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Polyamines are compounds that don’t really get a whole lot of attention in the bodybuilding community. Polyamines are breakdown products of amino acids that have biological functions much like HMB, as mentioned in this month’s column.Polyamines have many functions ranging from acting as neurotransmitters, affecting gene expression, and controlling cell division.

Agmatine is a polyamine formed by the decarboxylation of the amino acid arginine. Arginine plays an important role in the production of the pump-igniter nitric oxide. Agmatine can reduce nitric oxide production by inhibiting the enzyme nitric oxide synthase.1 It almost makes sense that when arginine breakdown products like agmatine are high that the body would inhibit further arginine breakdown by inhibiting nitric oxide synthase. Thus, probably not the greatest supplement to take for a bodybuilder trying to get a pump.

However, agmatine may have some neurologic and endocrine effects that could be beneficial to you. In a blinded, randomized, control trial, supplementation with nearly three grams of agmatine for 14 days improved symptoms of nerve impingement from a herniated disk in the low back.2 Although recent studies suggest that high doses of agmatine are safe, higher dose treatments led to nausea and moderate diarrhea.2,3

Probably more beneficial to you would be agmatine’s modulation of stress and pituitary hormones. Agmatine appears to be synthesized in the brain in response to stress, and produces a calming effect in a number of animal studies.4 Agmatine also has the ability to stimulate LH release (the hormone that stimulates testosterone release) from the pituitary in animal studies.5

Something to keep an even closer eye on is the production of “agmatine analogs.” Arginine has long been known to boost growth hormone when given intravenously. Derivatives of agmatine are being explored as potential drugs for stimulating the release of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH).6 New GHRH analogs made from agmatine could be a great way to boost growth hormone and IGF-1. Stay tuned.


1. Galea E, et al. Inhibition of mammalian nitric oxide synthases by agmatine, an endogenous polyamine formed by decarboxylation of arginine. Biochem J 1996, May 15;316 ( Pt 1):247-9.