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What is arginine?

Arginine is a very important semi-essential amino acid. That means the body can produce it, but it is often needed in larger quantities. Therefore the body relies on extra supplementation from the diet.

The most important characteristic of arginine is that it is the only reactant for the molecule nitric oxide (NO), which is a vasodilator. One of the characteristics of NO is to regulate vascular tone.

This ensures the flexibility of blood vessels and a healthy cardiovascular system. One of the most well-known properties of arginine is improving the erections of men who suffer from vascular erectile dysfunction.

The pituitary gland in the brain also needs arginine to function properly. This amino acid works together with other amino acids, such as ornithine and phenylalanine, to synthesise and distribute growth hormones. These contribute not only to the prompt regeneration of tissue such as nerves and muscle, but also help to maintain the health of many organs and epithelia.

Additionally, arginine has a positive effect on the human immune system by supporting the production of disease-fighting antibodies. It also stimulates the thymus gland. This is an organ which processes these antibodies.


Benefits and videos

In summary, the most well-known medical benefits of arginine are:

  • A natural virility remedy for the treatment of erectile disorders (erectile dysfunction)
  • Improves the health of the vascular system, lowering the risk of strokes and heart attack
  • Encourages healthy muscle growth
  • Lowers blood pressure in hypertension
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Improves insulin resistance in cases of diabetes
  • Helps maintain fats and cholesterols at healthy levels
  • An accompanying treatment for arteriosclerosis (vascular calcification)
  • Improves the blood flow in capillaries (e.g. in cases of tinnitus or hair loss)
  • Prevents unwanted blood clotting such as in heart attacks
  • Facilitates and restores memory and learning
  • Leads to better sperm. It increases the quantity of ejaculated semen1, improves sperm count2, 3 and improves motility4, 5.

In 1998 Luis Ignarro, Robert Furchgott and Ferid Murad won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on the benefits of Nitric Oxide (NO) and its primary reactant (building block) arginine.

Here is a video of Dr Ignarro explaining the various health benefits gained from arginine supplementation:


Cardiac health

Arginine performs many vital functions within the body and because of its structure, it is important in a variety of areas. As it is used to form the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO), it has a significant effect on the regulation of the tone of blood vessels, as well as influencing several neural processes.

Arginine is responsible not only for the conduction of stimuli, but also for the processing of these stimuli and the activity of the nerve cells. Blood flow improves as a result of the release of nitrogen in the endothelial cells of the arteries. This is because this causes the blood vessels to widen and enables a better cardiac output.

In this way arginine protects the body from specific conditions, such as arteriosclerosis and even heart attacks. The increased diameter of the arteries means it takes longer for them to become blocked up by deposits.

A further function of arginine is in protein synthesis within the body. During this process, the body disposes of poisonous ammonia. Amino acids can turn ammonia into urea, preventing it from entering the circulatory system, which would lead to severe brain damage.

Limited liver functioning in particular can cause this to happen. Therefore in cases of cirrhosis of the liver or types of hepatitis, suitable supplements should be taken to prevent this occurring. When the level of ammonia is too high, this can lead to problems falling asleep or insomnia. Consequently it is best to take special nutritional supplements in the evening.

Muscle building

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Arginine also encourages the release of the growth hormones prolactin and glucagon. Therefore it indirectly increases muscle building. At the same time it inhibits the uncontrolled accumulation of fat.

Furthermore, it works to support the breakdown of lipids and can therefore support the body during dieting and attempts to lose weight.

Additionally arginine plays a role in the biosynthesis of creatine. This compound plays an important role in the energy metabolism of cells. It leads to an improved burning of fats and proteins, and increases through this process the energy turnover of the body.

As arginine also supports the release and effect of insulin, it can contribute to the regulation of blood sugar and fat levels.

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is the proper medical term for the common disruption of normal erectile function in males. It is more commonly known as impotence. It is almost as impossible to imagine the treatment of erectile dysfunction without arginine as it would be to imagine it without the most famous remedy, Viagra.

erection physiology

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From the mid- to late-1990s, doctors treated the phenomenon relatively ineffectively with a range of plant extracts (including yohimbine, muira puama and maca). The media publicised the effects of these remedies as an aphrodisiac or as a treatment for impotence. However scientists have not proved these in rigorous scientific studies. These claims have actually often been refuted.

A wide range of research into the molecule NO (nitric oxide or nitrogen monoxide) then took place. This earned the researchers Ignarro, Furchgott and Murad a Nobel Prize for Medicine. They proved that the molecule NO infiltrates into blood vessel walls and regulates vascular tone.

Arginine is the only reactant for this molecule (NO). When the signal from the brain for an erection reaches the sex organ, the body has to build NO out of arginine in the blood. This neurotransmitter then enters the blood, relaxing blood vessels and muscles, enabling an erection to occur.

Initial research into the effects of arginine in cases of erectile dysfunction in the 1990s with a dose of 5,000 mg produced dissatisfactory results. Furthermore, there can be side effects with this dosage6, 7.

More recent research has found that a dose of 3,000mg arginine per day in combination with 80mg of the NO-Booster Pine Bark Extract is able to cure more than 90%8of men suffering from erectile function problems.

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The use of arginine to combat coronary conditions connected to myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and strokes is particularly widespread. It can block a certain substance (asymmetric dimethylarginine, or ADMA), therefore moderating the level of homocysteine in the blood. Consequently it simultaneously neutralises two risk factors in cardiovascular conditions, which in turn can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Studies by Stühlinger et al.9 and Bednarz et al. 10 have shown that arginine leads to a decrease in clinical cases of these conditions and should therefore be specifically included in the dietary treatment of patients with cardiovascular conditions or patients with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Diabetes Mellitus

Amino acids are an important ally in the treatment of diabetes

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Essential amino acids can be very effective in the treatment of diabetes mellitus (Type II). This is because they stimulate the secretion of insulin and prevent the continued destruction of beta cells in the pancreas 11. Nutritional supplements containing arginine, alongside other vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, are ideal.


Arginine has also been used successfully to combat anxiety disorders in the past few years. This is because it improves the ability to cope with stress by raising levels of the hormone cortisol as well as reducing the occurrence of psychological tension. 12.

Male Fertility

Arginine improves male fertility:

  1. Directly by improving sperm volume, count and motility (progressive forward movement)13.
  2. Indirectly by improving erectile function. This makes successful intercourse more likely, increasing the chance of successful conception.

Please watch the following video on how arginine and other nutrients from food can improve the quality of sperm naturally.


Dietary sources

Raw pork and chicken breast contain a particularly large amount of arginine (both around 1.4g per 100g). You need to cook these foods thoroughly before consumption to kill any possible germs. But during this process, the original concentration of important amino acids inside decreases.

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This is why you need to consume other foods too in order to meet the daily requirement. Particularly rich sources of arginine include nuts, particularly walnuts and cashew nuts.

Raw salmon is another rich source of arginine. However this is only suitable for women who are not pregnant and people not undergoing treatment with immunosuppressive medication for an existing condition. Raw salmon contains around 1.2g arginine per 100g, and is very healthy in other respects too.

Other sources include eggs and cow’s milk (0.8 and 0.1g per 100g respectively). However it is relatively difficult for the body to extract amino acids from animal products. For this reason, pine nuts (around 2.4g per 100g) and walnuts (around 2.2g per 100g) are useful alternatives.

However changes to the diet are nowhere near as effective as using specially-designed products which contain plenty of arginine.


In the process of urea exchange, the body naturally produces a certain amount of arginine naturally. However, this amount is insufficient to cover the minimum daily requirement of around 2 to 5g.

It is important to maintain sufficient levels of key amino acids such as arginine through nutrition or supplements. This is particularly crucial for people with a heightened susceptibility to infection or those suffering from serious illnesses. Otherwise serious deficiencies and malfunctions can develop in the body.

In cases of severe injuries or after serious operations, the body requires a continuous supply of amino acids through food or relevant supplements. This is because in these cases the body will not be able to produce enough amino acids for its own needs by a long way.

A particularly well-balanced diet which covers the body’s daily requirements is also key during the natural growth period. This includes childhood and adolescence, and this intake can be complemented by additional supplements as needed.

Our diets are often not varied enough, and many people do not have a sufficient intake of particular vital substances. Metabolic diseases can also result in organisms no longer being able to completely absorb these substances during digestion, which also leads to a deficiency.

Stress and a wide range of other conditions, such as arteriosclerosis or high blood pressure, can increase an individual’s requirements. Therefore arginine is now seen as one of the essential amino acids by leading nutritionists.
In some conditions, it is clear that the body needs supplements of this valuable amino acid. These include heart and liver failure, coronary diseases, angina pectoris and growth hormone deficiency. In these cases, you should discuss the possibility of taking nutritional supplements with your doctor.


Arginine has changed from being a semi-essential to an essential amino acid for good reason; it has a decisive impact on numerous vital processes.

Not only the production of growth hormones, but also the formation of insulin and antibodies are heavily dependent on arginine.

This means that an insufficient intake of arginine can lead to severe symptoms of deficiency. To counter this before any serious damage is done, it is beneficial to take nutritional supplements alongside a well-balanced diet. Supplements can be especially helpful in the recovery process after operations or accidents.


  1. Imhof M, Lackner J, Lipovac M, Chedraui P, Riedl C.  Improvement of sperm quality after micronutritient supplementation. e-SPEN, the European e-Journal of Clinical nutrition and Metabolism. Internet. 2012. 7(1):50-53. Available from:
  2. Schachter A, Friedman S, Goldman JA, Eckerling B. Treatment of oligospermia with the amino acid arginine. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. Internet. 1973. 11(5): 206-209. Available from:
  3. Aydin S, Inco O, Alagol B. The role of arginine, indomethacin and kallikrein in the treatment of oligoasthenospermia. International Urology and Nephrology. Internet. 1995. 27(2):199-202. Available from:
  4. Scibona M, Meschini P, Capparelli S, Pecori C, Rossi P, Menchini Fabris GF. L arginine and male fertility. Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. Internet. 1994. 46(4):251-3. Available from:
  5. Mendez JD, Hernandez MP. Effect of L-arginine and polyamines on sperm motility. Ginecologia y obstetricia de Mexico. Internet. 1993. 61:229-34. Available from:
  6. Chen J, Wollman Y, Chernichovsky T, Iaina A, Sofer M, Matzkin H. Effect of administration of high-dose nitric oxide donor L-arginine in men with organic erectile dysfunction: results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. BJU International. Internet. 1999. 83(3): 269-273. Available from:
  7. Zorgniotti AW, Lizza EF. Effect of large doses of the nitric oxide precursor, L-arginine, on erectile dysfunction. Int J Impotence Res. Internet. 1994. 6(1):33-36. Available from:
  8. Stanislavov R et al. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L -arginine. J Sex Marital Ther 2003 May-Jun, 29 (3): 207-213.
  9. Stühlinger MC, Stanger AC. Asymmetric Dimethyl-L-arginine (ADMA): A possible link between homocyst(e)ine and endothelial dysfunction. Current Drug Metabolism. Internet. 2005. 6(1): 3-14. Available from:
  10. Bednarz B, Jaxa- Chamiec  T, Maciejewski P, Szpajer M, Janik K, Gniot J, Kawka-Urbanek T, Drozdowska D, Gessek J, Laskowski H. Efficacy and safety of oral l- arginine in acute myocardial infarction. Results of the multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled ARAMI pilot trial. Kardiol. Pol. Internet. 2005. 62(5): 421-7. Available from:
  11. Krause MS, McClenaghan NH, Flatt PR, de Bittencourt PI, Murphy C, Newsholme P. Arginine is essential for pancreatic beta-cell functional integrity, metabolism and defence from inflammatory challenge. J Endocrinol. Internet. 2011. 211(1):87-97. Available from:
  12. Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutrition Journal. Internet. 2010. 9:42. Available from:
  13. Scibona M, Meschini P, Capparelli S, Pecori C, Rossi P, Menchini Fabris GF. L-arginine and male infertility. Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. Internet. 1994. 46(4):251-3. Available from: