The amino acid arginine

Arginine is an amino acid. Amino acids play an important role in the body. They are substances that effect the chemical conversion of food nutrients. With the help of amino acids, the body can ensure that all necessary substances are produced and that all processes run properly. Arginine was discovered in 1886 by the Swiss chemist Ernst Schultze.
NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.


  • What is arginine?
  • What does arginine contain?
  • What does arginine do?
  • Nuts are good for the heart
  • What else can arginine do?
  • L-arginine and OPCs stimulate erection
  • Arginine and cancer


What is arginine?

Arginine is one of the important amino acids for the human body. People create it themselves. In general, it is not necessary to take arginine as a supplement, although it is sold in pill form. An amino acid that the body can produce itself is called non-essential. Essential amino acids are substances that the body cannot produce itself. In some exceptional circumstances, humans cannot produce arginine; it has become an essential amino acid in these cases. Babies cannot yet produce arginine, but they receive arginine through breast or bottle feeding.

Cashew nuts contained arginine / Source: Midori, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

What does arginine contain?

Adults and children can produce arginine and also obtain it through food. Vegetarian foods that contain a lot of arginine are: Dutch cheese, yogurt, milk, wheat flour, buckwheat flour, oatmeal, peanuts, coconut, pecan nuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chickpeas and cooked soybeans. Many types of fish and meat also contain arginine.

What does arginine do?

Many functions are performed by arginine in our body. Arginine plays a crucial role in cell division, wound healing, removing ammonia from the body and in the release of hormones. Arginine is the precursor of nitric oxide. This means that the body makes nitrogen from arginine. Nitrogen plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system. It is a signaling substance. For example, it relaxes the smooth muscle cells in the gastrointestinal tract and the penis. Nitrogen also plays a role in vasodilation or widening of the blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure.

Nuts are good for the heart

For the above reason, studies have been done on the effects of L-ariginine on people with arteriosclerosis. These studies show that people with arteriosclerosis have a positive medical effect from taking arginine as a supplement. It can be added that eating arginine-rich nuts, which contain more healthy substances for the heart and blood vessels, could be an important tool in combating arteriosclerosis and cardiovascular disease in general. Apart from the studies on arginine, other scientific studies show that eating nuts has positive effects on the heart.

What else can arginine do?

Nitrogen repairs broken bone tissue and wound tissue faster. Scientific research also shows that arginine significantly reduces the time in which damaged body tissue recovers. In addition to being a precursor for nitrogen, arginine is also a precursor for urea, which in turn removes nitrogen and ammonia from our bodies. Ammonia is a waste product that is created after various chemical conversions. Arginine produces ornithine, a substance that accelerates the removal of urem and ammonia. The neurotransmitter agmatine is also produced from arginine. Agmatine, in turn, is necessary for the production of creatine, a substance that many know as a supplement in the sports and bodybuilding world. Creatine does indeed help build muscle. Taking creatine as a supplement has some unwanted side effects, such as possible impaired kidney function. Therefore, athletes might choose to consume their creatine in the form of arginine; either by eating wheat, buckwheat, nuts and seeds.

Sunflower seeds contain arginine / Source: GerFes, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

L-arginine and OPCs stimulate erection

L-arginine is used to treat erectile dysfunction. When a group of men with erectile dysfunction only takes arginine, it makes little effect; the combination of arginine and pycogenol, on the other hand, is a well-functioning drug for this condition. After two months of taking arginine and pycagenol daily, the problem is resolved in 92.5% of men with erectile dysfunction, according to scientific research. Pycogenol is a patented Oligomeric ProanthoCyanidin (OPC). OPCs are stronger antioxidants than vitamin C or E. There are OPCs without a patent, which are often found in grape seeds, bilberry leaves and lingonberry leaves, for example. Furthermore, OPCs are often found in apples, chokeberries, cocoa beans, cranberries, blackcurrants and even in green tea and black tea. If you would like to follow the natural route against erectile dysfunction, you can eat one of the above products together with food containing arginine.

Arginine and cancer

Scientific studies have been done on people with trauma and cancer. It turned out that in the years before people had cancer there was in fact an arginine deficiency. This may indicate that the body no longer produces enough arginine. In this context, it is important to note that the cells of the immune system or T cells need arginine to perform their function. Scientists do not yet know exactly how the immune system plays a role in cancer, but it is certainly clear that the immune system plays a crucial role. People who have suffered trauma also produce less arginine and therefore appear to be more susceptible to developing all kinds of diseases.

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