By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 10 February 2015)
Lysine and arginine have been studied both individually and together as anxiety remedies.
Lysine (also known as L-lysine) is an amino acid (a protein building block) that people need but can’t manufacture in their own bodies. As an essential amino acid, it must be obtained via food or supplements. Most people get enough lysine from food, though vegans and athletes may suffer deficiencies (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011).
Lysine is found in foods that contain protein. Natural sources of lysine include meat, poultry, certain fish (cod, sardines, etc.), cheese (especially parmesan), eggs, spirulina, and fenugreek seeds. Some lysine is also obtained via dairy products, brewer’s yeast, beans, and nuts.
Arginine (L-arginine) is an amino acid that the body converts into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to dilate, improving blood flow. It also triggers the release of insulin, growth hormone, and other important substances.
According to the Mayo Clinic (2011), there is some evidence that arginine can be used to help with a variety of medical conditions, including chest pain, clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and post-surgical recovery. However, the organization cautions that supplementation may be dangerous for certain heart disease patients. Arginine is also being studied for possible benefits in treating male infertility, boosting the immune system, preventing common colds, speeding wound healing, addressing female sexual problems, and stopping migraine headaches, though more research is required to confirm its effectiveness for these uses.
Arginine is found in protein-rich foods. Dietary sources include meat, poultry, fish, peanuts, soybeans, walnuts, wheat/wheat germ, dairy products, coconut, chocolate, carob, oats, and gelatin.
Studies of Combined Lysine and Arginine for Anxiety
Jesova et al. (2005) studied the effects of lysine and arginine supplementation on the body’s response to stress. They had subjects who scored highly on anxiety measures take lysine and arginine supplements for 10 days and then undergo a stressful procedure – public speaking. They found that these amino acid supplements did indeed modify hormonal responses to stress and reduce anxiety. The researchers suggest that the supplements may normalize hormonal stress responses in anxious people.
According to Smriga et al. (2007), research shows that lysine supplements can reduce chronic anxiety in people who have a relatively low intake of lysine in their diets, and taking lysine and arginine together normalizes hormonal stress responses in those with high trait anxiety. Smriga et al.’s own study of 108 healthy Japanese subjects found that supplementing with lysine and arginine significantly reduced overall anxiety in both men and women, as well as decreasing biological anxiety markers such as salivary cortisol (male subjects only). The study was double-blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized – in other words, a good study.
There are lysine and arginine supplements commercially available. However, arginine supplements have been associated with increased risk of death among those with certain heart conditions (Mayo Clinic, 2011). Also, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (2012) cautions that arginine supplements may cause problems for asthmatics, as well as those with low blood pressure or herpes, and may interact with certain medications.
Appropriate doses of lysine are probably safe for most people, but there are possible health concerns associated with lysine supplementation as well (WebMD, 2015). In particular, WebMD (2015) warns that lysine increases the amount of calcium in the body, which may be a problem for people who also take calcium supplements.
Consult a doctor before taking supplements, particularly if you suffer from a medical condition, take medication, or are pregnant.
Other Natural Anxiety Remedies
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychiatric advice. Medical concerns should be referred to a qualified doctor.
- Balch, P.A. (2006). Prescription for Nutritional Healing. The Penguin Group, New York, NY.
- Jesova, D.; Aikaterini, M.; Smigra, M.; Morinaga, Y.; & Duncko, R. (2005). “Subchronic Treatment with Amino Acid Mixture of L-Lysine and L-Arginine Modifies Neuroendocrine Activation During Psychosocial Stress in Subjects with High Trait Anxiety.” Nutritional Neuroscience, 8(3), 155-160.
- Mayo Clinic. (2011, October 1). “Arginine.” MayoClinic.com.
- Smigra, M.; Ando, T.; Akutsu, M.; Furukawa, Y.; Miwa, K.; & Morinaga, Y. (2007). “Oral Treatment with L-Lysine and L-Arginine Reduces Anxiety and Basal Cortisol Levels in Healthy Humans.” Biomedical Research, 28(2), 85-90.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. (2012, March 14). “L-arginine.” MedlinePlus, NLM.NIH.gov.MedlinePlus.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). “Lysine.” UMM.edu.
- WebMD. (2015). “Lysine.” WebMD.com.