What is Nitric Oxide?
Nitric oxide (NO) has been called the “Molecule of Life”. It’s role in the body is to help maintain, defend, and repair every one of our cells. This is a big job for a molecule that many probably don’t know about. Synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the effects of NO, such as Viagra and Morphine, are well known, however, and have been used extensively in modern medicine. In the last decade, NO has shot up to superstar status, with more than 70,000 papers being published about its beneficial role in patient care. This paper will briefly describe nitric oxide’s role in the body and the Noni plant, a natural source of NO.
One part nitrogen, one part oxygen, nitric oxide is the bodies premiere signaling molecule. Its main role is in controlling blood flow by dilating blood vessels, preventing the blood from clotting. It is also involved in a variety of physiological functions that control blood circulation, inflammation, learning and memory, digestion, and penile erection.
Nitric oxide produced from L-arginine
NO is primarily created from the amino acid, L-arginine. The enzyme, Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) converts L-arginine to L-citrulline (another amino acid), forming NO in the process. L-arginine can be found in the proteins we eat, and most Americans have enough L-arginine in their diets to produce nitric oxide. A few problems, however, can arise from NO derived from L-arginine:
1. NO is produced as a free radical which may cause oxidative damage if not stabilized by hemoglobin.
2. L-arginine also functions in the metabolism of protein, in the detoxifying of ammonia in the body, and promotes the secretion of several hormones. Since NO production is not its only role in the body, it seems preferable for NO to be produced by another method (to be discussed shortly).
3. In people who are sedentary or have chronic illness, NO is not produced in optimal quantities.
4. People who suffer from Type 1 herpes need to be aware that L-arginine can actually feed the virus.
Nitric oxide produced from Nitrates and Nitrites: The Noni connection
NO can also be produced by substances known as nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates and nitrites are converted into NO by our stomach acid. The NO then diffuses through the stomach wall and enters the blood stream to be carried to different parts around the body. Nitrates are found in plants such as green leafy vegetables, and Noni.
Noni is a shrubby evergreen tree that grows wild throughout Southeast Asia. It originated in Polynesia, Micronesia, and the Hawaiian Islands. In both Polynesia and Southeast Asia, the bark, root, leaf, fruit, and flower have been used medicinally for centuries. Other than its NO producing role, it is also high in Vitamin C and other vitamins, potassium, amino acids, minerals, and contains several other compounds with antioxidant properties.
In 1999 and 2000, research by Dr. Thomas Burke revealed that Noni juice produced NO when digested by the body. He tested diluted Noni juice on endothelial cell (cells that line the inner surface of blood vessels) and was amazed to see NO produced as a result. Isolating the mechanism by which Noni works in the body opened the flood gates for many different Noni based products to be released onto the markets.