The Truth About DMAA Supplements

You may have seen products with DMAA in the dietary or herbal supplement sections of your health food shops (x). This is illegal, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (x). Some medical experts also expressed concerns regarding the ingredient’s use. Despite the negativity, the compound is widely touted for its ability to enhance performance in sports and exercise and generate weight loss.

So, what is DMAA? Is it a natural compound? Are concerns and warnings about its consumption valid?

What is DMAA?

1,3-DMAA, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine, 1,3-Dimethyl-5-Amine, 1,3-Dimethylpentylamine, Dimethylamylamine, 4-Methyl-2-hexanamine, Geranamine and Geranium are some of other names DMAA is known by (x). The medical and pharmaceutical industries once prescribed it as a nasal decongestant. In 1944 until 1983, it was marketed by the Eli Lilly company (x), (x).

It was considered a “natural” compound, meaning that it was derived from plants, and often labeled as an extract of geranium, a perennial garden and house plant (x). Though molecules in DMAA are similar to those found in geranium, truth was it’s a synthetic amphetamine derivative, manufactured in a laboratory (x), (x), (x).

In 2006 DMAA resurfaced as a common ingredient in supplements used for pre-workouts and weight loss (x). It was marketed under the name Geranamine, still suggesting that it is a natural compound or herbal ingredient (x). One of the concerns was that as an amphetamine, DMAA is a highly addictive and mood-altering stimulant like cocaine. Using it will require extreme caution (x), (x).

DMAA Pre-Workout

When you take up a sport or embark on a fitness regimen, your ultimate goal is excellence. You seek out techniques and whatever else will get you there, and the faster the better. Recent years saw the discovery of products designed to enhance the performance of individuals and help them achieve their goals. These products are known as pre-workout supplements. They contain a variety of ingredients that affect the muscular and skeletal systems and mental capacity (x).

1,3-methylamylamine is one of those ingredients. Widely used in pre-workout supplements, its popularity as a neural stimulant is due to its ability to increase the energy, strength, stamina and overall performance of consumers (x), (x).

DMAA Supplements

As stated in the aforementioned section, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine is widely used in dietary supplements marketed for enhancing athletic performance. It’s also promoted as a fat-burner in weight loss supplements (x). In what forms are these supplements sold? DMAA supplements are sold in the form of capsules, tablets, liquid extracts and powder (x), (x).

DMAA Powder

The powder seems to be the form of choice for bodybuilders and workout enthusiasts. The pre-workout supplement provides additional energy and creates a more effective regimen, which enhances performance (x), (x), (x). Always consult your healthcare provider for diagnoses, accurate medical information and permission before taking any supplements. There’s no medical evidence to support DMAA supplements cure, treat or prevent disease.

What Does DMAA do?

How does DMAA work? It stimulates the nervous system in much the same way as caffeine. You feel quite energetic. DMAA’s chemical makeup is akin to the neurotransmitters our body emits when we are stressful. You know, the hormones adrenaline, also called epinephrine, and noradrenaline that triggers our fight or flight response (x)? Once it enters the bloodstream, 1,3-Dimethylamylamine causes the nervous system to signal the adrenal glands on our kidneys to release those neurotransmitters. This sets the scene for blood vessel contractions, increased blood pressure, transport of more blood and thus more oxygen to the muscles and lungs, an uptick in heart rate, release of stored glucose, and the sudden feeling of being super energetic, focused, alert, powerful with little to no pain (x), (x), (x). Having those experiences during a workout would be an indication that you’re doing the work needed to achieve your goals.

Dimethylamylamine is also used as an ingredient in weight loss supplements because of its potential as a fat burner. Healthy subjects, who were given OxyELITePro (a brand name for commercial DMAA) in one study, showed a reduction in appetite, body weight and fat (x), (x).

DMAA Side Effects and Safety Concerns

How safe is 1,3-Dimethylamylamine? The FDA strongly objects to the use of this ingredient in dietary supplements. Of course, all supplements have potential side effects. This particular ingredient does exhibit addictive, cocaine-like characteristics. You should be aware of:

  • In 2013 there was a report of 36 people being hospitalized for liver damage. Two of them needed a liver transplant. One of them died (x).
  • A man in his 20s suffered headaches and brain bleeding after using a DMAA supplement (x). Brain bleeding also occurred in individuals who combined DMAA with other drugs (x).
  • In 2010 – 2011 Texas poison centers reported nausea and vomiting by people who consumed the supplement (x).
  • If you’re about to have surgery, stop taking DMAA two weeks prior to your surgery schedule (x).
  • If pregnant or breast-feeding, better to avoid consumption because of insufficient information (x).
  • DMAA supplements are monikered “party pills” because of likely abuse as with alcohol and other drugs (x).
  • Athletes ingesting DMAA could be disqualified from their events because it is technically an illegal substance likened to amphetamines (x), (x).

What about Interaction with other Drugs?

Combinations with other stimulants such as caffeine, amphetamine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine will cause your heart rate to feel like you’re in a high-speed car chase or a shuttle traveling through space. It can be life-threatening (x).


Like DMAA, DMHA is known by a number of other names: 1,5-Dimethylamlamine, 2-amino-5-methylheptane, 2-isooctyl amine, Amidrine and Octodrine among others (x). Unlike DMAA, it’s found naturally in the bark of the walnut tree, scientifically Juglans regia (x). But it is also manufactured synthetically.

DMAA and 1,5-Dimethylamlamine are like first cousins. There’s a slight difference in chemical structure: “5” instead of the “3” as in 1,3-Dimethylamylamine. But DMHA follows a similar track as DMAA in that it’s a central nervous system stimulant, it works in the same manner, was prescribed as a nasal decongestant in the 1950s and in recent years, used as an ingredient in pre-workout and fat-burning dietary supplements (x), (x). Both compounds also exhibit similar side effects and drug interactions (x).   

According to an FDA article, DMHA is a new dietary ingredient with insufficient evidence on its safety as an ingredient in dietary supplements. The article further states that it cannot be “lawfully marketed” because it does not meet either of the administration’s requirements (x). However, since it is considered a new ingredient, manufacturers are substituting it for DMAA in pre-workout and fat-burning dietary supplements under a “walnut extract” or “natural extract” label (x).

It’s always best to have as much research as possible when introducing a new supplement to the market. While it might be tempting for many to try to access something because it’s new or there is buzz in the market about great results, it is ALWAYS best to take supplements responsibly. Perhaps in the future there will be a safe version, but at this time it would be wrong to promote or take DMAA.

Bottom Line

DMAA, also known as dimethylamylamine or 1,3-dimethylamylamine among other names is not a natural ingredient. It is synthetically manufactured in pharmaceutical laboratories. Used as a nasal decongestant until 1983, it recently resurfaced as an ingredient in pre-workout and weight loss dietary supplements because of its potential energy, strength, focus, alertness-producing and fat-burning effects.

The FDA, unhappy with this new development, deemed it unsafe and illegal. A number of studies and reports seem to support this claim. Manufacturers began to suggest that their supplements were being made from the geranium plant because of the similarity in molecules. The FDA was not convinced and the battle continues.

Meanwhile, companies discovered another neural stimulant 1,5-Dimethylamlamine or DMHA with similar performance-enhancing and fat-burning properties that’s natural and plant-based and derives from the walnut tree! However, as a “new ingredient,” the FDA wants more research before declaring it safe to use. Once again, consult your healthcare provider for diagnoses, accurate medical information and permission before taking any supplements.

Author: James D