Does L-Arginine Work?

L-arginine is one of several amino acids, or building blocks of protein, found in the human diet. Arginine is classified as an essential amino acid because the body can not produce it; a person must obtain the compound from a balanced diet. Although arginine deficiency is uncommon, many people use it as a component of complementary and alternative medicine.
Before taking L-arginine, you’re likely to ask yourself, “Does arginine work?” The answer will depend entirely on why you want to use the product. It “works” in some capacities but fails miserably in others. Here’s a run-down of the evidence supporting arginine’s most common uses.

What L-Arginine Probably Works For

Arginine supplements appear to be effective as complementary treatments for congestive heart failure, recovery from surgery, angina pectoris, bladder inflammation, weight loss caused by AIDS, erectile dysfunction, and leg pain caused by clogged arteries. Arginine can also prevent digestive tract inflammation in preterm babies. Most of arginine’s benefits are explained by its capacity to dilate (widen) blood vessels, thereby increasing bloodflow throughout the body.

What L-Arginine Might Work For

There isn’t enough evidence to confirm or refute many of the claims traditionally associated with L-arginine. In theory, L-arginine may help to treat sickle cell anemia, female sexual problems, wound healing, breast cancer, neck cancer, male infertility, fatigue, hypertension, diabetic foot ulcers, dementia and migraine. Although arginine is a plausible treatment for all of these conditions, there isn’t yet enough tangible scientific evidence to fully prove or disprove its efficacy.

What L-Arginine Doesn’t Work For

Some of L-arginine’s most common uses have now been disproven. Several well-designed studies have shown that L-argnine works no better than a placebo for preventing heart attacks; it also fails to increase survival rate if it is given immediately after a heart attack. In fact, some studies have shown that it is actually detrimental to heart attack patients. L-arginine is also ineffective for pre-eclampsia, also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). If you want to use L-arginine for these purposes, talk to your health care provider about more viable options.

Visit the National Institutes of Health for more information about L-arginine and its benefits.