Most of the known cardiovascular effects of L-arginine are exerted via its conversion to nitric oxide by nitric oxide synthase. Accumulating evidence indicates that supplemental administration of L-arginine is sufficient to restore endothelium-derived nitric oxide production in many disorders in which endothelium-derived nitric oxide production is altered. L-arginine may enhance nitric oxide production by competing as a substrate with an endogenous antagonist for nitric oxide synthase. In other cases, L-arginine may act by competing with molecular oxygen as a substrate so as to reduce the production of superoxide anion. It is likely that other mechanisms exist by which the nitric oxide synthase pathway can be perturbed. Regardless of the mechanism, a wide array of cardiovascular disorders characterized by endothelial dysfunction are reversible by L-arginine.