If amino acids, as a class of molecules, are the building blocks of life, then arginine, the most versatile of them all, is the bedrock on which the foundation of life depends. Without its support, everything would come tumbling down. But with enough arginine, you can trigger your own, internal biochemical resources of mental and physical power for enhanced vitality and youthfulness.

For starters, arginine helps release growth hormone (GH) naturally, the rejuvenating benefits of which have been extensively reported in the scientific and popular media. Your body releases GH easily throughout childhood and early adulthood, but this crucial process slows down as you age. For over 30 years, scientific researchers concerned with the natural release of GH from the pituitary gland have selected arginine as a primary focus of their investigation, because it plays a key role in the regulatory mechanism that governs this process. GH release is pulsatile, delivering the right quantities at the right times to serve the body's changing needs.

The metabolic advantages of the growth hormone system are compromised when - instead of taking arginine, the most tested GH releaser - a person takes GH directly in either synthetic or natural form, either orally or by injection. Unfortunately, the use of GH has become quite popular despite the fact that the study findings are mixed; for example, injecting GH may reduce insulin effectiveness. Furthermore, the direct use of GH does not provide the benefits of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide, for which arginine is the primary precursor.

Arginine is the primary source of the nitrogen that results in production of the important biomolecule nitric oxide (NO), for discoveries about which a Nobel Prize was recently awarded.1 Through its impact on vasodilation, NO has been found to play a vital role in sexual function. In the cardiovascular system, it operates as a signal molecule; in the nervous system it acts as a weapon against infections, as a regulator of blood pressure, and as a gatekeeper of blood flow to different organs. It also helps prevent the formation of thrombi (blood clots, which can obstruct blood vessels).

In the immune system, NO helps defend the body against invading bacteria2 and parasites.3 In the brain, where it is formed in nerve cells, it diffuses in all directions, activating all cells in the vicinity, thus modulating many functions, including behavior and gastrointestinal transit flow. The release of NO is absolutely essential for motor learning in the cerebellum (coordination), and it also appears to be necessary for long-term potentiation in the brain, which is the mechanism involved in long-term memory. NO is now also thought to be important in our olfactory (smelling) sensations and our capacity to identify different scents.

Free arginine has been shown to help prevent a destructive process known as cross-linking, which is associated with accelerated aging.4 Excessive cross-linking reactions inevitably damage the kidneys, necessitating dialysis in advanced age.

Life Enhancement offers several products containing arginine, each with a different focus.

  • One product was designed by (and is used every day by) Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®, authors of the 2.5-million-copy bestseller, Life Extension. They were the first to widely proclaim the virtues of arginine used in combination with choline and vitamin B5. They have combined these nutrients into a delicious drink mix to help restore youthful function to your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are responsible for the production and natural release of human growth hormone. This formula not only enhances muscle mass, bone density, and muscle tone, it also helps with cardiovascular support and improves immune function, sexual function, memory function, and more.
  • Mainly targeting sexual enhancement, another formulation contains arginine for NO production, coenzymated vitamin B12 for energy, and niacin for prolonged orgasm. NO has been found to be intimately involved in the initiation of erection by dilating the penile arteries. It has a similar effect in women, causing clitoral and vaginal tissues to become more sensitive and responsive. This product has many devoted users.
  • Designed by Dr. Jonathan Wright, still another product is an overall health supplement for the special problems of men. It contains arginine, saw palmetto, ginseng, stinging nettle, ashwagandha, muira puama, and much more. One of its principal goals is the conservation and optimization of testosterone use.
  • Also containing arginine is a cognitive enhancer: a vinpocetine, arginine, and ascorbyl palmitate powerhouse. Vinpocetine enhances glucose and oxygen delivery in the brain, thus providing neuroprotective benefits while increasing long-term memory - as does arginine, with which it is probably synergistic. Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C, which plays a major role in protecting the high-fat-content brain tissue from oxidative damage.
  • Finally, there is a skin moisturizer, another Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw product, which provides virtually unheard-of structural and functional improvements. Among its many ingredients is arginine, in a special form that makes it useful to help protect the skin from damage and to hasten wound healing.5,6 Curiously, NO is thought to explain, in part, arginine's ability to maintain proper protective and healing functions for the skin.

We are, in a manner of speaking, living in the age of arginine. Since its discovery over one hundred years ago - in the protein structure of animal horn, coincidentally - we have learned that arginine is an absolutely vital nutrient. We at Life Enhancement, who are more sensitive to the developments of the nutrient technologies, have been quick to apply the findings. Our debt is not only to the Nobel laureates Drs. Furchgott, Ignarro, and Murad, who won the prize for their work in unraveling the mechanisms of nitric oxide, but to the unsung heroes such as Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, who paved the way for arginine users to be winners too, of the prize of a fuller and better life.


  • Ignarro LJ. Endothelium-derived nitric oxide: actions and properties. FASEB J 1989 Jan;3(1):31-6.
  • Beaumier L, Castillo L, Yu YM, Ajami AM, Young VR. Arginine: new and exciting developments for an "old" amino acid. Biomed Environ Sci 1996 Sep;9(2-3):296-315.
  • Rockett KA, Awburn MM, Rockett EJ, Cowden WB, Clark IA. Possible role of nitric oxide in malarial immunosuppression. Parasite Immunol 1994 May;16(5):243-9.
  • Radner W, Hoger H, Lubec B, Salzer H, Lubec G. L-arginine reduces kidney collagen accumulation and N-epsilon-(carboxymethyl)lysine in the aging NMRI-mouse. J Gerontol 1994 Mar;49(2):M44-6.
  • Hansbrough JF, Herndon DN, Heimbach DM, Solem LD, Gamelli RL, Tompkins RG. Accelerated healing and reduced need for grafting in pediatric patients with burns treated with arginine-glycine-aspartic acid peptide matrix. RGD Study Group. J Burn Care Rehabil 1995;16:377-87.
  • Schaffer MR, Tantry U, van Wesep RA, Barbul A. Nitric oxide metabolism in wounds. J Surg Res1997;71:25-31