The Use of 1,3-dimethylamylamine in Dietary Supplements

Purported to be naturally found in the geranium plant, Pelargonium graveolens, 1 3-dimethylamylamine is an alkaloid with stimulant properties. Controversy surrounds this substance and its use. It is banned by many sports organizations, and Health Canada recently declared it is not derived from the geranium plant and now classifies it as a drug. The only known published research that found the compound in geranium oil was a disputed Chinese study from the 1990s.

The compound can be found in dietary supplements marketed in the United States and elsewhere and in herbal party pills primarily in use in New Zealand where it is now banned. It was originally used medically as a nasal decongestant. The drug was trademarked under the name Forthane for this use in the early 1970s by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, who originally patented the drug in the 1940s.

Today, 1 3-dimethylamylamine is referred to by numerous names including DMAA, geranium oil, geranium extract, geranamine, methylhexanamine, forthan, 4-methyl-2-hexanamine and others. As many sports organizations have banned the stimulant for use by athletes during competition, it is vital that participants in athletics who are drug tested avoid dietary supplements containing the ingredient. Taking DMAA will register in drug testing for stimulants and has caused many world class athletes to face disqualification from events and temporary bans from participation. Some sporting organizations allow its use during training, but not all. As of 2010, the World Anti-Doping Agency has included DMAA on their prohibited list of substances. Being knowledgeable about the alternate names for the substance helps professional and amateur sports competitors avoid this ingredient in supplements promoted for athletes.

The molecular structure of 1 3-dimethylamylamine is similar to that of amphetamine and ephedrine and may explain DMAA’s stimulant effect on the central nervous system. The stimulant action, though, is milder than that caused by the other compounds and the compound is usually classified as a weak stimulant.


Marketing Dietary Supplements Containing 1 3-dimethylamylamine

DMAA has been available in the dietary supplement market in the United States since 2006. Since that time, it has increased in popularity, not only for athletes, but also for students needing to boost concentration and those looking for a weight loss aid or mood enhancer. The mild stimulant effect is often referred to by marketers as being like caffeine, temporarily boosting energy, elevating mood, and increasing the ability to concentrate. Many view its increasing popularity as a result of the removal of ephedrine from the market. DMAA has filled the empty niche for legal supplements for weight loss and athletic uses.

Some of the most popular supplements marketed to weightlifters and bodybuilders contains 1 3-dimethylamylamine as an active ingredient. It may be listed as geranium stem, DMAA or other alternate names. Promoted as giving an edge to lifting performance and being a fat-burner, the stimulant is touted as an all-natural product and a much safer choice than steroids. It is said to provide athletes who use it prior to their workout with increased strength, focus and energy.


Scientific Research on 1 3-dimethylamylamine

Health Canada has stated that since only the questionable Chinese study determined 1 3-dimethylamylamine was a plant constituent, they have concluded it cannot be classified as a natural health product, placing it under the classification as a drug or active pharmaceutical ingredient instead. This brings into question labeling the substance as geranium oil or extract of geranium in the many products that have DMAA as an ingredient. This decision may have future effects on the classification of DMAA as a dietary supplement in the United States.

A small study of ten healthy young people determined that DMAA, taken both alone or in combination with caffeine does not raise heart rate. The study did find that ingestion of DMAA, with or without caffeine, increased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. DMAA acts as a vasoconstrictor, making it more difficult for blood to pass through the arteries, which may be the cause of the increased blood pressure. The greatest increase in blood pressure occurred 60 minutes after ingestion and larger increases were seen with greater doses of the substance.

Laboratory studies using mice have determined that geranium oil when injected into the animals reduced both acute and chronic inflammation. Due to the recent controversy revolving around the presence of DMAA in geranium oil, this study may have little implication on the effects of 1 3-dimethylamylamine in humans.

The median lethal dose, LD50, of 1 3-dimethylamylamine was also determined using animal data and extrapolating it to human use. When administered intravenously, the LD50 is the equivalent of a dose of 206 mg for a 143 pound human. The toxicity data for oral ingestion of the substance is unknown.

The relative lack of human studies adds to the controversy surrounding DMAA, as much of the reported effects are based on user self-reporting. No studies exist that confirm claims of suppressed appetite, increased concentration, improved mood or enhanced athletic performance. These remain unconfirmed marketing approaches to the dietary supplements containing 1 3-dimethylamylamine.


User Reported Effects of 1 3-dimethylamylamine

Anecdotal reports by users of DMAA supplements are often conflicting concerning the effects of the substance. Some state that it helps them concentration, while other note that they had great difficulty staying focused after taking the supplement. Users have said it suppresses the appetite, but not all experience this effect. Some have reported their heart racing while others state that unlike other stimulants, DMAA does not cause a rapid heartbeat. This was confirmed by the small study that found heart rate was unaffected. There are some instances reported of requiring larger and larger amounts of the supplement to achieve the same results when it is taken regularly over a period of time. A sense of euphoria is often reported after the stimulant effects begin to fade. Other user reported negative effects include paranoia, depression, inability to achieve an erection, headache and nausea. The drug is believed to have psychoactive properties leading to the mood alterations that are reported. Several incidences of stroke have been reported in users of 1 3-dimthylamylamine.

Many of the negative and potentially dangerous side effects of DMAA are reported to increase when the drug is overused or used in conjunction with other stimulants including caffeine.