The pharmacokinetics of single intravenous and oral doses of L-carnitine 2 and 6 g was studied in 6 healthy subjects on a low-carnitine diet. Carnitine was more rapidly eliminated from plasma after the 6 g dose. Comparing the doses, the t1/2 beta of the elimination phase (beta) was 6.5 h vs 3.9 h, the elimination constant 0.40 vs 0.50 h-1 and the plasma carnitine clearance was 5.4 vs 6.11.h-1 for the 2 g and 6 g doses, respectively, showing dose-related elimination. Saturable kinetics were not found. The apparent volumes of distribution after the two doses were not significantly different and were of the same order as the total body water. Urinary recoveries of the 2 g and 6 g doses were 70% and 82%, respectively, during the first 24 h. Following the oral doses, there was no significant difference between the areas under the plasma carnitine concentration-time curves. Urinary recovery was 8% and 4% for the 2 g and 6 g doses during the first 24 h. Oral bioavailability was 16% for the 2 g dose and 5% for the 6 g dose. The results suggest that the mucosal absorption of carnitine was already saturated by the 2 g dose.