URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/554.html


What is it?

Lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color. It is one of a number of pigments called carotenoids. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelons, red oranges, pink grapefruits, apricots, rosehips, and guavas. In North America, 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice, sauce, or paste. A serving of fresh tomatoes contains between 4 mg and 10 mg of lycopene, while one cup (240 mL) of tomato juice provides about 20 mg. Processing raw tomatoes using heat (in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste or ketchup, for example) actually changes the lycopene in the raw product into a form that is easier for the body to use. The lycopene in supplements is about as easy for the body to use as lycopene found in food.

People take lycopene for preventing heart disease; "hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis); and cancer of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon, and pancreas. Lycopene is also used for treating human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure (CHF), gingivitis, and menopausal symptoms. Some people also use lycopene to prevent cataracts, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease, and sunburn.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for LYCOPENE are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • High blood pressure. Taking a specific lycopene product (LycoMato, LycoRed Corp., Orange, NJ) daily for 8 weeks seems to lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. However, taking this same product did not lower blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Bladder cancer. Research suggests that there is no link between lycopene consumption in the diet or lycopene blood levels and the risk for bladder cancer.
  • Diabetes. Research suggests that increased lycopene consumption in the diet does not decrease the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Parkinson's disease. Research suggests that increased lycopene consumption in the diet does not decrease the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Age-related eye disease (age-related macular degeneration, AMD). Research on the effect of lycopene in AMD is inconsistent. Some evidence suggests that people with low lycopene levels are almost twice as likely to develop AMD compared to people with high levels. However, other research suggests that there is no link between lycopene levels or lycopene intake and the risk of AMD.
  • AsthmaResearch on the effects of lycopene in people with asthma is inconsistent. Taking lycopene does not seem to reduce symptoms in adults with stable asthma. In one study in people with a history of exercise-induced asthma, taking a specific lycopene product (LycoMato, LycoRed Natural Product Industries, Ltd., Israel) improved lung function after exercise, but in another study in adolescent athletes, there was no benefit.
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). There is some evidence that higher lycopene blood levels are associated with a reduced risk of hardening of the arteries. There is also early evidence that higher lycopene blood levels can reduce the risk of heart disease associated with hardening of the arteries. However, there does not appear to be a link between lycopene levels and stroke risk.
  • Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Early research shows that taking lycopene can slow the rate of prostate growth and can improve symptoms in people with this condition. However, other research found no link between lycopene intake in the diet and the development of an enlarged prostate.
  • Breast cancer. Research about how lycopene affects breast cancer risk is inconsistent. Some evidence suggests that having higher lycopene blood levels is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. However, other research shows that neither lycopene intake nor lycopene blood levels are linked to breast cancer risk.
  • Heart disease. Some research shows that women with higher levels of lycopene in their blood have a lower risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. However, other research shows no link between lycopene intake and the risk of heart attack or stroke in women. Also, increasing dietary lycopene does not seem to prevent heart attacks in men at low risk for heart disease.
  • Cataracts. One study suggests that higher lycopene blood levels are associated with a lower risk of developing cataracts. However, other studies have found no link between lycopene intake or lycopene blood levels and the risk of developing cataracts.
  • Cervical cancer. Research about how lycopene affects the risk of cervical cancer is inconsistent. Some evidence suggests that higher lycopene blood levels or higher lycopene intake in the diet is linked to a lower risk of cervical cancer. Other studies have not found this link.
  • Colorectal cancer. Research about how lycopene affects the risk of colorectal cancer is inconsistent. Some research suggests that people with high lycopene intake in the diet are less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those with low intake. However, other research shows no link between lycopene intake and the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Gingivitis. Research about the effects of lycopene on gingivitis is inconsistent. Some research shows that taking a specific lycopene supplement by mouth (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) for 2 weeks or receiving a single injection of lycopene gel into the gums reduces gingivitis. Other research using lycopene- containing products does not show any benefit.
  • Brain tumor (giloma). Early research shows that taking lycopene by mouth for 3 months does not improve the response to radiotherapy and chemotherapy in people with brain tumors.
  • Ulcers caused by H. pylori infection. Early research shows that taking lycopene along with antibiotics does not help treat H. pylori infection compared to taking antibiotics alone.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Women with higher levels of lycopene in their blood seem to recover from cancer-associated HPV infection faster than women with lower lycopene blood levels.
  • High cholesterol. Early research shows that taking a specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) by mouth daily for 6 months lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol. However, other evidence suggests that lycopene does not affect cholesterol levels in healthy adults or in those with heart disease.
  • Lung cancer. Research about how lycopene affects the risk of lung cancer is inconsistent. Some research shows that lower lycopene intake in the diet is linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. However, other research suggests that there is no link between lycopene consumption in the diet or lycopene blood levels and lung cancer risk.
  • Male fertility problems. Early research shows that taking lycopene by mouth daily for 3 months improves sperm quality in some men with fertility problems due to unknown causes.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that taking a specific product containing lycopene, calcium, vitamin D3, astaxanthin, and citrus bioflavonoids (Cor. Con. International, Parma, Italy) daily for 8 weeks reduces menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, joint pain, anxiety, and depression.
  • White pre-cancerous patches in the mouth (oral leukoplakia). Early research shows that taking a specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) by mouth twice daily improves white pre-cancerous patches in the mouth.
  • Ovarian cancer. There is inconsistent evidence about the effect of lycopene on ovarian cancer risk. Some research shows that a diet rich in carotenoids, including lycopene, seems to help prevent ovarian cancer in young (premenopausal) women. However, other research shows that the risk of developing ovarian cancer is not linked to lycopene blood levels or lycopene intake from the diet.
  • Pancreatic cancer. Some early research shows that a diet high in lycopene, primarily from tomatoes, seems to lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
  • Polymorphous light eruption (PMLE). Early research shows that a combination product containing lycopene and other ingredients (Inneov Sun Sensitivity, Laoratoires Inneov, Asnieres sur Seine, France) can reduce skin reactions to light in people with PMLE.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy. Research on the effect of lycopene for preventing high blood pressure during pregnancy is unclear. Some research shows that taking a specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) twice daily starting between weeks 16 and 20 of pregnancy and continuing until delivery lowers blood pressure and reduces associated complications. However, other research suggests that lycopene does not affect blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Prostate cancer. Research on the effects of lycopene for preventing or treating prostate cancer is inconsistent. Some research suggests that increasing lycopene consumption in the diet, or having higher lycopene blood levels, is linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer. However, other research shows no link between lycopene intake or blood levels and prostate cancer risk. In addition, early research in men with precancerous changes in their prostate shows that taking lycopene supplements might delay or prevent the progression to prostate cancer. However, in other research, taking lycopene daily for up to one year did not seem to help treat prostate cancer.
  • Prostate swelling and pelvic pain. Early research shows that taking a specific combination of lycopene, selenium, and saw palmetto (Profluss, KonPharma, Rome, Italy) by mouth for 8 weeks reduces pain in men with prostate swelling and pelvic pain compared to taking saw palmetto alone.
  • Kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma). Early research shows no link between lycopene consumption in the diet and the risk of developing kidney cancer
  • Sunburn. Early research shows that taking lycopene by mouth, alone or together with other ingredients, might protect against sunburn
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate lycopene for these uses.

How does it work?

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage. This is why there is a lot of research interest in lycopene's role, if any, in preventing cancer.

Are there safety concerns?

Lycopene is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts. Daily supplements containing up to 120 mg of lycopene have been used safely for up to one year.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lycopene is LIKELY SAFE during pregnancy and breast-feeding when taken in amounts commonly found in foods. However, lycopene is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken as a supplement during pregnancy. In one study, using a specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) 2 mg daily, starting between weeks 12 and 20 of pregnancy and continuing until delivery, increased the rate of premature births and low-birth-weight babies. But in another study using the same lycopene supplement, these problems weren't seen. Not enough is known about the safety of lycopene supplements during breast-feeding. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, avoid using lycopene in amounts greater than those typically found in foods.

Surgery: Lycopene might slow blood clotting. It might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using lycopene supplements at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there interactions with medications?

Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Lycopene might slow blood clotting. Taking lycopene along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, indomethacin (Indocin), ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Taking beta-carotene along with lycopene may alter the amount of lycopene that is absorbed from the gut.
Herbs and supplements that might slow blood clotting
Using herbs and supplements that slow blood clotting along with lycopene could increase the risk of bleeding in some people. This is because lycopene might slow blood clotting. Some other herbs of this type include angelica, clove, danshen, garlic, ginger, Panax ginseng, and others.
Taking lutein along with lycopene may alter the amount of lycopene that is absorbed from the gut.

Are there interactions with foods?

Olestra (fat substitute)
Taking olestra might reduce the amount of lycopene that is absorbed by the body. Olestra lowers serum lycopene levels in healthy people by about 30%.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For high blood pressure: Lycopene 15 mg daily from a tomato extract (LycoMato, LycoRed Corporation, Orange, NJ) for 6 weeks to 8 weeks.
The recommended daily intake of lycopene has not been set because there hasn't been enough research.

Other names

All-Trans Lycopene, All-Trans Lycopène, Cis-Lycopène, Licopeno, Lycopène, Lycopenes, Lycopènes, Psi-Psi-Carotene, Psi-Psi-Carotène, (6E,8E,10E,12E,14E,16E,18E,20E,22E,24E,26E)-2,6,10,14,19,23,27,31-octamethyldotriaconta-2,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22,24,26,30-tridecaene.


To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.


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Last reviewed - 11/03/2017