women provided a placebo.

When treated with myo-inositol, women with metabolic syndrome experienced an 11% drop in diastolic blood pressure, a 20% drop in triglycerides, and a 22% increase in "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

All of these values translate to an improvement of metabolic syndrome as well as a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

D-chiro-inositol may help manage PCOS, according to a small study published in Endocrine Practice. For this study, 20 women with PCOS were given either a placebo or 6 grams of D-chiro-inositol once daily for six to eight weeks.

The results revealed that D-chiro-inositol helped treat several abnormalities associated with PCOS, including high blood pressure and elevated levels of blood fats. In addition, elevated testosterone levels (consistent with PCOS-related hormone imbalances) decreased by 73% compared to 0% for those given a placebo.

Generally speaking, normalization of hormonal balances translates to an improvement of PCOS symptoms.

Recap

Inositol shows promise in the treatment of a number of conditions including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, metabolic disorders, and some other mental health conditions.

Possible Side Effects of Inositol

Are there any dangers associated with taking inositol? Inositol is generally considered safe in adults. Side effects, if any, tend to be mild and may include nausea, stomach pain, tiredness, headache, and dizziness. Most side effects occur with doses greater than 12 grams per day.

The metabolic effects of inositol may not be appropriate for everyone. Even in people with diabetes, the prolonged use or overuse of inositol may lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Although there are some studies to suggest inositol may be helpful in bipolar disease, there is also concern about it possibly causing a manic or hypomanic episode.

There is also some concern that high doses of inositol hexaphosphate may reduce the body's ability to absorb zinc, calcium, iron, and other essential minerals, triggering nutritional deficiencies even if you're eating a balanced diet.

As dietary supplements, inositol products are not tested for safety, and their effect on pregnant people, nursing people, and children has not been established. It is best to speak with a doctor before trying this or any other natural remedy.

Dosage and Preparation

Inositol supplements are sold as tablets and capsules. There is no recommended daily allowance for inositol and there is no standardized dosing schedule.

Manufacturers recommend the following doses for supporting individual conditions:

  • Metabolic syndrome: 2 grams twice daily
  • PCOS: 2 grams twice daily
  • Lithium-related psoriasis: Up to 6 grams once daily
  • Anxiety and panic attacks: Up to 12 grams daily

What to Look For

Widely available for purchase online, inositol supplements can also be found in natural foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements. To ensure quality and safety, always look for products tested and approved by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

If you decide to take an inositol supplement, speak with your doctor to ensure that it's appropriate based on your health and medical history.

Recap

While inositol is generally believed to be safe for adults, it may cause some side effects, particularly at higher doses. There is also a possibility of drug interactions, so always talk to a doctor before you take inositol.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I get inositol from food?

    Yes! Foods rich in inositol also offer fiber and nutrients needed for good, long-term health. These include fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. Cantaloupe, oats, bran, and citrus fruits (other than lemons) are especially rich in myo-inositol. Cooking or freezing fruits and vegetables reduces their inositol content. There is very little inositol in milk or yogurt. 

  • Can inositol cure autism?

    While inositol is sometimes touted as a treatment for autism, there is no scientific evidence to support those claims. It may, however, help to ease symptoms of anxiety, a common co-morbidity of autism.

  • Will inositol regrow hair?

    The supplement is often touted as a cure for thinning hair and balding, but the research is lacking. There is some evidence that inositol helps to reduce testosterone and balance hormones in people with PCOS, which may help reverse thinning hair associated with the condition.

  • Does inositol cause weight gain?

    Inositol has been shown to help improve glucose metabolism, which may help some people manage their weight more effectively. Some evidence suggests that this supplement may help women with PCOS lose weight.

  • Who should take inositol?

    Research suggests that this compound may be beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, panic disorder, depression, and bipolar disorder. However, you should always talk to your doctor before taking this supplement.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the lack of quality research, it is too soon to consider inositol supplements as an effective, standalone treatment for any health condition. That said, inositol is generally well tolerated if taken in moderation and under the guidance of a doctor.

12 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.