NO DRUG ('GERANAMINE') IN GERANIUM
By Wayne Handlos, Ph.D
As we are all aware, especially in the year of the XXX Olympic Games, the issue of drugs and doping are
part of the back story to the games. In recent years a number of news articles have appeared which menti
on a substance related to geraniums. A number of dietary, nutritional and sports products have included a
substance called DMAA (shorthand for 1,3 dimethylamylamine), or geranamine. This material was touted
as being found naturally in geranium (really Pelargonium) plants. Because it was supposedly found in geranium
oil (distilled from several cultivars of rose geraniums [variously called Pelargonium graveolens or P.roseum]),
it was considered a natural occurring product and therefore would not be regulated by the FDA.
In the 1940’s the Eli Lilly Co. marketed DMAA as a vasoconstrictor under the name Forthane. The chemical
was eventually trademarked as ‘geranamine’ and was included in a number of pre-workout supplements. The
chemical was assumed to be extracted from plants of P. graveolens (rose geranium). This belief was based on
a paper that appeared in the Journal of Guizhou Institute of Technology. Over time the validity of this information
has been called into question.
Over the years the FDA has received over 40 reports of adverse health events related to the use of products containing
DMAA. At least two military personnel have died while using these supplements. Supplements containing DMAA
increase metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and the body’s heat production which advertisements claim has the
effect of energizing users, burning more calories, increasing strength and building muscles during workouts.
In 2009/10 the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited its use because it was a stimulant. Some athletes were
disqualified and stripped of awards.
In order to lay the issue to rest, Dr. Daniel Armstrong from the University of Texas at Arlington, with several graduate
students, conducted a number of tests to determine what substances were present in various commercially available
supplements and whether DMAA or geranamine was present in geranium oil. (Link to the full article
Armstrong et al. tested 13 different supplements and eight different samples of geranium oil (from China and Egypt).
They found that all of the supplements contained DMAA in amounts that varied from 0.1 to 11.2 % by dry weight. The
products called Ripped Juice and OxyLite Pro contained the highest percentages of DMAA. On the other hand,
geranium oil showed 10 parts per billion or less of DMAA in the eight samples, the limit of their testing techniques.
(Link to the university press release
In addition, the samples of DMAA showed chemical characteristics of substances produced synthetically, rather than
characteristics produced by biological processes. The General Manager of NSF International, an analytical testing firm,
went to China to investigate DMAA suppliers and found that their raw materials for DMAA were synthetically produced
and not in any way derived from geranium/Pelargonium plants. (Link to the full article http://www.nutraingredients-usa.
USPlabs, the manufacturer of OxyLite and Jack3d, maintains that their products are safe when used as directed.
They also note that these products may contain substances which are banned by various sports organizations. The
manufacturer claims (in a memo dated Sept. 6, 2011) that recent studies show the presence of DMAA in geranium
plants. As of Aug. 6, 2012, no such studies appear to have been published.
In conclusion, the University of Texas researchers believe that DMAA is not a naturally occurring component of geranium
oil and therefore if it is added to dietary supplements must be regulated by the FDA. Synthetically produced DMAA could
be added to supplements if DMAA was found as a naturally occurring compound in geranium oil.
The Department of Defense has banned the sale of products containing DMAA from military bases noting the negative
effects associated with the use (or misuse) of the products. The military report says the presence of DMAA in a drug test
can also give a false positive result for methamphetamines. (Link to the military report http://www.dvidshub.net/news/9