Can Arginine Offer Prosexual Effects for Women?

Q I’ve read a lot of ad copy implying that arginine can be beneficial for a woman’s sexuality. What’s the truth of this?

ANNE, New York City

A In a paper published a few years ago, researchers found that, “The localization of NO [nitric oxide] synthase in human clitoral corpus cavernosum [the homologous female tissue to male penile corpus cavernosum] may . . . implicate arginase as a regulator of arginine bioavailability in this tissue . . . .”1 Moreover, arginine is likely to be a mediator of clitoral erection. Since NO synthase is found in human clitoral corpus cavernosum, arginase doubtlessly makes L-arginine bioavailable to NO synthase, which then converts it to citrulline and nitric oxide, and then to ornithine and urea by the arginase pathway. While arginase bioavailability appears to limit NO biosynthesis by removing available arginine from use by the NO synthase, this can be overcome by adequate supplies of extracellular arginine, i.e., taking arginine as a supplement.

The authors also note that an additional factor in the use of arginine is to overcome endogenous competitive inhibitors such as NG-methyl-L-arginine and NG,NG-dimethyl-L-arginine, which can be displaced from the NO synthase active site by highly effective concentrations of arginine.


  1. Kim NN, Cox JD, Baggio RF, Emig FA, Mistry SK, Harper SL, Speicher DW, Morris SM Jr, Ash DE, Traish A, Christianson DW. Probing erectile function: S-(2-boronoethyl)-L-cysteine binds to arginase as a transition state analogue and enhances smooth muscle relaxation in human penile corpus cavernosum. Biochemistry 2001 Mar 6;40(9):2678-88.

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