The amino acid arginine and one of its metabolites NO have gathered broad attention in the last decade. Although arginine is regarded as a conditionally essential amino acid in disease, L-arginine supplementation in severe illness has not found its way into clinical practice. This might be due to the invalid interpretation of results from studies with immune-enhancing diets containing L-arginine amongst other pharmaconutrients. However, not much attention is given to research using L-arginine as a monotherapy and the possibility of the alternative hypothesis: that L-arginine supplementation is beneficial in disease. The present review will discuss data from studies in healthy and diseased animals and patients with monotherapy of L-arginine to come to an objective overview of positive and negative aspects of L-arginine supplementation in disease with special emphasis on sepsis, cancer, liver failure and wound healing.