Therapeutic Role of Amino Acids and their functions

Data and statistics have made it clear that amino acids are not only the building blocks of life, they are also the stepping stones to recovery from illness. You may (if you haven’t yet) want to review Why Are Amino Acids Called the “Building Blocks of Life?”

Amino acids account for 75% of dry body weight. (Vitamins and minerals account for only 1.5% of dry body weight). Amino acids make up all neurotransmitters. 100% of hormones are made up of amino acids. DNA and RNA, our genetic material, require amino acids.. Amino acids influence every system in the human body and every endocrine gland.

Amino Acids: 
What They Are and How They Keep You Alive and Vibrant

The 20 major amino acids, plus hundreds of minor amino acids keep us alive, vibrant, and healthy. A deficiency in a single amino acid will cause problems for us, and even a single deficiency should be replaced.



ARGI Alanine 
Main Functions:
Essential for normal immune system activity.
Necessary for wound healing.
Assists with regeneration of damaged liver.
Necessary for production and release of growth hormone
Increases release of insulin and glucagon. Arginine is the most potent amino acid in releasing insulin.
Assists in healing through collagen synthesis
Precursor to GABA, an important inhibitory neurotransmitter
Aids in wound healing
Decreases size of tumors.
Necessary for spermatogenesis.
Argini    Deficiencies Seen In:
Immune deficiency syndromes, including CFS and Gulf War Syndrome


Main                 Functions:
Aspartic Acid is interconvertible with Asparagine, and therefore the two amino acids have many functions in common.
Increases stamina.
One of the two main excitatory amino acids, the other being Glutamate (Glutamic Acid).
Helps protect the liver by aiding the removal of ammonia.
Involved in DNA and RNA metabolism.
Involved in immune system function by enhancing immunoglobulin production and anti- body formation.
Aspar    Deficiency Seen In:
Calcium and magnesium deficiencies. Because of this association, low aspartic acid levels should lead the clinician to test for calcium and/or magnesium deficiencies.


Main                 Functions:
Asparagine is made from Aspartic Acid plus ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate).
One of the two main excitatory neurotransmitters. Glutamate, made from glutamic acid, is the other. Among their functions as neurotransmitters, of particular interest is the fact that Aspartic Acid and Asparagine have high concentrations in the hippocampus and the hypothalamus. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays the main role in short-term memory, while the hypothalamus is involved in the biology of emotion, and serves as a neurological gate between the brain and the rest of the nervous system.
Aids in removing ammonia from the body.
May increase indurance and decrease fatigue.
Detoxifies harmful chemicals.
Involved in DNA synthesis.
Probably stimulates thymus gland.


Main Functions:
Cysteine and Cystine are interconvertible. Two molecules of Cysteine make Cystine. Antioxidant. Protective against radiation, pollution, ultra-violet light and other causes of increased free radical production. Natural detoxifier. Essential in growth, maintenance, and repair of skin. Key ingredient in hair. One of the 3 main sulfur-containing amino acids, along with Taurine and Methionine. Major constituent of Glutathione, an important tripeptide made up of Cystine, Glutamic Acid, and Glycine. Precursor to the amino acid Taurine. Precursor to Chondroitin Sulfate, the main component of cartilage
Cysteine/Cystine Deficiency Seen In: 
Chemical Sensitivity
Food Allergy


GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid)
Main Functions:
One of the two main inhibitory neurotransmitters, the other being Glycine.
Glutamic acid is the main precursor of GABA.
Does not easily pass through the blood-brain barrier, which has important clinical implications. Although GABA supplementation is used widely for a calming, sedative effect, there is mixed data indicating that GABA taken orally has much clinical effect. Glutamine, a precursor of GABA, readily passes through the blood-brain barrier and is, therefore, a better supplement to take if one wants to increase brain levels of GABA, since Glutamine, once it is in the brain, converts into GABA. The question of GABA’s clinical usefulness may be a function of its dosage. That is, it appears that only mega doses of GABA have clinical effects.
Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Librium, activate GABA neurons.
GABA activity found in glands controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, namely: pancreas and thymus.
Mega-doses of GABA raise IQ.
Mega-doses may be helpful in treating seizure disorders.
GABA Deficiency Seen In:
Seizure disorders


Main Functions:
Glutamic Acid is a precursor to Glutamine and GABA (2 neurotransmitters).
One of two excitatory neurotransmitters, the other being aspartic acid/asparagine.
Excesses in brain tissue can call cell damage. This is thought to be one of the mechanisms by why strokes kill brain cells; that is through the release of large amounts of Glutamic Acid.
Helps stop alcohol and sugar cravings.
Increases energy.
Accelerates wound healing and ulcer healing.
Detoxifies ammonia in the brain by forming glutamine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, which Glutamic Acid cannot do.
Plays major role in DNA synthesis.


Main Functions:
Precursor to the neurotransmitter GABA. This is a vital function, as GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces serenity and relaxation.
Important glycogenic amino acid, meaning that it is essential for helping to maintain normal and steady blood sugar levels.
Involved with muscle strength and indurance.
Essential to gastrointestinal function; provides energy to the small intestines. The intestines are the only organ in the body that uses Glutamine as its primary source of energy.
Glutamine has the highest blood concentration of all the amino acids.
Precursor to the neurotransmitter amino acid Glutamate (Glutamic Acid).
Involved in DNA synthesis.
Glutamine Deficiency Seen In:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Anxiety and Panic Disorders


Main Functions:
Part of the stucture of hemoglobin.
One of the two main inhibitory neurotransmitters, the other being GABA.
Part of cytochromes, which are enzymes involved in energy production.
Inhibits sugar cravings.
One of the 3 critical glycogenic amino acids, along with serine and alanine.
Involved in glucagon production, which assists in glycogen metabolism.
Glycine Deficiency Seen In:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Viral Infections


Essential – Proteogenic – Glycogenic – Basic Side Chains
Main Functions:
Found in high concentrations in hemoglobin.
Useful in treating anemia due to relationship to hemoglobin.
Has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Precursot to histamine.
Associated with allergic response and has been used to treat allergy.
Assists in maintaining proper blood pH.
Histidine Deficiency Seen In:
Rheumatoid arthritis
Dysbiosis (Imbalance of intestinal bacterial flora).
Special Functions and Predictive Value:
High Histidine levels are associated with low zinc levels. Low Histidine levels are associated with high zinc levels. Thus, abnormal Histidine levels are an indicator that zinc levels should be tested.


Main Functions:
One of the 3 major Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), all of which are involved with muscle strength, endurance, and muscle stamina.
Muscle tissue uses Isoleucine as an energy source.
Required in the formation of hemoglobin.
BCAA levels are significantly decreased by insulin. Translation: High dietary sugar or glucose intake causes release of insulin, which, in turn, causes a drop in BCAA levels. Therefore, right before exercise, it is not wise to ingest foods high in glucose or other sugars, as the BCAA’s, including Isoleucine will not be readily available to muscles.
Isoleucine Deficiency Seen In:
Panic Disorder
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Note: Deficiencies in BCAA in CFS, GWS, FM are associated with muscle weakness, fatigue, and post-exertional exhaustion).
Acute hunger
Kwashiorkor (starvation)


Main Functions:
As one of the 3 branched-chain amino acids (the other 2 being Isoleucine and Valine), Leucine has all of the properties discussed with Isoleucine, as it pertains specifically to the branched-chain amino acid functions.
Potent stimulator of insulin.
Helps with bone healing.
Helps promote skin healing.
Modulates release of Enkephalins, which are natural pain-reducers.
Leucine Deficiency Seen In:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Note: Deficiencies in BCAA in CFS, GWS, FM are associated with muscle weakness, fatigue, and post-exertional exhaustion).
Acute hunger
Kwashiorkor (starvation)
Vitamin B-12 deficiency in pernicious anemia


Main Functions:
Inhibits viral growth and, as a result, is used in the treatment of Herpes Simplex, as well as the viruses associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, such as: Epstein-Barr Virus, CytoMegalo Virus, and HHV6.
L-Carnitine is formed from Lysine and Vitamin C.
Helps form collagen, the connective tissue present in bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints.
Assists in the absorption of calcium.
Essential for children, as it is critical for bone formation.
Involved in hormone production.
Lowers serum triglyceride levels.
Lysine Deficiency Seen In:
Epstein-Barr Virus
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Hair loss
Weight loss


Main Functions:
Assists in breakdown of fats.
Precursor of the amino acids Cysteine (and Cystine) and Taurine.
Helps reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Assists in the removal of toxic wastes from the liver.
One of the sulfur-containing aminos (the others being Cysteine and the minor amino acid, Taurine). The sulfur-containing amino acids act as anti-oxidants which neutralize free radicals.
Helps prevent disorder of hair, skin, and nails due to sulfur and anti-oxidant activity.
Precursor to Carnitine,Melatonin (the natural sleep aid) and Choline (part of the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine).
Involved in the breakdown of Epinephrine, Histamine, and Nicotinic Acid.
Required for synthesis of RNA and DNA.
Natural chelating agent for heavy metals, such as lead and mercury.
Methionine Deficiency Seen In:
Chemical Exposure
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
Vegan Vegetarians


Main Phenylalanine                                  Deficiency Seen In:Functions:
Precursor to Tyrosine, which, in turn, is the precursor to the neurotransmitters: Dopamine and the excitatory neurotransmitters Norepinephrine and Epinephrine.
Precursor to the hormone, Thyroxine.
Enhances mood, clarity of thought, concentration, and memory.
Suppresses appetite.
Major part of collagen formation.
While the L-form of all of the other amino acids is the one that is beneficial to people, the D and DL forms of Phenylalanine have been useful in treating pain.
DL-Phenylalanine is useful in reducing arthritic pain.
Powerful anti-depressant.
Used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.
      Deficiency Seen In: Functions
Parkinson’s Disease


Main Functions:
Critical component of cartilage , and hence health of joints, tendons and ligaments.
Involved in keeping heart muscle strong.
The main precursor to Proline is Glutamate.
Secondary precursor to Proline is Ornithine (minor amino acid).
Works in conjunction with Vitamin C in keeping skin and joints healthy.


Main Functions:
One of the 3 most important glycogenic amino acids, the others being alanine and glycine.
Critical in maintaining blood sugar levels.
Boosts immune system by assisting in production of antibodies and immunoglobulins.
Myelin sheath (the fatty acid complex that surrounds the axons of nerves is derived from serine. One variation of Serine namely Phosphotidyl Serine, a minor amino acid serves several important functions within the central nervous system, including development of the myelin sheath. Multiple Sclerosis is one of the so-called “De-myelinating Diseases.”
Required for growth and maintenance of muscle.
The amino acid Glycine is a precursor to Serine and the two are interconvertible.
Serine Deficiency Seen In:
Total body gamma and neutron irradiation


Main Functions:
Required for formation of collagen.
Helps prevent fatty deposits in the liver.
Aids in production of antibodies.
Can be converted to Glycine (a neurotransmitter) in the central nervous system.
Acts as detoxifier.
Needed by the GI (gastrointensinal) tract for normal functioning.
Provides symptomatic relife in ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
In laboratory experiments with animals, Threonine increases thymus weight.
Threonine is often low in depressed patients. In that group of patients, Threonine is helpful in treating the depression.
Threonine Deficiency Seen In:
Muscle Spasticity
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)


Main Functions:
Precursor to neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine (adrenaline) and melanin.
Effective anti-depressant for norepinephrine-deficient depressions. Tyrosine is preferred over Phenylalanine, which is also a precursor to all of the above neurotransmitters. Phenylalanine is one step removed from the metabolic process, and can aggravate high blood pressure.
Precursor to thyroxine and growth hormone.
Increases energy, improves mental clarity and concentration.
Requires pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P) a form of vitamin B6 to be converted into norepinephrine. P5P deficiency will lower norepinephrine levels, even if Tyrosine levels are normal.
Tyrosine Deficiency Seen In:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Gulf War Syndrome
Parkinson’s Disease
Drug addiction and dependency

Main Functions:
One of the 3 major Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) . . .the other 2 being leucine and isoleucine . . . all of which are involved with muscle strength, endurance, and muscle stamina.
BCAA levels are significantly decreased by insulin. High dietary sugar or glucose intake causes release of insulin, which, in turn, causes a drop in BCAA levels.
Competes with Tyrosine and Tryptophan in crossing the blood-brain barrier. The higher the Valine level, the lower the brain levels of Tyrosine and Tryptophan. One of the implications of this competition is that Tyrosine and Tryptophan nutritional supplements need to be taken at least an hour before or after meals or supplements that are high in branched chain amino acids.
Actively absorbed and used directly by muscle as an energy source.
Not processed by the liver before entering the blood stream.
Any acute physical stress (including surgery, sepsis, fever, trauma, starvation) requires higher amounts of Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine that any of the other amino acids.
During period of Valine deficiency, all of the other amino acids (and protein) are less well absorbed by the GI tract.
Valine Deficiency Seen In:
Neurological deficit