History and Benefits of Nitric Oxide

Since three scientists won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for discovering nitric oxide’s role in cell signaling, nitric oxide has become one of the most researched molecules and medical topics in recent history. However, our understanding of this “miracle molecule” has grown from humble beginnings.


First studied in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, who called it “nitrous air,” nitric oxide was first discovered as a colorless, toxic gas. Unfortunately, the classification of toxic gas and air pollutant continued to be the only labels nitric oxide was afforded until 1987, when it was shown to actually be produced naturally in the body.

The Nitroglycerin Era:

Alfred Nobel, who left one of the world’s most renowned legacies by establishing the Nobel Peace Prizes, actually made his fortune from the manufacture and of nitroglycerin. As early as 1867, Nobel was packaging one of the world’s most explosive substances in a safer, more stable form he called dynamite.

Ironically, by the end of Nobel’s life, nitroglycerine was also known to have positive effects for those suffering from heart conditions. Nobel, himself, was ordered by a doctor to take a dose of nitroglycerin (an order he refused) for some heart problems. It was nearly 100 years later before it was discovered that nitroglycerin’s positive effects are reliant on its release of nitric oxide. Because of its benefits, nitroglycerin is still prescribed by doctors today.

The Miracle Molecule:

By the early 1980’s, scientists had conclusively proven that nitric oxide occurred naturally within the human body. By 1987, nitric oxide’s role in regulation blood pressure and relieving heart conditions was well-established. Two years later, research revealed that nitric oxide is used by macrophages to kill tumor cells and bacteria.

In 1992, nitric oxide was voted “Molecule of the Year” by Science magazine. The importance of nitric oxide became front page news in 1998 when Louis J. Ignerro, Robert F. Furchgott and Ferid Murad were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. These scientists identified nitric oxide as a signaling molecule, opening up a new way of treatment for millions of patients.

As of 2006, more than 70,000 scientific papers have been published on nitric oxide and its role in health and physiology.

Nitric Oxide Uses

Nitric oxide improves blood flow to the tissue, allowing more oxygen, nutrients, and vitamins to be delivered to every cell. As part of its role, nitric oxide is involved in several physiological functions including circulation, nerve communication, learning, memory, digestion and the immune system.

Blood Circulation (High Blood Pressure)

Nitric oxide is used as an effective supplement to help millions of people normalize their blood pressure. Through a process referred to as vasodilation, nitric oxide relaxes and widens blood vessels, which improves blood flow and prevents clotting. Nitric oxide accomplishes this by spreading from the innermost cell layer of the arteries to their underlying muscle cells. Nitric oxide prevents these cells from contracting and helps the arteries stay relaxed and dilated.

According to the National Institute on Aging…    

  • Your circulatory system has more than 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and other vessels if stretched end-to-end
  • Every day, your heart pumps 1,800 gallons of blood through this network
  • In an average lifetime, your heart pumps one million barrels of blood through your circulatory system—enough blood to fill three supertankers.

    But as you age, your blood vessels undergo changes, which may cause them to stiffen, thicken and get clogged.

    In fact, low levels of nitric oxide are associated with arterial stiffness, dangerously high blood pressure and heart problems.

    Nitric Oxide Helps Reduce Pain

    Nitric oxide can replace many drugs that are commonly prescribed for pain relief. Scientific research shows that the pain-relieving effects of medications like morphine, aspirin, and oxycontin are partially due to the release of nitric oxide.

    Nitric Oxide Helps With Weight Loss

    The mitochondria of cells burn fat, generate energy and control cellular metabolism. Nitric oxide not only stimulates the creation of new mitochondria; it is also thought to make each individual mitochondrion larger, which helps burn excess fat, resulting in weight loss.

    Nitric Oxide Increases Energy

    Exercise increases nitric oxide and taking a substance that increases nitric oxide increases the energy to exercise.

    Nitric Oxide Reduces Inflammation

    Nitric oxide inhibits the inflammation that occurs in damaged endothelial cells by preventing them from experiencing further damage or becoming dysfunctional, which is a major cause of tissue damage.

    Nitric Oxide Improves Digestion

    Nitric oxide is heavily involved in the digestive tract. Nitric oxide regulates blood flow to the abdomen, which helps you digest food and keeps the lining of the stomach and intestines undamaged.

    Nitric Oxide And The Immune System

    Nitric oxide acts as a signaling molecule between immune cells, which makes it effective in the fight against infection.

    Nitric Oxide And The Prevention Of Cancer

    White blood cells use nitric oxide to defend against cancerous tumors.  Several studies have proven that nitric oxide can inhibit cancer cells.