First discovered in herring sperm in 1910, agmatine (Agm) was later found to increase blood flow in rabbits, and in the 1920s it was found to lower blood sugar.
The importance of Agm was not well known until the 1990s when it was discovered that mammals have systems for producing this poorly understood substance, and further research began to identify some of its actions.
Agm is not technically a neurotransmitter because no specific "Agm receptors" have ever been discovered. It is termed a neuromodulator because it does activate the the receptors that are normally associated with other neurotransmitters.
It does have significant influences on multiple neurotransmitter systems by activating a variety of receptors at several locations.
Agm is a metabolite of Arginine which is a well known essential amino acid that is advertised to body builders and athletes for building muscle.
Sometimes called the "Holy Grail of Supplements" it is advertised to:
Build muscle faster
Help lower blood pressure
Regulate insulin release
Increase testosterone levels
Decrease glucose transformed into fat
Image thanks to robbden via Wikimedia Commons
Agm and Arginine are available as dietary supplements and they are very popular with many athletes. However, the research is lacking and evidence has always been unclear regarding exactly what it does and how it works.
Early research is starting to demonstrate the benefits of Agm for treating chronic pain in many different ways.
Before we move on:
It is well understood by people who deal with chronic pain that depression and anxiety influence the perception and emotional aspect of the pain experience.
A minor discomfort is magnified by depression and/or anxiety until it becomes an overwhelming force that consumes the life of someone living with chronic pain.
Managing your mental health should always be a part of the pain management strategy when you are living with chronic pain.
Human studies are currently unavailable but research with mice has shown that Agm has antidepressant activity similar to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRI). Prozac and Zoloft are commonly used SSRIs.
In recent animal studies in Europe have demonstrated significant reductions in anxiety with the use of Agm treatments.
Acute and Chronic Pain
Agm has been shown to :
•Relieve pain caused by spinal cord injury, inflammation and neuropathy.
•Control sciatica caused by a lumbar disc
•Make narcotic medications more effective
The research has shown that when Agm is used with narcotic pain medications it makes them more effective for relieving pain.
It has also been demonstrated to prevent the development of
•Tolerance (narcotics become less effective when used consistently)
•Dependence (withdrawal symptoms when a narcotic drug is stopped)
Published in 2013 this review brings together the work of 16 different research groups.
There have been a few clinical trials with humans using Agm, but most of these early studies have been with mice and other lab animals.
It does seem to show the potential for being very useful for treating pain, especially neuropathic pain in the future.