What Is It?
Health Benefits

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Evidence Based Rating Scale


What Is It?

The amino acid arginine is acquiring a reputation for keeping the body's biggest muscle--the heart--in tip-top shape. In fact, this workhorse nutrient performs numerous vital functions, facilitating the healing of wounds and promoting the secretion of key hormones such as insulin and glucagon.

Most adults don't need to take this nonessential amino acid in supplement form because it's so readily obtained through a wide range of foods, including meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, and nuts. (The body actually manufactures arginine by digesting the proteins in these foods.) But a few important exceptions merit attention.

Health Benefits

Arginine supplements appear to reduce mildly elevated blood pressure and may inhibit plaque buildup and help to lower cholesterol. The amino acid may also be useful in treating coronary artery disease, angina and congestive heart failure, as well as playing a positive role in male infertility.

Specifically, arginine may help to:

Lower blood pressure. Arginine may help to reduce mildly elevated blood pressure by enhancing the synthesis of nitric oxide in the cells that line the blood vessels. This helps to dilate vessel walls and improve blood flow around the heart. In fact, nitric oxide ranks as the body's most potent blood vessel expander. Preliminary evidence indicates taking arginine supplementation can slightly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy people and in patients with mildly elevated blood pressure who may have reduced levels of nitric oxide production (such as during a kidney transplant or in type 2 diabetes). (1-4) In a 2004 review of supplements in the treatment of hypertension, arginine was considered beneficial in reducing systolic blood pressure by at least 9.0 mm/Hg or more and diastolic blood pressure by 5.0 mm/Hg or more. (5) Some evidence also indicates efficacy in improving the effect of conventional angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors in treating high blood pressure. (6) Studies in animals and humans are ongoing to confirm or refute these results.

Improve atherosclerosis and high cholesterol. Arginine supplements may inhibit the buildup of plaque and other substances that can harden blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Studies in animals have shown arginine supplementation leads to the regression of plaque buildup. (7-9) While studies in animals have shown this benefit, studies in humans have been small or of poor quality. (10) More research is needed to determine efficacy in improving atherosclerosis in humans. In addition to reducing plaque buildup, some studies in animals and humans have shown arginine may also play a role in helping to lower cholesterol. (11, 12) A 1995 study in 45 healthy non-smoking, elderly volunteers found that high doses (17 g daily) of arginine supplementation for two weeks led to decreased total serum cholesterol levels, with a reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol but no reduction in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. (13) Studies in animals and humans are ongoing.

Treat coronary artery disease and angina. The positive effect of arginine on circulation makes it potentially useful for treating Coronary artery disease; here blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart is limited and causes damage to this muscle. Arginine may also benefit Angina (chest pain), a condition associated with tightening of vessels around the heart. Several studies have shown arginine supplementation decreases symptoms of angina and improves exercise tolerance and quality of life in patients with class II-IV angina. (14-16) One of these studies found arginine may also help patients with class IV angina who have frequent attacks at rest and who have not had success with conventional medications. (15) However, a 2000 study of patients with coronary artery disease also undergoing conventional medical treatment found arginine supplementation did not improve blood vessel dilation or increase nitric oxide and, therefore, may not benefit these patients. (17)

Treat congestive heart failure (CHF). The vasodilating effects of arginine may be most useful in cardiovascular disease, increasing blood flow to the heart. However, research is conflicting and mostly anecdotal. A 2000 double-blind, crossover trial evaluating arginine’s effect on the kidneys and fluid retention in 17 patients with chronic CHF (NYHA II-III) found patients who took 15 g of arginine daily for five days had improved kidney function and increased fluid elimination. (18) But while some patients have reported improved functional status, exercise tolerance, and quality of life after arginine supplementation, these benefits have not been found consistently in clinical trials. (19-22) 

Improve male infertility. Arginine may help in treating male infertility caused by circulation problems because it seems to help increase blood flow to the penis. Additionally, arginine is needed to produce sperm, so supplementation may prove beneficial in increasing sperm count, quality and motility, thus improving fertility. A three-month regimen of arginine has been shown to increase sperm count and enhance its motility. (23, 24) Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) also may benefit from arginine supplementation. A 1999 study of 50 men with ED found that taking 5 g of arginine daily improved subjective measures of sexual function in 31 percent of the treatment group. (25) More research is needed to confirm these potential benefits. 


  • capsule
  • cream
  • liquid
  • powder
  • tablet 

Dosage Information 

  • For angina: 500 mg L-arginine 3 times a day on an empty stomach; but dosages from 300 to 600 mg taken three times a day has been used in trials.
  • For congestive heart failure: 500 mg of L-arginine 3 times a day on an empty stomach; but dosages from 600 to 2,000 mg divided into three daily doses has been used in studies.
  • For high blood pressure: 700 to 1,000 mg L-arginine twice a day has been used, in conjunction with protein, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid and other vitamins and minerals.
  • For male infertility: 1,000 mg L-arginine 3 times a day; and 500 mg daily has been used for erectile dysfunction. 

Guidelines for Use

Arginine supplements taken longer than one month should be taken with an amino acid complex that contains a variety of Amino acids. This will ensure a proper balance of all amino acids. 

General Interaction

Don't take arginine if you are taking other drugs that dilate the blood vessels, such as nitroglycerin or sildenafil (Viagra).

Note: For information on interactions with specific generic drugs, see our WholeHealthMD Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.

Possible Side Effects

In rare cases, arginine can cause abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, and gout; and can cause allergic response or airway inflammation in patients with asthma.


While arginine is considered quite safe, it could potentially worsen certain conditions because of the way it affects the body. Patients who suffer migraines or have kidney problems, a liver disorder, breast cancer, Crohn's disease, or rheumatoid arthritis should consult a doctor before taking arginine supplements. 

Patients with genital herpes or who are prone to cold sores should avoid taking arginine, as the amino acid can trigger outbreaks of these disorders. 


1. Siani A, Pagano E, Iacone R, et al. Blood pressure and metabolic changes during dietary L-arginine supplementation in humans. Am J Hypertens. 2000;13:547-51.
2. Kelly BS, Alexander JW, Dreyer D, et al. Oral arginine improves blood pressure in renal transplant and hemodialysis patients. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2001.;25:194-202.
3. Kelly JJ, Williamson P, Martin A, Whitworth JA. Effects of oral L-arginine on plasma nitrate and blood pressure in cortisol-treated humans. J Hypertens. 2001;19:263-8.
4. Huynh NT, Tayek JA. Oral arginine reduces systemic blood pressure in type 2 diabetes: its potential role in nitric oxide generation. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002;21:422-7.
5. Wilburn AJ, King DS, Glisson J, Rockhold RW, Wofford MR. The natural treatment of hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2004 May;6(5):242-8.
6. Cheng JW, Balwin SN. L-arginine in the management of cardiovascular diseases. Ann Pharmacother. 2001;35:755-64.
7. Wang BY, Ho HK, Lin PS, et al. Regression of atherosclerosis: role of nitric oxide and apoptosis. Circulation. 1999 Mar 9;99(9):1236-41.
8. Jiang J, Valen G, Tokuno S, et al. Endothelial dysfunction in atherosclerotic mice: improved relaxation by combined supplementation with L-arginine-tetrahydrobiopterin and enhanced vasoconstriction by endothelin. Br J Pharmacol. 2000 Dec;131(7):1255-61.
9. Kuhlencordt PJ, Chen J, Han F, et al. Genetic deficiency of inducible nitric oxide synthase reduces atherosclerosis and lowers plasma lipid peroxides in apolipoprotein E-knockout mice. Circulation. 2001 Jun 26;103(25):3099-104.
10. Preli RB, Klein KP, Herrington DM. Vascular effects of dietary L-arginine supplementation. Atherosclerosis. 2002 May;162(1):1-15.
11. Creager MA, Gallagher SJ, Girerd XJ, et al. L-arginine improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypercholesterolemic humans. J Clin Invest. 1992;90:1248-53.
12. Clarkson P, Adams MR, Powe AJ, et al. Oral L-arginine improves endothelium-dependent dilation in hypercholesterolemic young adults. J Clin Invest. 1996;97:1989-94.
13. Hurson M, Regan MC, Kirk SJ, Wasserkrug HL, Barbul A. Metabolic effects of arginine in a healthy elderly population. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 1995 May-Jun;19(3):227-30.
14. Ceremuzynski L, Chamiec T, Herbaczynska-Cedro K. Effect of supplemental oral L-arginine on exercise capacity in patients with stable angina pectoris. Am J Cardiol. 1997;80:331-3.
15. Blum A, Porat R, Rosenschein U, et al. Clinical and inflammatory effects of dietary L-arginine in patients with intractable angina pectoris. Am J Cardiol. 1999;15:1488-90.
16. Maxwell AJ, Zapien MP, Pearce GL, et al. Randomized trial of a medical food for the dietary management of chronic, stable angina. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002;39:37-45.
17. Blum A, Hathaway L, Mincemoyer R, et al. Oral L-arginine in patients with coronary artery disease on medical management. Circulation. 2000 May 9;101(18):2160-4.
18. Watanabe G, Tomiyama H, Doba N. Effects of oral administration of L-arginine on renal function in patients with heart failure. J Hypertens. 2000;18:229-34.
19. Rector TS, Bank AJ, Mullen KA, et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of supplemental oral L-arginine in patients with heart failure. Circulation. 1996;93:2135-41.
20. Hambrecht R, Hilbrich L, Erbs S, et al. Correction of endothelial dysfunction in chronic heart failure: additional effects of exercise training and oral L-arginine supplementation. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000;35:706-13.
21. Kanaya Y, Nakamura M, Kobayashi N, Hiramori K. Effects of L-arginine on lower limb vasodilator reserve and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure. Heart. 1999;81:512-7.
22. Chin-Dusting JP, Kaye DM, Lefkovits J, et al. Dietary supplementation with L-arginine fails to restore endothelial function in forearm resistance arteries of patients with severe heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1996;27:1207-13.
23. Tanimura J. Studies on arginine in human semen. Part II. The effects of medication with L-arginine-HCI on male infertility. Bull Osaka Med School. 1967;13:84-9.
24. De Aloysio D, Mantuano R, Mauloni M, Nicoletti G. The clinical use of arginine aspartate in male infertility. Acta Eur Fertil. 1982;13:133-67.
25. Chen J, Wollman Y, Chernichovsky T, et al. Effect of oral 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 Int. 1999;83:269-73.

Evidence Based Rating Scale  

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.



































Several studies indicate efficacy in improving symptoms of angina, exercise tolerance and quality of life. Some conflicting evidence exists regarding use in patients who have not had success with conventional treatment. (14-17) 








Date Published: 04/18/2005
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