Nitric oxide is a chemical compound that plays an important role as a vasodilator in your body. It is safe and acceptable for both men and women to take nitric oxide under the advisement of a physician. Many people attempt to raise nitric oxide levels by taking a supplement containing the amino acid l-arginine.
Nitric oxide's main function as a vasodilator is to improve your cardiovascular health. By relaxing your arteries and improving blood flow to the heart, you lower your blood pressure. Nitric oxide may also lower your risk for arteriosclerosis, congestive heart failure and angina. This is equally true for women as it is for men. One research review that appeared in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" also found that low nitric oxide levels can lead to hypertension.
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Nitric oxide plays a crucial role in sexual arousal by relaxing smooth muscle tissue in the genitals and allowing them to fill with blood. One small double-blind study showed that yohimbine and arginine, a precursor amino acid to nitric oxide, had mildly positive affects at increasing arousal for postmenopausal women. Research in 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania helped to narrow down one potential enzyme that leads to female sexual dysfunction by inhibiting nitric oxide production, but it is not clear if women taking nitric oxide directly would experience increased arousal.
Eisenmenger syndrome is a serious condition that causes a reversal of blood flow in the left-to-right shunt, and can pose a health risk to women and their babies during pregnancy. One case study that appeared in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" details the treatment of a 27-year-old woman with Eisenmenger syndrome. The woman received nitric oxide treatment for 48 hours during and after delivery. She died, but the physicians on the case state that the nitric oxide did help correct the hypoxemia associated with the condition.
Typical therapeutic doses for l-arginine to raise your nitric oxide level range between 2 g and 8 g per day. However, the New York University Langone Medical Center notes that you should never try to self-treat for serious cardiovascular conditions, and only take l-arginine after speaking with your physician. Additionally, the maximum safe dose of l-arginine is not known for pregnant or nursing women.
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Arginine
- University of Southern California; How Nitric Oxide Maintains Health; Athan Bezaitis; February 2009
- "Journal of the American Medical Association"; Nitric Oxide Deficiency as a Cause of Clinical Hypertension; Gail D. Thomas, Ph.D. et al.; April 2001
- University of Pennsylvania; Study Suggests a Newly Mapped Enzyme Could Yield New Treatments for Female Sexual Dysfunction; June 2003
- “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology”; Favorable Response of Eisenmenger Syndrome to Inhaled Nitric Oxide during Pregnancy; T. Murphy Goodwin, M.D. et al.; 1999