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Nitric Oxide, L-arginine, And Sexual Health

By Dan Hammer

This article will show you how nitric oxide (a dangerous free radical) and L-arginine (an essential amino acid) are critical components to your sexual health. In fact, good sexual health would be impossible, at least for humans, without these two necessary molecules.

Location, Location, Location!In conventional business your location can make all the difference in whether you thrive or fail. The same can be said for nitric oxide (NO).


Outside the body, nitric oxide is considered an environmental pollutant.

It is found in the exhaust fumes of cars. It will react with oxygen to produce smog increasing the risk of asthma. When nitric oxide is discharged into the atmosphere from power plants, it reacts with oxygen to create the corrosive gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This is converted to nitric acid which, when it rains, it is commonly called “acid rain.” Canada and America had intense negotiations to curb this environmental pollutant because it was poisoning our natural resources.


Inside the body, nitric oxide is an extremely reactive and potentially dangerous free radical.

Most aging (ageing) experts would say that free radical damage at the cellular level is the leading cause of aging. Thus, it was with great skepticism from the scientific community, when nitric oxide was identified as the most important signaling molecule in the body. A signaling molecule that positively impacted a wide range of functions, especially for the cardiovascular system!


Nitric Oxide as a Biological Signaling MoleculeFor this section of the article I will refer to nitric oxide in bold caps as NO. The discovery of NO is a fascinating journey. I will only highlight some of the key points:

The irony of history, and the discovery of NO, can be found in the life of Alfred Nobel.

Alfred Nobel created his fortune from the selling of explosives that utilized nitroglycerin. When he saw his industrial use of nitroglycerin used for war, he established the Nobel Peace Prize to help ease his regrets for creating dynamite. Two months before his death in December of 1896, Nobel wrote the following to a colleague:

“Isn’t it the irony of fate that I have been prescribed nitro-glycerin, to be taken internally! They call it Trinitrin, so as not to scare the chemist and the public.”

Alfred Nobel suffered from angina. Physicians of his day knew that nitroglycerin, when properly diluted, would provide effective relief. The secret of nitroglycerin’s relationship with NO would not emerge until the 1970s. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Robert Furchgott, Ferid Murad and Louis Ignarro for their discoveries in how NO regulated the muscle tone of blood vessels in the cardiovascular system. The journey to this Nobel Prize includes the following important milestones:

• In 1977 Ferid Murad demonstrated that NO relaxed smooth muscle.
• In 1979 Louis Ignarro found that bubbling NO near an isolated artery caused a relaxation response.
• In 1980 Robert Furchgott discovered that the endothelial cells, which form the lining of blood vessels, released a signaling factor. This signaling factor relaxed the muscle cells of the blood vessel. Furchgott called this signaling factor EDRF.
• It wasn’t until 1987 that Salvador Moncada and Louis Ingarro independently published chemical evidence that EDRF was NO. In the same year, Salvador Moncada clearly showed that NO was made by the endothelial cells. 
• In 1988, Salvador Moncada clearly demonstrated that blood vessels make NO from L-arginine.

The Benefits of Nitric Oxide (NO)Much has since been learned about NO and its effects in the body. Research continues to show how this potentially harmful gas is intricately involved in so many biological functions. For example:

• NO regulates the muscle tone of blood vessels to have a major impact on controlling blood pressure. 
• NO causes penile erections by dilating blood vessels. 
• NO stops blood platelet cells from grouping together in a clot to help prevent blockages in the blood vessels. 
• NO controls the action of almost every orifice from swallowing to defecation. 
• NO helps the immune system fight viral, bacterial and parasitic infections as well as tumors. 
• NO transmits messages between nerve cells. 
• NO seems to be associated with the process of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and maybe even depression. 
• NO has been shown to be a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism.

Nitric oxide, synthesized from the essential amino acid L-arginine, in literally involved in all cells to help keep you fit and healthy. In 1992, the cover of Science declared NO to be its “Molecule of the Year!” Even pundits have given NO its own slogan:

NO sex; NO wonder; NO way!

Nitric Oxide Synthesis or NOSThe creation of nitric oxide (NO) from L-arginine depends on a family of enzymes called nitric oxide synthesis or NOS. To date, three forms of the NOS enzyme have been found:

• One is in the endothelial cells of arteries and veins.
• One is in the brain.
• One is in the immune system.

Each has a specific function. Without going into a lot of detail, let’s briefly look at each one.

The NOS enzymes in the endothelial cells create NO.

However, when the endothelial cells are damaged by high blood pressure, high sugar levels, cholesterol and other lipid deposits, and smoking this decreases NO production leading to a whole host of health and wellness issues.

The NOS enzymes in the brain and central nervous system are found throughout both organs.

This suggests that they are involved in almost every brain function. When improperly regulated they can have significant health issues. Too much production of NO can destroy brain cells since it is a dangerous free radical. Too little production of NO may affect memory.

The NOS enzymes in the immune system create NO to help macrophages destroy bacteria and cancer cells.

Current research shows that the NO molecule will destroy many organisms that are difficult to kill by any other means.

This relationship between NOS and NO led to the ingenious creation of the drug Viagra. But before we talked about sexual health we need to look at L-arginine.

L-arginine & It’s Benefits

L-arginine is an essential amino acid found in foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, and other proteins. When isolated and properly brought into the body, L-arginine has the ability to produce some remarkable results. As we saw in the previous section, the scientific community validated the remarkable properties of L-arginine with the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Scientists refer to L-arginine as The Miracle Molecule!

Columbia University refers to L-arginine as the “MAGIC BULLET” for the cardiovascular system.

Columbia’s researchers have compiled over 10,000 citations and even include L-arginine in its course material. Research suggests the following benefits:

• Stimulates growth hormone for anti aging benefits. 
• Counters heart disease and aids in blood pressure regulation. 
• Improves insulin sensitivity to help normalize blood sugar. 
• Bolsters the immune system, boosts energy, and increases lean muscle. 
• Precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO).
• Promotes reproductive health.
• Natural alternative for Viagra.
• Increases sperm count and motility by 250% in 2 weeks.
• Achieves and maintains erections.
• Increases fertility and orgasm in women.

It needs to be emphasized that L-arginine is not a hormone and it is not testosterone.

L-arginine is an essential amino acid. When properly brought into the body it can cross the blood-brain barrier to signal the hypothalamus to naturally trigger the pituitary gland to produce growth hormone. This is the key to eliminating any negative side effects.

L-arginine and Its Dark Side!

Because of its huge potential to aid people, L-arginine supplements have populated the shelves of many health food stores, pharmacies and websites. Now, before you go out and start buying L-arginine supplements you need to be aware of the dark side of this amino acid. L-arginine ingested in its pure form tastes terrible. It will simply go into the stomach, then into the intestinal tract and gut negating must of its benefits. By itself L-arginine can also have some serious side effects like:

• Increasing free radical brain damage.
• Activation of the herpes simplex virus.
• Reduced sperm motility.

That is why L-arginine is also called “the double-edged sword.”

Because the L-arginine molecule is a blind amino acid it must be attached to a rider. This rider will properly direct it to the area in the body where it will have an impact. To be effective, L-arginine must utilize a low-glycemic method. Research has shown that high-glycemic ingredients like maltodextrin, sucrose, table sugars, dextrose, glucose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and fruit juice interfere with L-arginine absorption.

There are also agents or antagonists that directly compete with L-arginine to block its health benefits. These antagonists include lysine, ornithine, proteins, amino acids, high glycemic sugars, synthetic sweeteners, and ingredients and flavor systems made with high glycemic ingredients.

The amount of L-aginine consumed is also important. A daily dose of 5 grams of elemental, pharmaceutical-grade L-arginine will provide cardiovascular benefits and nitric oxide production.

So what is the bottom line to all of this? You need to use caution when choosing an L-arginine supplement. Ask questions like:

• Does it contain high glycemic ingredients to improve taste? 
• Does it use direct antagonists that will block its health benefits? 
• Do the methods of consumption follow the guidelines for making L-arginine available for the body? 
• Who is the L-arginine researcher behind the product?
• What is their level of expertise in product design?
• Are there any documented studies to show the effectiveness of the product you are considering?

Proper answers to all of these questions will help you find an L-arginine product that will have a profound and positive effect on your overall health and wellness.

Sexual Health

The sexual and reproductive health benefits of proper L-arginine consumption have been demonstrated in several studies. In a double blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, oral ingestion of L-arginine increased fertility in women attempting to conceive. This study only included women who had failed to conceive after trying for 6 to 36 months. At the end of this clinical study, 33% of the women using L-arginine actually became pregnant.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 50% of the male population over the age of 40. As men age there is a decreased arterial blood flow to the genital area. When properly taken, L-arginine can enhance testosterone availability, increase blood flow to the genital area, increase sperm count and motility, increase sexual desire, and heighten sensitivity in both men and women.

We have already looked at the natural relationship between L-arginine and NO. Nitric oxide researchers believe that NO “can correct up to 90% of all penile dysfunction.” Leading NO researcher, Dr. Arthur Burnett, a Johns Hopkins urologist, stated that NO is the chemical messenger that produces erections and without NO there could be no natural erections. NO also increases orgasm in women because NO allows clitoral and vaginal tissues to enlarge and become responsive.


Good sexual health has several biological components to it. As we have seen in this article, L-arginine and nitric oxide are critically important to good sexual health. Since it is an essential amino acid, your diet needs to include protein sources and/or supplements that contain this amino acid.

Equally important is the care of your endothelial cells in the blood vessels of your body. Damage to these endothelial cells will affect your sexual health and the health of your body. High blood pressure, high sugar levels, high cholesterol levels and smoking all affect your endothelial cells in a negative way. This will decrease nitric oxide production leading to a whole host of health and wellness issues. Maybe a better slogan for the pundits might be: No NO, No Sex!

Until next time, may we both age youthfully!

Author's Bio: 

Dan Hammer has a background in biology, chemistry and exercise physiology. He used to run one of the largest health club operations in the Chicagoland area and has been helping people with their wellness issues for more than 25 years. His website provides current information on how to slow down the aging process.

The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contain in this website and posted articles have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.



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