Uses, Side Effects, and More

Citrulline, or l-citrulline, is a non-essential amino acid made in the liver and intestine. Some individuals take it as a dietary supplement. It can also be found in foods like watermelon.

Citrulline is an important amino acid for the urea cycle, which helps your body to get rid of harmful substances like ammonia. In the body, L-citrulline is transformed into a different amino acid called L-arginine. This is converted into a chemical called nitric oxide. The nitric oxide then acts as a vasodilator, widening the blood vessels. Citrulline is also said to have an antioxidant effect.

Citrulline is promoted to improve athletic performance and enhance heart health, but the research is limited. This article reviews citrulline’s uses, side effects, dosage, and more about the supplement.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 
However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Citrulline
  • Alternate name(s): 2-amino-5-(carbamoylamino) pentanoic acid, Citrulline malate, L-citrulline, L-citrulline malate
  • Suggested dose: No standard dose
  • Safety considerations: Mostly considered safe; avoid if pregnant or nursing

Uses of Citrulline

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. 

Most research on citrulline supplementation has examined its effects on physical and athletic performance. However, very little scientific evidence supports its use for this purpose.

Recent systematic reviews have shown mixed results.

A meta-analysis of eight studies suggested that supplementing with 6 to 8 grams of citrulline malate (a type of citrulline supplement) 40 to 60 minutes before exercise increased repetitions with lower body resistance exercises compared with the placebo.

However, in another meta-analysis, citrulline malate supplementation did not improve muscle strength in healthy, resistance-trained adults. This systematic review included four studies and 138 assessments.

A recent review of available research on citrulline concluded that insufficient evidence supports the claim that citrulline supplementation improves exercise performance by increasing blood flow. More well-controlled studies are needed.

In short, citrulline may potentially help with certain aspects of physical performance, but the results are too inconsistent to make any recommendations for supplementation for athletes.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that current research does not offer strong enough evidence for taking citrulline or citrulline malate supplements for exercise or athletic performance.

What Are the Side Effects of Citrulline?

Citrulline has been used as an oral (by mouth) supplement for many years without reports of serious safety concerns.

Although citrulline side effects are uncommon, mild symptoms may include:


Similar to most supplements, there is not enough data on the safety of citrulline in pregnant or breastfeeding people. For this reason, it’s best to avoid taking citrulline supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements to be safe.

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage: How Much Citrulline Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs. 

There is no standard recommended dose for citrulline. Studies have used either citrulline or citrulline malate in differing amounts.

In studies, 2 to 5 grams of L-citrulline per day has been used for exercise performance enhancement. Studies have shown that doses of 3 to 6 grams per day of L-citrulline and 8 grams of citrulline malate can be taken with no side effects.

One study discovered that taking up to 15 grams of citrulline was safe and well-tolerated by the study participants.

Overall, using up to 9 grams for one day or 6 grams/per day for up to 16 days caused few safety concerns.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Citrulline?

There is little information available about what could happen if you take too much citrulline.

Generally, it is best to follow the instructions on the product label or ask your healthcare provider how much you should take. Immediately contact a healthcare provider if you start to experience any adverse reactions after taking citrulline.


Supplements may have interactions with prescribed medications. Before starting citrulline, tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any other medicines you take or plan to take, including over-the-counter (OTC) nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, supplements, and plant-based medicines.

The following drugs may interact with citrulline supplements:

  • Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors: PDE-5 inhibitors include drugs for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra (sildenafil). It is suspected that combining citrulline with PDE-5 inhibitors may increase the effects of vasodilation and lowering blood pressure.
  • Antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering) drugs: High blood pressure drugs include Norvasc (amlodipine), Cardizem (diltiazem), and Verelan (verapamil), among others. Because L-citrulline is also thought to have antihypertensive effects, combining it with antihypertensive therapies could theoretically increase the risk of severely low blood pressure. However, studies evaluating citrulline’s effects on blood pressure have produced mixed results.

Other prescription medications could interact with citrulline. Always discuss your supplement use with a healthcare provider.

How to Store Citrulline

Always store supplements according to the manufacturers’ suggestions. Keep them out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental consumption.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which type of melon is known to have the very highest level of citrulline?

    Watermelon, specifically, Crimson Sweet and Dixielee watermelon, has the highest levels of citrulline.

  • Does citrulline increase testosterone?

    Research hasn’t linked citrulline to an increase in testosterone.

  • Can citrulline supplements help to reduce blood pressure?

    Possibly, but there isn’t enough evidence to say yes. Citrulline is converted to arginine in the body, and arginine increases blood flow. Therefore, it is theorized that citrulline could help with blood pressure control.

    Studies have shown that short-term L-citrulline use can lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension (high blood pressure) and those with pre-hypertension. These studies suggest that pharmaceutical-grade L-citrulline helped promote heart health.

    A systematic review and meta-analysis found that L-citrulline supplementation may reduce systolic and possibly diastolic blood pressure, but only in studies that used doses ≥ 6 grams/day. Yet another review and meta-analysis found no beneficial effect of citrulline on blood pressure.

    Your best bet for managing high blood pressure is to discuss a care plan with your healthcare provider that includes evidence-based practices for hypertension, like the DASH diet, weight management, and blood pressure medications. Always discuss any supplements you take with your healthcare provider.

Sources of Citrulline and What to Look For

Citrulline is found in several foods, but watermelon is the most potent source.

Citrulline is also available in supplement form as citrulline or citrulline malate. Understanding the difference between citrulline malate and citrulline supplements can help you decide which one you prefer:

  • L-citrulline is citrulline without any other substance.
  • Citrulline malate is made up of L-citrulline and DL-malate and is 56.64{7b6cc35713332e03d34197859d8d439e4802eb556451407ffda280a51e3c41ac} citrulline by weight.

Citrulline is also added to supplement powders marketed for workouts and weight lifting, which contain many different ingredients. Some products contain creatine or caffeine and large amounts of specific vitamins and minerals.

Dietary supplements, such as citrulline, are not as strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as conventional drugs or foods. It’s important to purchase a product that has been certified by a third-party agency, such as:

  • The U.S. Pharmacopeia
  • NSF International

These organizations evaluate and report on a product’s safety, purity, and potency level.


Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. The body produces citrulline on its own, but it can also be found in foods, like watermelon, and supplement forms.

There has been a lot of interest in citrulline supplementation for improved athletic performance. Despite this, the evidence does not support its routine use for athletes. Currently, there are no standard recommendations for the use of citrulline supplements.