Arginine Side Effects

Arginine Side Effects

An amino acid that produces nitric oxide, arginine is gaining traction as an energy enhancing, heart-healthy supplement.

According to WebMD, nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation, especially in the heart. The increased blood flow and strength to the heart subsequently bolsters workouts.[1]

But every ingredient comes with risks, and arginine is no exception.

Low Blood Pressure

After examining 11 randomized, double-blind studies, a group of experts concluded 4 g to 24 g arginine lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure.[2]

While arginine’s ability to widen blood vessels and improve circulation is generally regarded as a benefit, large quantities lower blood pressure to the point of harm.

Use with caution if you are already taking blood pressure medication or have naturally low blood pressure.

Asthma and Lung Inflammation

Asthma is a disease where the airway becomes inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. One of the key tests for asthma is excess nitric oxide production, which is produced as an inflammatory response.

According to experts, arginine has “subsequent effects on airway tone and inflammation.”[3] The nitric oxide produced by arginine is believed to increase inflammatory response and aggravate existing breathing problems.

It is not encouraged for those with asthma or other breathing or lung diseases to take supplements containing arginine.


One benefit of arginine is its ability to convert waste in kidneys into urea, a secretion that breaks down nitrogen and ammonia. Gout occurs when uric acid forms crystals in joints and causes moderate to severe pain. With excess arginine, more uric acid is produced, triggering gout.[1][4]

Cold Sores and Herpes

Arginine is a trigger for the herpes simplex virus and increases the risk for cold sores. In one clinical study, a lack of arginine suppressed herpes virus in tested tissue.[5]

Additional Mild Side Effects

The following side effects have been reported repeatedly with arginine use but don’t pose a serious risk to health: headaches, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.[1]


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