Overview

L-carnitine is a chemical that is made in the human brain, liver, and kidneys. It helps the body turn fat into energy.

L-carnitine is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement, and many other body processes. The body can convert L-carnitine to other chemicals called acetyl-L-carnitine and propionyl-L-carnitine. But it's not clear whether the benefits of these other carnitines are the same.

L-carnitine is used to increase L-carnitine levels in people whose natural level of L-carnitine is too low. Some people also use L-carnitine for conditions of the heart and blood vessels, serious kidney disease, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

How does it work ?

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Effective for

  • L-carnitine deficiency. Taking L-carnitine by mouth or by IV is effective for treating L-carnitine deficiency caused by certain genetic diseases or other disorders. It's approved by the FDA for this use. IV products can only be given by a healthcare provider.

Possibly Effective for

  • Chest pain (angina). Taking L-carnitine by mouth or by IV seems to improve exercise tolerance in people with chest pain. Taking L-carnitine along with standard treatment also seems to reduce chest pain and improve exercise ability in people with cardiac syndrome X. People with this condition have chest pain but not blocked arteries. IV products can only be given by a healthcare provider.
  • Heart failure and fluid build up in the body (congestive heart failure or CHF). Taking L-carnitine by mouth or by IV seems to improve symptoms and increase exercise ability in people with heart failure. IV products can only be given by a healthcare provider.
  • High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Taking L-carnitine by mouth or by IV can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels by a small amount. IV products can only be given by a healthcare provider.
  • Kidney failure. The FDA has approved giving L-carnitine by IV, but not by mouth, for kidney failure. This can only be given by a healthcare provider.
  • Conditions in a male that prevent a female partner from getting pregnant (male infertility). Taking L-carnitine by mouth, alone or together with acetyl-L-carnitine, increases sperm count and sperm movement in males with fertility problems. Some research shows that this increases the chance of pregnancy.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the heart (myocarditis). Some children who have had diphtheria can develop myocarditis. Taking DL-carnitine by mouth seems to reduce the risk of myocarditis and death in these children.
  • A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). Taking L-carnitine by mouth can increase ovulation and the chance of getting pregnant in people who don't respond to the medication clomiphene. Also, taking L-carnitine might help with weight loss and improving blood sugar levels.
  • Toxic side effects caused by the drug valproic acid. Toxicity caused by valproic acid seems to be linked with L-carnitine deficiency. Taking L-carnitine by mouth or by IV can prevent liver toxicity from valproic acid. IV products can only be given by a healthcare provider.
There is interest in using L-carnitine for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Side Effects

When taken by mouth: L-carnitine is likely safe when taken for up to 12 months. It can cause side effects such as stomach upset, heartburn, diarrhea, and seizures. It can also cause the urine, breath, and sweat to have a "fishy" odor. Avoid using D-carnitine and DL-carnitine. These forms of carnitine might block the effects of L-carnitine and cause symptoms that resemble L-carnitine deficiency.

Special Precautions and Warnings

Pregnancy: There isn't enough reliable information to know if L-carnitine is safe to use when pregnant. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Breast-feeding: Taking L-carnitine is possibly safe when taken by mouth while breast-feeding in the amounts recommended by a healthcare provider. Small amounts of L-carnitine have been given to infants in breast milk and formula with no reported side effects. The effects of large amounts are unknown.

Children: L-carnitine is possibly safe when used appropriately by mouth, short-term. It has been used safely by mouth for up to 6 months.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism): Taking L-carnitine might make symptoms of hypothyroidism worse.

Seizures: L-carnitine seems to make seizures more likely in people who have had seizures before. If you have had a seizure, don't take L-carnitine.

Interactions ?

    Moderate Interaction

    Be cautious with this combination

  • Acenocoumarol (Sintrom) interacts with L-CARNITINE

    Acenocoumarol (Sintrom) is used to slow blood clotting. L-carnitine might increase the effectiveness of acenocoumarol (Sintrom). Increasing the effectiveness of acenocoumarol (Sintrom) might slow blood clotting too much. The dose of your acenocoumarol (Sintrom) might need to be changed.

  • Thyroid hormone interacts with L-CARNITINE

    L-carnitine seems to decrease how well thyroid hormone works in the body. Taking L-carnitine with thyroid hormone might decrease the effectiveness of the thyroid hormone.

  • Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with L-CARNITINE

    Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. L-carnitine might increase the effects of warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.

Dosing

L-carnitine has most often been used by adults in doses of 2 grams by mouth daily. In children, L-carnitine has most often been used in doses of 50-100 mg/kg by mouth daily, for up to one year. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what dose might be best for a specific condition.
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CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2018.