What is mannitol

MannitolDrug groupsOsmotic diuretics / laxatives / auxiliaries / sugar alcohols Mannitol is a natural sugar alcohol that is administered orally as a medicinal product, as an infusion and inhalation. It is used, among other things, for the treatment of constipation, acute kidney failure, acute glaucoma, brain edema and cystic fibrosis. Mannitol also plays an important role as a pharmaceutical excipient in the manufacture of capsules and tablets and is used as a sweetener and food additive. In the event of excessive consumption or increased sensitivity, gastrointestinal complaints and diarrhea can occur.

synonym: MannitolumPhEur, mannitol, mannazucker, E 421


Manntiol is available as a powder and as an infusion preparation. The pure substance is available in pharmacies and drug stores.

Structure and properties

D-mannitol (C.6H14O6, Mr = 182.2 g / mol) is available as white crystals or white powder that dissolves easily in water. Mannitol is a hexavalent sugar alcohol and occurs naturally in plants, algae and lichens, among other things. It has a sweet taste and is odorless. Mannitiol is also characterized by its low hygroscopicity. It is produced industrially from fruit sugar (fructose), but it can also be isolated from organic material.


Mannitol (ATC A06AD16, ATC B05BC01, ATC B05CX04) on the one hand has diuretic properties. Administered intravenously, it is filtered in the kidneys, hardly reabsorbed in the nephron and thus leads to osmotic diuresis.

On the other hand, mannitol also has a laxative effect, for example when it is ingested dissolved in water. Little is absorbed and, for osmotic reasons, it increases the water content in the large intestine. This stimulates the bowel movements and makes the stool softer and smoother.

Mannitol is also used as a sweetener. It is less sweet and has a lower calorific value than household sugar (sucrose).

Areas of application (selection)

Oral administration:

Parenteral administration:

  • Promote diuresis in oliguria and acute renal failure before irreversible renal failure occurs.
  • Reduction of intraocular pressure and treatment of cerebral edema, with intact blood-brain barrier.
  • Determination of glomerular clearance.
  • Promoting the elimination of urinary toxic substances in the event of poisoning.

Inhalative administration:

  • Cystic fibrosis, used to liquefy the mucus.
  • Mannitol provocation test for bronchial hyperresponsiveness.

As a pharmaceutical excipient:

Further use:

  • As a food additive (E 421).
  • For bacteria culture media.

According to the specialist information. The drugs are administered orally, parenterally (intravenously) and inhalatively. The literature recommends around 10 to 30 g as a laxative for adults.


As an extender to dilute intoxicants.


The precautionary measures depend on the area of ​​application.

unwanted effects

Oral administration, excessive consumption or sensitive people (food intolerance) can cause gastrointestinal complaints such as bloating, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea.

Possible adverse effects from an infusion include, for example, water and electrolyte disturbances, confusion, and irritation and inflammation of the vein wall.

see also

Sorbitol, D-mannose, FODMAP, food intolerance, sugar alcohols

  • Pharmaceutical product information (CH, UK)
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Pharmaceutical technology manuals
  • Lexicons of pharmacy and food technology
  • Ohrem H.L., Schornick E., Kalivoda A., Ognibene R. Why is mannitol becoming more and more popular as a pharmaceutical excipient in solid dosage forms? Pharm Dev Technol, 2014, 19 (3), 257-62 Pubmed
  • Wakai A. et al. Mannitol for acute traumatic brain injury. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2013, CD001049 Pubmed

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on 12/30/2020.
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