Principal Proposed Uses
Other Proposed Uses
Arginine is an amino acid found in many foods, including dairy products, meat, poultry, and fish. It plays a role in several important mechanisms in the body, including cell division, wound healing, removal of ammonia from the body, immunity to illness, and the secretion of important hormones.
The body also uses arginine to make nitric oxide (NO), a substance that relaxes blood vessels and also exerts numerous other effects in the body. Based on this, arginine has been proposed as a treatment for various cardiovascular diseases, including congestive heart failure and intermittent claudication, as well as impotence, female sexual dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, and many other conditions. Arginine's potential effects on immunity have also created an interest in using it as part of an "immune cocktail" given to severely ill hospitalized patients and also for preventing colds.
Normally, the body either gets enough arginine from food, or manufactures all it needs from other widely available nutrients. Certain stresses, such as severe burns, infections, and injuries, can deplete your body's supply of arginine. For this reason, arginine (combined with other nutrients) is used in a hospital setting to help enhance recovery from severe injury or illness.
Arginine is found in dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and chocolate.
A typical supplemental dosage of arginine is 2 g to 8 g per day. For congestive heart failure, higher dosages up to 15 g have been used in trials.
Warning: Do not try to self-treat congestive heart failure. If you have this condition, be sure to consult your physician before taking any supplements.
Note : The first three conditions in this list are life-threatening. If you have angina, congestive heart failure, or intermittent claudication, do not attempt to treat yourself with arginine except under physician's supervision.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Arginine?
Note: The first three conditions in this section are life-threatening. If you have angina, congestive heart failure, or intermittent claudication, do not attempt to treat yourself with arginine except under physician's supervision.
Congestive Heart Failure
People with advanced hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, often have difficulty walking because of lack of blood flow to the legs, a condition known as intermittent claudication . Pain may develop after walking less than half a block.
The substance nitric oxide (NO) plays a role in the development of an erection. Dugs like Viagra increase the body's sensitivity to the natural rise in NO that occurs with sexual stimulation. A simpler approach might be to raise levels of this substance, and one way to accomplish this involves use of the amino acid L-arginine. Oral arginine supplements may increase NO levels in the penis and elsewhere. Based on this, L-arginine has been advertised as "natural Viagra." However, there is as yet little evidence that it works. Drugs based on raising NO levels in the penis have not worked out for pharmaceutical developers; the body seems simply to adjust to the higher levels and maintain the same level of response.
Nonetheless, some small studies have found possible evidence of benefit.
Sexual Dysfunction in Women
Interstitial cystitis is a condition in which an individual feels like he or she has symptoms of a bladder infection, but no infection is present. Medical treatment for this condition is less than satisfactory.
Nutritional Support in Hospitalized Patients
However, because of the many nutrients contained in these so-called immunonutrient mixtures, it is not clear whether arginine deserves the credit.
The amino acid lysine has been advocated for use in oral or genital herpes . According to the theory behind this recommendation, it is important to simultaneously restrict arginine intake. If true, this would tend to suggest that arginine supplements would be harmful for people with a tendency to develop herpes. However, there is no meaningful evidence to support this hypothesis.
Maximum safe doses in pregnant or nursing women, young children, and those with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Lysine to treat herpes: Arginine might counteract the potential benefit. 38
- Drugs that are hard on the stomach (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications ): Taking high doses of arginine might stress your stomach additionally.
- Medications that can alter the balance of potassium in your body (such as potassium-sparing diuretics or ACE inhibitors ): High doses of arginine should be used only under physician supervision.
- Transdermal nitroglycerin : Arginine may help prevent the development of tolerance. ( Note : Your doctor's supervision is essential.)
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -