Imagine if you could easily boost a powerful natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory found in your own body and get help with exercise recovery, memory disorders, and nervous system problems, to name a few.
Well, you can.
The compound L-carnosine has been of interest to scientists for many decades. They have been studying its effect on the immune system, nervous system, and brain function, but it is best known for its link to exercise and muscle recovery.
It’s a remarkable bioactive compound found naturally in the eye, liver, and kidneys, and carnosine supplementation has become increasingly popular as the focus on health and well-being increases.
In this article, we discuss what L-carnosine is, how it works, and the benefits you get from using it as a topical gel as opposed to using oral supplementation.
To begin, let’s examine the structure and effect of this naturally occurring compound in the human body.
L-carnosine is a natural histidine-containing dipeptide found in various tissues throughout the body. A simple definition of a dipeptide is an organic compound derived from two amino acids. Primarily, it is concentrated in the muscles, brain, heart, and other tissues. In these bodily tissues, it acts as a potent antioxidant that prevents oxidative stress and inflammation.
Beta-alanine vs. carnosine
You may have seen supplements that are registered as beta-alanine and yet contain carnosine. This is because beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine formation and, therefore, can be used by the body to make carnosine.
In 1938, researchers made a significant breakthrough by identifying carnosine as a crucial intracellular pH regulator in muscle tissue. This is important during physical exercise when the accumulation of highly reactive hydrogen ions can lead to decreased PH and cause a burning sensation in the muscles.
This groundbreaking finding led to the study of carnosine in elite athletes and the potential advantages of using elevated carnosine levels to enhance performance. Currently, L-Carnosine is available as a dietary supplement, used by professional athletes as well as individuals who want to benefit from its therapeutic actions. However, the application of carnosine as a gel balances the PH in the muscles, reducing the negative effects of these hydrogen ions.
L-carnosine has also gained attention for its ability to promote brain health, slow down age-related deterioration in the brain cells, and act as a powerful anti-inflammatory. But more about that later.
7 Health Benefits of Carnosine
Since L-carnosine has many health benefits, let’s examine the 7 most powerful uses of this natural antioxidant.
1. Supports Muscle Health
If you’re an exercise enthusiast or a professional athlete, a substance supporting muscle health may be of interest to you.
L-carnosine aids in controlling muscle contractions and preventing systemic lipid oxidation.
It also plays a role in supporting muscle health through the following mechanisms:
Buffering Lactic Acid: During intense exercise, the body produces lactic acid, contributing to muscle fatigue and decreased performance. High levels of dietary carnosine are associated with increased concentrations of carnosine and histidine in the muscles and so act as a pH buffer in muscle cells, as mentioned earlier. This buffering effect can also delay the onset of muscle fatigue and improve muscle endurance.
Anti-Glycation Effects: Glycation is a process where sugars react with proteins in the body, forming harmful compounds called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). AGEs can contribute to muscle tissue damage and impair muscle function. In addition, it shows anti-glycation effects, preventing the formation of AGEs and preserving muscle structure and function.
Muscle Protein Protection: Researchers have found that L-carnosine protects muscle proteins from degradation. It can also inhibit certain enzymes that break down muscle proteins, thereby supporting protein synthesis and maintenance.
When you take carnosine as an oral supplement, much of its potency is lost during the digestive process. This is not the case when using a carnosine-based gel. The active compound goes straight into the muscle, where it gives you all the benefits mentioned above.
Maintaining a high level of skeletal muscle carnosine contributes to muscle health because it is protective.
2. Modulates Inflammation
Anyone struggling with inflammation in the body knows its effects. That hot, uncomfortable feeling in the muscles, the inability to move freely as it affects joints and tendons, and the brain fog related to neuro-inflammation.
L-carnosine has become popular for its inflammatory-modulating properties. Since it possesses an antioxidant activity, it helps to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reduce oxidative stress, a key contributor to inflammation.
One powerful benefit of L-carnosine is its ability to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes such as cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX), thereby reducing the production of inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
In addition to its impressive antioxidant properties, L-carnosine can inhibit nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) activation. This transcription factor plays a central role in initiating and regulating the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. By blocking NF-κB, L-carnosine helps suppress the production of inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). 
Furthermore, L-carnosine has been reported to enhance the activity of anti-inflammatory molecules, including heat shock proteins (HSPs). HSPs play a vital role in reducing inflammation by inhibiting the activation of pro-inflammatory signaling pathways and promoting the degradation of damaged proteins.
3. Supports Brain Health
In the brain, L-carnosine’s antioxidant capabilities neutralize free radicals, which have been implicated in degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Carnosine supplements aid in the reduction of oxidative stress, protecting neurons from damage.
One fascinating use of L-carnosine in brain health is its ability to bind to copper and zinc molecules, which can have a damaging effect on brain tissues. Also, carnosine’s powerful anti-inflammatory mechanisms can reduce the effect of traumatic brain injuries and strokes by preventing cell death.
4. Delays Diabetic Deterioration
Carnosine mitigates the elevation of glucose, triglycerides, and TNF-a levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. The same is true for overweight and pre-diabetic patients. 
During studies testing the effect of carnosine on blood glucose levels, it was found to decrease blood glucose levels at 90 minutes and 120 minutes. 
How does carnosine delay diabetic deterioration?
The mechanism by which carnosine delays diabetic complications is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Since increased blood glucose leads to higher levels of inflammation, a sustained reduction in the inflammatory markers will prevent the run-away effect of high blood glucose.
5. Prevents Gastrointestinal Disorders
Polaprezinc is a chelate composed of zinc and L-carnosine, designed to be taken orally. It also possesses gastroprotective, antioxidant, anti-ulcer, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that oral supplementation with polaprezinc can enhance the expression of several beneficial antioxidant enzymes in the gastric mucosa. These enzymes include superoxide dismutase, heme oxygenase, glutathione S-transferase, glutathione peroxidase, and peroxiredoxin-1. 
By boosting the levels of these enzymes, polaprezinc aids in safeguarding cells against damage caused by reactive oxygen species.
6. Supports Heart Health
With regards to cardiovascular risks, carnosine has been shown to improve lipid metabolism and reduce blood pressure in some respondents. 
The effect on blood pressure is due to the vasorelaxing effects of L-carnosine. Its ability to affect the histamine/histidine pathways along with the autonomic nervous system positively explains carnosine’s positive effect on blood pressure.
7. Improves Nervous System Disorders
One area that has attracted interest is the effect of L-carnosine on the nervous system function of children with autism or autistic spectrum disorder. It blocks amyloid-beta, preventing cognitive deterioration. The compound also helps enhance auditory processing, socialization, fine motor planning, expressive language, and environmental awareness.
Research studies showed an improvement one to eight weeks after the introduction of L-carnosine supplements in children with these nervous system disorders. 
Side Effects Of L-Carnosine Supplementation
Although L-carnosine is considered a safe supplement with few side effects, it can adversely affect a small number of people who take it.
Some side effects may include:
Nausea: A mild upset stomach or feelings of nausea when taking these supplements. However, taking the supplement with food can resolve this side effect.
If your problems with carnosine supplementation are mostly due to an irritated digestive system, we suggest you try a carnosine-based gel that can deliver the benefits without gastrointestinal irritation.
Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to L-carnosine, although it is rare. Symptoms may include rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any allergic reactions, it is important to discontinue use and seek medical attention.
Diarrhea: High doses of L-carnosine may cause diarrhea or loose stools. Therefore, starting with a lower amount and gradually increasing it if necessary is recommended to minimize this side effect. If this is a problem for you, try a carnosine gel since it does not come into direct contact with the digestive system and therefore cannot cause diarrhea.
Blood Pressure Changes: Researchers have reported L-Carnosine to affect blood pressure. Therefore, if you have a history of high or low blood pressure, monitor your blood pressure closely when starting L-carnosine supplementation.
What about dietary sources of L-carnosine?
If you have problems with carnosine supplements, you can amend your diet to include more carnosine-rich foods such as beef, pork, chicken, or fish. However, the therapeutic effects discussed in this article may be limited by diet inclusion.
Dosage – How Much Should You Take
Studies have recommended oral carnosine supplements at one gram per day (1 g/day) for up to 12 weeks.
Carnosine-based gel can be administered as a small palmful of product, 60 minutes before and after exercise for faster recovery.
L-carnosine emerges as a versatile and potent bioactive compound with a wide range of health benefits.
Its role in supporting muscle health, modulating inflammation, protecting brain health, delaying diabetic deterioration, preventing gastrointestinal disorders, supporting heart health, and improving nervous system disorders, including autism, highlights its potential as a therapeutic agent.
The unique properties of L-carnosine, such as its antioxidant capabilities, anti-glycation effects, and ability to chelate metal ions, contribute significantly to its effectiveness in these areas. Additionally, the use of L-carnosine in both oral supplement form and as a topical gel offers flexibility in addressing various health concerns, with the gel form providing direct benefits without gastrointestinal irritation.