Using L-Arginine for Erectile Dysfunction: Does it Work?

September 27, 2021

With so many men dealing with erectile dysfunction – an estimated 30 million in the United States alone – the internet is rife with information on how to treat it. Some is great, some not-so-great.

While we have definitive and conclusive evidence about some treatments being effective – chief among them the oral ED medicationsnew research continues to emerge on alternative options, many of which have been used for centuries by native people.

One of the most popular thoughts is that L-Arginine may be able to help treat erectile dysfunction — here’s why.

What Is L-Arginine?

L-Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid that operates as a chemical building block for the body. It's required to naturally produce some proteins. 

Another critical aspect of L-Arginine is as an immediate precursor to nitric oxide (NO) and is often converted directly into this critical substance. Nitric oxide is important to the circulatory system, as it can expand and dilate blood vessels in order to improve blood flow throughout the body. 

Along with these critical features, L-Arginine also plays a role in stimulating the release of various growth hormones, regulating insulin, repairing wounds and burns, improving the results of exercise, and helping the kidneys to remove waste. 

While L-Arginine is typically obtained from various foods, it can also be synthesized for use as a supplement or medicine. These synthetic versions may come as oral medications, injections, or topical creams. So what are they good for?

What Does L-Arginine Treat? 

Due to the fact that L-Arginine can greatly increase nitric oxide, it is commonly used as a treatment for various issues related to the circulatory or cardiovascular system. 

Some of the more common issues include:

  • Angina (severe chest pain)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Insulin sensitivity (blood sugar regulation)
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (infantile disease in the intestines) 
  • Peripheral arterial disease (poor blood flows to the limbs)
  • Pre eclampsia (complication during pregnancy)

It’s important to note that while these issues are treated with L-Arginine, other medications are prescribed alongside it.

Using L-Arginine alone will likely not be enough to completely address any of these health problems.

Can L-Arginine Treat Erectile Dysfunction?

The answer to this question is complex, as there are no clear and definitive research studies with a great final conclusion; however, plenty of research has been done, and some results do suggest L-Arginine can help treat ED. 

Nitric oxide (NO) is a crucial component of an erection. It is one of the key stimulating compounds in the erection process at the penis, stimulating cyclic GMP (cGMP), another signaling molecule that leads to the relaxation of smooth muscles in the penis. NO is released during the stimulation and arousal process.

Anything that increases NO levels can theoretically help an erection.

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L-Arginine is an immediate precursor to nitric oxide, and it stands to reason that higher levels of NO can result in a greater expansion and dilation of blood vessels in the penis. This can lead to more blood flowing into the penis and creating an easier, faster, harder erection. 

Among the studies on this topic:

  • One study demonstrated that levels of L-Arginine were lower in men experiencing erectile dysfunction than those who experienced no such difficulties. However, the authors also suggested that L-Arginine may only be an effective treatment in men with this deficiency and would not work in men with already normal levels. 
  • A meta-review of several studies on L-Arginine found some interesting results. In cases of mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, individuals treated with L-Arginine experienced a normal erection at a rate of 8.3%. While this is not particularly high or inspiring as a treatment, those receiving a placebo experienced a normal erection at a rate of only 2.3%. L-Arginine may help, at least in some small way, with erectile dysfunction. These authors concluded: "The analysis demonstrated that arginine supplements with dosage ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 mg significantly improved ED compared with placebo or no treatment."
  • One of the more interesting studies on L-Arginine showed that it has a significant effect on erectile dysfunction when combined with pycnogenol, a compound composed of several natural ingredients. During this study, 40 men between the ages of 25 and 45 were tested over the course of three months. For the first month they received medication containing 1.7 grams of L-Arginine daily. Starting in the second month, the participants were given 40 mg of pycnogenol twice daily, along with the L-Arginine. The last month saw the pycnogenol dose increase to three times daily. At the end of the first month only 5% of the men reported experiencing a normal erection; however, during the second month, when the pycnogenol doses were introduced, the rate jumped up to 80% and by the end of the third month it was 92.5%. 

Which Foods Have the Most L-Arginine? 

With most diets, it's fairly easy to get enough L-Arginine through food. It may be difficult for those with specific allergies or a vegan diet, but in this case daily supplements should be more than enough to reach healthy levels. 

These are some of the foods that have the highest concentrations of L-Arginine:

  • Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Legumes such as soybeans and chickpeas
  • Meat including turkey, pork loin, chicken, and beef
  • Nuts including walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts
  • Seeds including pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and watermelon
  • Whole grains including oats, corn, buckwheat, and brown rice

What Are the Risks of L-Arginine? 

When taken as part of your diet, excess L-Arginine is often eliminated through urination, but it is possible to take too much in the form of a supplement. 

Talk with your doctor about the potential risks and dosage before using L-Arginine, as too much may result in the following side effects:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergies
  • Bloating
  • Blood abnormalities
  • Decreased sensitivity to insulin
  • Diarrhea
  • Gout
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Inflammation in airway
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Worsening of asthma

In addition to these side effects, L-Arginine can make heartburn and ulcers worse, as well as intensify the symptoms of herpes or cold sores. It may also have a negative interaction with blood pressure medications, diabetes, or erectile dysfunction medications. 

What Are Other Ways To Treat Erectile Dysfunction? 

While it’s clear that there is some connection between L-Arginine and erectile dysfunction, there is little precise evidence that it alone will help improve erections for all men. Fortunately, other treatment options are available.

PDE5 Inhibitors 

The first, most effective, and most popular treatments for erectile dysfunction are the oral medications classified as PDE5 (phosphodiesterase type 5) inhibitors. These drugs, including Viagra®, Cialis®, and Levitra®, all help to improve erectile function by expanding the blood vessels and relaxing the muscles of the penis, similar to the effects of nitric oxide. 

By increasing blood flow into the penis and limiting the amount of blood that exits, these drugs help to overcome the various physical conditions that prevent erections. These drugs are prescription only and do have side effects as well as the potential for negative interactions with other medications. 

Vacuum Pumps 

For those that cannot take PDE5 inhibitors due to a health concern or personal choice, vacuum pumps may be a compelling option. These devices consist of a long cylinder that comes with a hand operated or battery powered vacuum pump device. 

The penis is inserted into the cylinder, which creates a seal against the base of the penis. Once secured, you then operate the vacuum pump and remove all air in the tube. This will result in a vacuum within the tube and increased bloodflow to the penis. 

After a few minutes you should be able to achieve an erection. You then purge the vacuum and remove the cylinder, while slipping a constriction band onto your penis. This ring will help reduce the amount of blood escaping from the penis and sustain the erection. The band should only stay on for 30 minutes or less as any time longer could result in damage. 

Lifestyle Changes 

Making a few lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the frequency and severity of erectile dysfunction. Erections are a complicated chemical chain reaction in the body – just one issue can result in challenges, and a variety of common medical conditions can contribute to the development of ED. Diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and obesity are all commonly associated with ED.

Lifestyle changes can help, and they may even fix the root cause of erectile dysfunction. Some of these changes include:

  • Getting more exercise. 30 minutes of light cardio every day to get your heart pumping is enough to increase cardiovascular health — think walking or yoga.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Replacing salty foods and saturated fat with more fruits and vegetables can help keep blood pressure low. 
  • Getting more sleep. The body needs time to rest and heal. Aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
  • Cut out bad habits. Smoking tobacco is dangerous for every system in your body, including your reproductive organs. Alcohol, in excess, is another bad habit that can cause damage to sexual organs. 

The Takeaway:

L-Arginine may be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, particularly in mild cases and in those with deficiencies, but the supplemental dose required is not perfectly understood. While it’s possible that it may help in some ways, it’s not a commonly recommended treatment for erectile dysfunction. PDE5 inhibitors remain the treatment of choice for most medical professionals and guys who try them.

Using prescription ED medications are the fastest path to a rock-hard erection, and for guys who are healthy enough to take them, they can be remarkably effective. 

Curious? Rex MD helps guys get ED meds from the comfort of home, prescribed online by licensed clinicians and delivered to your door if approved. Click here to get started.

SOURCES

The Potential Role of Arginine Supplements on Erectile Dysfunction: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis

Arginine | C6H14N4O2 - PubChem

Therapeutic Benefits of l-Arginine: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses.

Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction with Pycnogenol and L-arginine

Levels of l‐arginine and l‐citrulline in patients with erectile dysfunction of different etiology


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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.