Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Uses based on scientific evidence
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
Growth hormone reserve test / pituitary disorder diagnosis (arginine hydrochloride)
Arginine is sometimes injected into a vein to measure growth hormone levels in people being tested for growth hormone deficiencies, such as panhypopituitarism, gigantism, acromegaly, or pituitary adenoma. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved this use.
Inborn errors of urea synthesis
People with inborn errors of urea synthesis may have high ammonia levels in the blood and metabolic alkalosis. There is strong evidence supporting the use of arginine for this condition. Arginine should be avoided in people with high arginine levels in the blood. A qualified healthcare professional should supervise use.
There is good scientific evidence that dietary supplementation with L-arginine may help people with coronary artery disease, angina, or clogged arteries, due to its effects on blood vessels. Larger, longer-term studies are needed to confirm these initial positive effects.
Arginine has been studied in people with heart failure. Longer-term studies are required to confirm the clinical benefit of L-arginine supplementation in people with heart disease.
Peripheral vascular disease / claudication
Peripheral vascular disease, also known as intermittent claudication, is a narrowing of blood vessels in the legs and feet caused by fatty deposits. This condition causes decreased blood flow to the legs and feet, resulting in leg pain and tiredness. A small number of studies report that arginine therapy may improve walking distance in people with claudication. Further research is needed.
Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a rare inherited metabolic disorder that involves damage to the nerves in the brain and the adrenal glands. This condition results in dementia and adrenal failure. Arginine injections may help manage this disorder; however, most study results are inconclusive. Further research is needed to evaluate the use of arginine in ALD.
Limited research has examined the effect of L-arginine on altitude sickness symptoms. Larger, well-designed trials are required before conclusions can be made.
Early research suggests that arginine helps heal chronic anal fissures, which are small tears that develop in the anus. Additional studies are needed.
In limited research, the combination of L-lysine and L-arginine reduced symptoms of anxiety. The effect of L-arginine alone is unknown. Additional research is needed in this area.
Arginine has been studied for treating autonomic failure, a condition that may include low blood pressure. Its effect is unclear. Well-designed studies are needed.
The effect of L-arginine on birth outcomes has been studied. Additional research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Blood flow enhancement
In limited research, L-arginine increased blood flow. Because of conflicting results from one study, additional research is needed.
The therapeutic effect of arginine on breast cancer is unclear. Results from early human studies are mixed. High-quality studies are needed.
Arginine may improve immune function and protein function in burns . Further research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Cachexia (weight loss and muscle-wasting)
A combination of beta-hydroxyl beta-methyl butyrate, glutamine, and arginine has been tested in people with cachexia associated with cancer, but conclusions could not be drawn. Further research is needed.
Early human studies suggest that arginine supplements may benefit people undergoing chemotherapy. Larger, high-quality studies are needed.
Limited human research reported that arginine taken by mouth improved chest pain in people with esophagus problems. Large, well-designed studies are needed.
In early research, L-arginine increased cognitive function in elderly people with cerebrovascular disease (problems with blood vessels in the brain). Better-designed studies are needed.
The impact of L-arginine supplementation on critical illness is unclear. Further research is needed.
Results of early studies of the effect of L-arginine on cyclosporine toxicity in renal transplant are mixed. Additional research is needed in this area.
In early research, arginine-containing toothpaste has reduced tooth sensitivity. An arginine-containing product was also effective in reducing dental caries. Additional research is needed to confirm these effects.
Diabetes (type 2)
The effect of L-arginine on type 2 diabetes has been investigated. Large, well-designed studies are needed to understand the effect of arginine on type 2 diabetes.
Early research indicates that L-arginine may play a role in reducing complications associated with diabetes. However, further research is required before conclusions can be made.
Early studies showed that arginine supplements helped treat erectile dysfunction (ED) in men with low nitrate or nitrite levels in their blood or urine. A combination of L-arginine, glutamate, and yohimbine hydrochloride was used to treat ED. However, because a combination product was used, and yohimbine hydrochloride is an FDA-approved therapy for this condition, the effects of arginine are unknown. More research is needed with arginine alone.
Despite common use by athletes, the effect of arginine for exercise performance enhancement has not been studied extensively. Well-designed studies investigating arginine alone are needed before conclusions can be made.
Preliminary research of pregnant mothers suggests that arginine supplements improve growth in smaller-than-average fetuses. Additional studies are needed.
Gastrointestinal cancer surgery
A combination of arginine, RNA, and omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the length of hospital stay and infections after surgery for gastrointestinal cancer. More research with arginine alone is needed.
Heart protection during coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
An arginine-supplemented blood solution used during surgery may help protect the heart in people undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting. Further research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
High blood pressure
Early research reported that arginine taken by mouth reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. Larger, high-quality studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Some research suggests that arginine may help treat high cholesterol. However, results are conflicting and more research is needed.
L-arginine has immune effects in people undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer and in children with airway infections. In HIV, L-arginine in combination with omega-3 fatty acids and a nutritional supplement had no additional effects on immune response over a nutritional supplement alone. Additional well-designed research is needed.
Limited research has investigated the effect of L-arginine on male and female infertility. Further research is required before conclusions can be made.
Early studies found that supplementation with L-arginine significantly improved endothelial function in people with MELAS syndrome (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke). Further research is needed in this area.
Limited research suggests that L-arginine may decrease symptoms associated with creatine deficiency syndromes. Further research is required before conclusions can be drawn.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
In early research, treatment with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and L-arginine restored some function in people with polycystic ovary syndrome. Further research is required before conclusions can be drawn.
Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy)
Effects of L-arginine in women with pre-eclampsia are mixed. Longer-term treatment appeared to be more effective than short-term treatment. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Studies of arginine for pressure ulcers show mixed results. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.
Prevention of restenosis after coronary angioplasty (PTCA)
Injection of L-arginine into surgically placed stents was investigated with mixed results. Early research suggested that L-arginine may or may not prevent restenosis (narrowing) in the arteries. Further well-designed studies are required.
Early research in humans investigated the effect of arginine on blood vessel activity in Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition causing the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, nose, and ears to narrow in response to cold temperatures or stress. However, the effects of arginine are unclear. Large, well-designed trials are needed.
Recovery after surgery
In early research, arginine combined with other supplements helped recovery after surgery. However, the role of arginine alone is unclear. More research is needed in this area.
Early research suggests that arginine supplements may decrease the risk of respiratory (lung) infections. Large, well-controlled studies are needed to clarify this relationship.
In early research, L-arginine may be useful for pregnant women with scleroderma (buildup of scar tissue in the skin). Further research is needed in this area.
Sickle cell anemia
Clinical studies investigating the effects of L-arginine on sickle cell anemia are limited. Early research suggests the potential for immune benefits. Further research is needed in this field.
In human research, L-arginine improved kidney function in people with a kidney transplant, and improved quality of life and exercise tolerance in people with heart transplants. Additional clinical research is needed.
In early research, L-arginine improved endometrial thickness in people with a thin endometrium (the lining of the uterus). Further studies are required before conclusions can be drawn.
Early research has suggested a lack of benefit in the use of arginine for asthma.
Arginine has been proposed as a treatment for interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder). However, most studies found a lack of effect.
Kidney disease or failure
Overall evidence from early research fails to support the use of L-arginine for kidney disease or failure. Until the evidence is more consistent, conclusions cannot be made.
Kidney protection during angiography
The contrast media, or dye, used during angiography to map arteries may be poisonous (toxic) to the kidneys, especially in people with kidney disease. Early researcher has found a lack of evidence that injections of L-arginine protected the kidney from damage due to contrast agents.
In human research, arginine appeared to lack benefit in wound healing. Further research is required before conclusions can be made.
Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Until potential safety issues are addressed, L-arginine should be avoided in people having a heart attack.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Aging, AIDS/HIV, ammonia toxicity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-platelet agent, beta-hemoglobinopathies (blood disorder), cancer, cirrhosis, cold prevention, cystic fibrosis, depression, epilepsy, eye disorders, food uses, glaucoma, growth, gut disorders, heavy metal/lead toxicity, hemolytic uremic syndrome (blood disorder), hepatic encephalopathy (confused thinking due to liver disorders), hyperhomocysteinemia (high homocysteine in the blood), increased muscle mass, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver disease, liver protection, lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, malaria, metabolic acidosis, migraine, mitochondrial disorders, neurological problems, obesity/weight loss, osteoporosis / osteopenia, pain, parasites, peritonitis (inflammation of the stomach lining), Peyronie's disease (abnormal curvature and scar tissue in the penis), pre-term labor contractions, pruritus (itching), rabies, sexual function in women, stomach motility disorders, stomach ulcers, stress, stroke, supplementation to a low protein diet, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (blood disorder), trauma, ulcerative colitis, vaccine adjunct, vascular disorders.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience side effects.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting a new therapy.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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