1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) is a compound created by Eli-Lilly in 1948 and then later trademarked as Forthane to be used as a nasal decongestant. Today it is commonly used as a stimulant, nootropic, party drug, and weight loss aid. Several products have claimed that DMAA is extracted from geranium flowers, however careful analysis of the plants has determined this to be mostly false (1, 2).
Due to its stimulatory effects, DMAA is becoming increasingly popular in the bodybuilding community as a pre-workout supplement. DMAA is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances for in-competition use (3).
DMAA acts similar to cocaine and methamphetamine, had a high potential for abuse and may result in serious side effects
1. DMAA stimulates energy. A 2011 study demonstrated that DMAA increases blood pressure without increasing heart rate (4).
This may be one of the primary mechanisms by which DMAA stimulates the body. Another 2012 study showed that DMAA was shown to have no effect on resting blood pressure when you are not taking it (5).
This would mean that DMAA ingestion increases blood pressure while using it, but once its effects have worn off blood pressure returns to normal resting levels.
2. DMAA can help burn fat. A dietary supplement containing DMAA, OxyELITE Pro, contributed to body fat loss in 32 healthy adults when they ingested one capsule per day for fourteen days (6).
DMAA also increased fat breakdown and increased body temperature in 12 healthy adults, which is thought to lead to body fat loss in the long term (7).
3. DMAA can improve physical performance. In rats, high doses of a dietary supplement containing DMAA improved exercise performance. However, after 4 weeks of daily consumption, it lost its effect (8).
4. DMAA can improve short-term memory. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that the consumption of 5.5 g of a dietary supplement containing DMAA improved reflexes and short-term memory (9).
1. DMAA may cause liver damage. In 2013, 36 people taking a dietary supplement containing DMAA, were hospitalized for liver damage. Of the 36, one person died, and two people required a liver transplant. All were taking the recommended dose of 1-3 scoops or capsules per day (10).
2. DMAA may cause brain bleeding. There have been at least 3 reports of people with brain bleeding after the use of DMAA. However, the users reported consuming DMAA frequently with alcohol or caffeine (11).
A 2012 study demonstrated that a 26-year-old healthy man suffered a severe headache and brain bleeding after consuming 3 scoops (recommended dose) of a dietary supplement containing DMAA (12).
3. DMAA may increase heart rate and blood pressure. The consumption of 2 capsules of a dietary supplement containing DMAA resulted in an increased heart rate and blood pressure in 12 healthy adults (13).
56 cases of DMAA exposure in healthy adults were analyzed for side effects, most (80%) from taking OxyELITE Pro before it was banned. Almost a third of the patients had a notable increase in heart rate, but that effect may be attributed to other substances like caffeine (14).
However, another 2013 study showed that a dose of 25 mg of DMAA didn’t have any effect on heart rate or blood pressure in 8 healthy adults (15).
4. DMAA may cause heart attacks. A healthy 22-year-old man suffered a heart attack after consuming a dietary supplement containing DMAA, and caffeine for 3 weeks (16).
5. DMAA may cause nausea and vomiting. In one review, 15% of the 56 patients experienced nausea and vomiting after consuming DMAA supplements. Most were taking OxyElite Pro, so other substances in the product may have contributed to the side effects (17).
6. DMAA can cause false positives. Along with being on the WADA prohibited list, non-athletes who are drug tested for work or other reason should note that DMAA may give false positive results for amphetamines (18).
8. DMAA can interact with drugs negatively. In a cell study, DMAA blocked the activity of two important enzymes (cytochrome P450 2D6 and 3A4), which break down approximately 25% of commonly used drugs.
They help to break down and remove antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids, and medications for heart problems. When blocked, drugs can build up in the body and reach dangerously high levels, possibly causing liver damage.
9. DMAA can cause headaches. The major complaint that users had of DMAA was the presence of intense headaches after consuming the product for the first time. Also, some people suffered from headaches after they stopped taking DMAA.
10. Other side effects that have been reported include panic attacks, seizures, tremors and headaches (21).
11. There are a lack of studies involving just DMAA in isolation. Most of the studies about the effects of DMAA are based on dietary supplements containing DMAA. The dosage of DMAA in the supplements is not specified and is usually listed as a proprietary blend. The conclusions may be misleading because it’s not certain that the effects are caused by DMAA.
12. DMAA blocks certain enzymes. In a cell study, DMAA blocked the activity of two important enzymes (cytochrome P450 2D6 and 3A4), which break down approximately 25% of commonly used drugs. They help to break down and remove antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids, and medications for heart problems. When blocked, drugs can build up in the body and reach dangerously high levels, possibly causing liver damage (22).
The content of DMAA in dietary supplements containing DMAA varies a lot, as it can range from 25 to 278 mg per capsule, depending on the product. A dosage of up to 75 mg DMAA and 250 mg caffeine was deemed “safe” as it didn’t increase heart rate (23, 24).
Both Canada and the USA do not recommend DMAA as safe for use.
Health Canada has banned the market availability of DMAA due to insufficient research that proves its safety (25).
The US military has also banned DMAA from worldwide military exchanges (26).
The FDA has also banned DMAA and does not recommend it as safe for use (27).
Is DMAA dangerous? The concern is that DMAA may narrow blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and lead to shortness of breath, tightening in the chest, or even heart attack. Although seemingly well tolerated in pre-workout supplemental form, DMAA has been linked to a cerebral hemorrhage in a case study with party pill usage.
Is DMAA a drug? Yes, the TGA has now made a ruling, and placed DMAA in appendix C of the scheduled drug list. DMAA is an aliphatic amine which looks a bit like amphetamine. DMAA acts similar to cocaine and methamphetamine, had a high potential for abuse and may result in serious side effects.
How long does DMAA stay in the body? When taken orally, DMAA takes around 8 minutes to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Its half-life in the human body is 8.5 hours on average, and it takes more than 24 hours to eliminate it completely from the body. Amphetamines can be detected in the blood for four to six hours, in the saliva for 24 to 48 hours, in urine for up to four days and in the hair for up to 90 days.
Is DMAA banned by WADA? Yes, DMAA is banned by WADA.
Is DMAA illegal? Yes, DMAA is not a dietary ingredient, and DMAA-containing products marketed as dietary supplements are illegal, and their marketing violates the law.
Can DMAA be found in a drug test? DMAA concentration in the body can be measured in blood and urine to test for DMAA intoxication. In most sports, if DMAA is detected, the athlete would most probably be disqualified as DMAA is a banned substance (28).
Is DMAA safe? According to the FDA, DMAA is not safe as at least 4 human deaths have been linked to the use of DMAA, including two active U.S. soldiers and a runner during a marathon.
How is DMAA tested? DMAA concentration in the body can be measured in blood and urine to test for DMAA intoxication.
Is DMAA a flower? Although DMAA’s chemical structure is similar to compounds found in geraniums, the DMAA used in dietary supplements is synthetic.
Is Forthane the same as DMAA? Yes, DMAA is actually a drug developed by the pharmaceutical company Lily in the mid-1940s for use as a decongestant under the name Forthane. It was re-patented in the early 1970s and removed from the market by the end of that decade.
Is DMAA natural? No, dimethylamylamine is a drug made synthetically in a laboratory.
Which form does DMAA come in? DMAA comes in raw powder, tablets or pre mixed into supplements such as Jack3d.
How does DMAA act as a stimulant? Although the exact mechanism of action of DMAA is still unknown, this drug acts by imitating the effect of human hormones like adrenaline. DMAA acts on the brain’s reward system to boost energy and on blood vessels to increase blood pressure.
Is DMAA banned in the military? Yes, DMAA illegal for military members. Dietary supplements containing this ingredient was placed on medical hold by the Department of Defense due to concerns about related adverse health effects and are currently not for sale on military installations.
Is DMAA a vasoconstrictor? DMAA is a stimulant and vasoconstrictor, that is, it narrows blood vessels and arteries and increases blood pressure. These reports helped lead to the FDA’s decision to prohibit the use of DMAA in dietary supplements.
Has DMAA caused death? At least 4 human deaths have been linked to the use of DMAA, including two active U.S. soldiers and a runner during a marathon.
Does DMAA come from geranium oil extract? The presence of DMAA in geranium oil extract is controversial. There are studies that confirm a small amount of natural DMAA in geranium plants, but other studies deny it.
What’s the difference between DMAA cause a false positive? Yes, DMAA causes a false positive for amphetamines in drug-tested sports competitions and should not be used by athletes being moderated by a drugs ethics association.
What’s the difference between DMAA and DMHA? Dimethylhexylamine (DMHA), also known as Octodrine, is a stimulant with similar chemical structure and properties as DMAA. It was previously used as a nasal decongestant in the 1950’s and reintroduced in the market as a dietary supplement just as DMAA had been (29).
DMHA also purportedly boosts energy levels, focus, concentration, and is mainly used for weight loss (30).
DMHA is not banned in the United States as it hasn’t shown any serious side effects. However, some adverse effects are high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and high body temperature. DMHA is banned by sports authorities as it may increase athletic performance (31, 32).
Can DMAA cause erectile dysfunction? DMAA is a stimulant and vasoconstrictor, that is, it narrows blood vessels and arteries and increases blood pressure. This can cause erectile dysfunction as it makes it more difficult for the penis to easily fill up with blood.
Is DMHA banned by WADA? Yes, novel psychoactive substances (DMBA and DMHA) are derived from stimulants and marketed for these effects. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, use of these substances by athletes may result in ineligibility to compete in sport for up to 4 years.
What is octodrine? Octodrine was originally used as a drug for nasal congestion. Today, octodrine is included as an ingredient in products used as dietary supplements to boost workout performance, burn fat, or increase weight loss. Octodrine appears to be similar to another stimulant called dimethylamylamine (DMAA).
What is AMP citrate? AMP Citrate is a close chemical cousin of DMAA, and a stimulant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned is an illegal ingredient that carries risks of heart attacks, seizures, and neurological conditions.
DMAA is a synthetic substance which can provide an array of benefits, both physical and mental. It was first introduced as a nasal decongestant but more recently is used as a neurological stimulant and party pill. Its mechanism of action may be as an adrenaline mimetic; inducing the same effects as adrenaline, however direct studies on the pharmacokinetics of DMAA metabolism do not exist.
Due to the number of deaths and documented side effects, it is currently banned for sale and use in both Canada and the US and is also on WADA’s prohibited substance list.
DMAA is currently not well researched, and much more research is necessary to fully understand its safety and potential use.