Can you eat glycerin?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat glycerin?” with an in-depth analysis of glycerin, the health benefits of glycerin, the nutritional composition of glycerin and the risks associated with eating glycerin. 

Can you eat glycerin?

Yes, you can eat glycerin. It is widely used in processed foods, personal care products, and medicines. The plant-based version of glycerin is known as vegetable glycerin. Also, glycerin is one of the main ingredients in vaping liquid.

What is glycerin?

Glycerin is a trihydroxy sugar alcohol that is an intermediate in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It is a naturally occurring molecule found in all plant and animal fats.

Glycerin is used as a solvent for flavours and food colours, for instance, it is used in drinks and candies.

It can also be used as a moisturising or softening agent, as it is used in cakes, sweets, meats and cheeses. 

In addition, glycerin can be used as a sweetener or preservative in food and beverages. 

Glycerin is a great emulsifier, for this reason, it helps to join fats and other liquids together, so they do not separate.

When dried, it has a plastic-like nature that is helpful to coat pills, beads and granules.

Dried glycerin also works as an excellent reducing agent to minimise the particle size of a drug powder. It is also used in pharmaceuticals for manufacturing capsules.

Due to its humectant properties, it is used as a pharmaceutical ingredient to prevent the drying out of preparations, especially ointments and creams.

Vegetable glycerin is used in cosmetics such as in toothpaste, hair conditioner, makeup and moisturizers. 

The ingredients that help keep food moist, can also help retain skin moisture and keep skin smooth, and it protects the skin surface from irritants.

Due to its specific ability to protect against irritants, glycerin is commonly used in cough syrup, where it protects the throat from irritation that might provoke coughing.

The benefits of glycerin 

Skin health

Glycerin has great moisturizing properties, thus, it can help the skin retain moisture. It is capable of diffusing into the skin layer known as, stratum corneum, making it an effective moisturizer. Due to this reason, many manufacturers add glycerin to topical skin products.

It is effective for relieving dry skin and can also help to enhance the barrier function of the skin. Retaining moisture and managing skin barrier function is essential for maintaining healthy skin.

In addition to this, it has been found out that glycerin may possess anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Relieving constipation

Glycerin has a laxative effect, for this reason, it is used to relieve constipation. When glycerin is administered rectally, it helps to lubricate the rectum and soften stools. It pulls water towards the hard stool and stimulates the bowel muscles to contract more efficiently.

Athletic performance

Vegetable glycerin provides some benefits to athletes.

Loss of fluid can harm athletic performance, which is why maintaining hydration is essential. People typically lose fluids by sweat or urination. When a person eats glycerin, it can help improve fluid retention and reduce the volume of urine.

Glycerin may reduce strain on the cardiovascular system of athletes, but may cause an increase in body weight due to fluid retention. It is more effective for rehydration than water, a sports drink, or saline. When consumed in combination with IV fluids, it shows the best effects.

Risks of glycerin

Although glycerin is generally regarded as safe and non-toxic, its oral consumption may have some side effects. These include:

  • mild headache
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • thirst
  • diarrhoea

For this reason, a person should seek medical advice before consuming glycerin.

Risks of vegetable glycerin 

In rare cases, vegetable glycerin can lead to an allergic reaction resulting in skin rash and anaphylaxis.

Considering its consistency, some individuals might use glycerin as a vaginal lubricant. But, this can raise the risk of contracting yeast infections. Hence, it is not recommended to use vegetable glycerin as a lubricant.

It is better to conduct a patch test to make sure that the skin does not react adversely to glycerin-containing products. Apply a tiny amount first and wait to see if the skin reacts.

Risks of synthetic glycerin 

Synthetic glycerin is made up of propylene oxide, allyl chloride, acrolein, polyalcohols, fats, or epichlorohydrin. Some of these substances are pretty dangerous.

For instance, allyl chloride causes toxic polyneuropathy when exposed for a longer period.

It is essentially from this synthetic glycerin that the potential for toxic residues and health risks occurs.


In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat glycerin?” with an in-depth analysis of glycerin, the health benefits of glycerin, the nutritional composition of glycerin and the risks associated with eating glycerin. 


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.