Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3) acid is a combination of niacin and nicotinamide (niacinamide), and goes by many other names including inositol nicotinate and vitamin B3. In medicine it is used as a hypolipidaemic (lowers cholesterol) and vasodilator (widens arteries). It is prescribed for patients with high levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides, pellagra (vitamin B3 deficiency) and poor circulation. On the skin it may be useful in the fading of pigmented age spots.

Dosages vary from 500 mg. a day in pellagra, to 100 mg. to 150 mg. three or four times a day for poor circulation, and 250 mg. to 1500 mg. three times a day after meals for high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The recommended daily dietary intake is 4 mg. in infants, 12 mg. in children and 19 mg. in adults.

Use nicotinic acid with caution in low blood pressure and poor liver function, and not at all if suffering from peptic ulcer, stomach upsets, recent heart attack, severe liver disease, diabetes, gout, heart disease, gall bladder disease, glaucoma or a tendency to bleed easily.

Common side effects may include rashes, itchy skin, a change in heart function, stomach upsets and nervousness. Unusual effects may include dry skin, skin pigmentation and yellow skin.

It interacts with drugs used to treat high blood pressure, steroids, hallucinogens, reserpine, chlordiazepoxide, alfalfa, fenugreek, garlic and ginger. Other vitamins may affect nicotinic acid absorption.

An overdose causes flushing, itch, vomiting, diarrhoea, heartburn, belly cramps and fainting.

It may be used as a starting point in the treatment of high cholesterol blood levels and poor circulation.  A lack of nicotinic acid causes a deeply fissured tongue and the disease pellagra.

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