Administration of Pure Ergothioneine to Healthy Human Subjects: Uptake, Metabolism, and Effects on Biomarkers of Oxidative Damage and Inflammation

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2017 Feb 10;26(5):193-206. doi: 10.1089/ars.2016.6778. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


Aim: We investigated the uptake and pharmacokinetics of l-ergothioneine (ET), a dietary thione with free radical scavenging and cytoprotective capabilities, after oral administration to humans, and its effect on biomarkers of oxidative damage and inflammation.

Results: After oral administration, ET is avidly absorbed and retained by the body with significant elevations in plasma and whole blood concentrations, and relatively low urinary excretion (<4% of administered ET). ET levels in whole blood were highly correlated to levels of hercynine and S-methyl-ergothioneine, suggesting that they may be metabolites. After ET administration, some decreasing trends were seen in biomarkers of oxidative damage and inflammation, including allantoin (urate oxidation), 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (DNA damage), 8-iso-PGF2α (lipid peroxidation), protein carbonylation, and C-reactive protein. However, most of the changes were non-significant.

Innovation: This is the first study investigating the administration of pure ET to healthy human volunteers and monitoring its uptake and pharmacokinetics. This compound is rapidly gaining attention due to its unique properties, and this study lays the foundation for future human studies.

Conclusion: The uptake and retention of ET by the body suggests an important physiological function. The decreasing trend of oxidative damage biomarkers is consistent with animal studies suggesting that ET may function as a major antioxidant but perhaps only under conditions of oxidative stress. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 26, 193-206.

Keywords: antioxidant; ergothioneine; human study; oxidative damage; thione.

MeSH terms

  • 8-Hydroxy-2'-Deoxyguanosine
  • Allantoin / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Betaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Betaine / metabolism
  • Biomarkers*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Deoxyguanosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Deoxyguanosine / metabolism
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Ergothioneine / administration & dosage*
  • Ergothioneine / chemistry
  • Ergothioneine / pharmacokinetics
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Histidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Allantoin
  • Betaine
  • Histidine
  • 8-Hydroxy-2'-Deoxyguanosine
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Ergothioneine
  • Deoxyguanosine
  • hercynine