Arginine is an amino acid, produced by the body. It plays an important role in wound healing, immune system function, and the release of hormones. For most people, the body produces all the arginine required for the body to function properly. However, there are situations in which using it as a supplement can be beneficial.
How can it help with erectile dysfunction?
One of the areas in which arginine shows benefit as a supplement is in the treatment of male impotence or erectile dysfunction (ED). It is a common problem among aging men, particularly over the age of 60. ED has a wide variety of causes, including illnesses, side effects from medications and psychological reasons, like stress and depression. It's not uncommon for any man over 40 to experience ED on occasion, but repeated problems may require treatment.
Nitric oxide is an important component in achieving an erection. Higher than normal nitric oxide levels are required for an erection, and the body generally makes nitric oxide during arousal. Drugs like Viagra increase the body's sensitivity to naturally rising nitric oxide levels, helping to improve the body's ability to have and maintain an erection.
Arginine increases the levels of nitric oxide in the body. This means that it may make it easier to get an erection and to maintain it, as well.
What do the arginine studies show?
To date there have only been a few studies on the benefits of arginine in treating erectile dysfunction. One particular study treated 50 men with ED with either 5 grams of arginine or a placebo for a period of six weeks. At the end of the study, more men in the treatment group experienced improvement in sexual function than in the placebo group.
Other studies have suggested that arginine may be an effective short-term treatment for some men, but that it may not hold long term potential for treating impotence. Research has suggested that the body may simply adjust to the higher levels of nitric oxide over time, decreasing the ability to gain an erection from these elevated levels.
Some studies have also suggested that the combination of arginine with other substances may offer more promise in treating ED. Yohimbine, a drug made from the yohimbe herb, may relieve sexual dysfunction if taken 1-2 hours before intercourse, along with arginine. However, yohimbine must be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as the drug has some potential side effects. Finally, arginine combined with pine bark extract has also shown promise in ED treatment.
So is it worth trying?
Though the reviews of arginine are mixed, it is generally a safe supplement for otherwise healthy men. Therefore, there is likely no downside to trying the supplement as a natural way to increase sexual function before resorting to more aggressive treatments.
If you suffer from ED, it is important to talk with your doctor before beginning any treatment plan. Other health issues are often the root cause of ED, and treating the underlying cause will often alleviate the symptoms of impotence, too.
However, there may be many alternative therapies, like arginine, that offer promise in treating ED symptoms without resorting to drug therapies.