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Arginine and Herpes

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For many years, scientists believed that arginine was bad for herpes. Recent studies have changed that opinion.

Arginine is a natural amino acid, usually found in nature as L-arginine. Arginine may be considered either an essential or semi-essential amino acid, depending on the body’s health needs.

People who have undergone some kind of stress, such as trauma, surgery, or burns, have a high need for arginine. Under normal conditions, the human body produces enough arginine, and can get any additional arginine from the diet.

Athletes sometimes like to take L- arginine supplements before they work out, because by doing so, energy is freed up for work through nitrous oxide synthesis. Arginine is also necessary to create creatine.

Early studies on arginine for the herpes simplex virus

Back in 1968, the Journal of Virology published a clinical study in which scientists were trying to grow tumor cells under laboratory conditions.

While the scientists could not sustain the growth of the tumor cells, they noted that herpes simplex virus cells did grow under these conditions in some samples, but not others.

The scientists determined to find out why, and discovered that arginine was involved. They found that laboratory specimens containing the herpes simplex virus grew at a normal body temperature of 98.6F (37C).

However, when arginine was replenished, the rate at which the herpes virus grew was reduced. This raised the question of whether arginine deficiency was at play in the spread of the herpes simplex virus.

The lysine- arginine ratio

By 1978, scientists knew that L-lysine had an anti-viral effect on the herpes simplex virus. Through a study published in the medical journal Dermatologica, the scientists determined that a high lysine to arginine ratio suppressed the herpes virus.

Conversely, a high arginine to lysine ratio caused herpes simplex to grow and replicate.

Through this, and another study published in a 1981 issue of Chemotherapy, it was suggested that people with the herpes simplex virus should abstain from arginine supplementation, and take additional L-lysine.

A study performed in 1995 in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of California, Irvine, confirmed the connection between L- arginine and the localized spread of herpes simplex virus type- 1.

Were the scientists wrong about L- arginine?

Fourteen years later, scientists at the University of Tokushima, Japan believed that arginine might actually kill the herpes simplex- 1 virus.

A 2009 clinical study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine revealed that arginine suppressed HSV-1 to a degree. However, the scientists found out that the addition of L- arginine was time sensitive.

Best results occurred when arginine was administered within six hours of an outbreak. 30mm arginine helped to extend the latency period between outbreaks, decrease the amount of blisters, and eliminate the sores almost entirely.

Unfortunately, when arginine was administered eight hours after an outbreak, it was too late to stop the virus.

Later, in a very well-documented laboratory study conducted in July 2011, the Journal of Virology reversed its former opinion, stating that arginine has no effect on the growth of the herpes simplex- 1 virus.


Pubmed.gov, “Effect of Arginine-deficient Media on the Herpes-Type Virus Associated with Cultured Burkitt Tumor Cells,” by Werner and Gertrude Henle. Journal of Virology. 2(3); March 1968.

Pubmed.gov, “A multicentered study of lysine therapy in Herpes simplex infection,” by R.S. Griffith, et al. Dermatologica. 1978;156(5):257-67.

Pubmed.gov, “Relation of arginine-lysine antagonism to herpes simplex growth in tissue culture,” by R.S. Griffith, et al. Chemotherapy. 1981;27(3):209-13.

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