July 10, 2012 — A new study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology suggests that DMAA (also known as 1,3-dimethylamylamine, methylhexanamine, or “geranium extract”) is a synthetic drug, and not a botanical extract. For years, dietary supplement manufacturers have claimed that DMAA is legal as a dietary ingredient because it is a natural constituent of the geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) stem, leaves, roots, or oil. However, this study provides more evidence that DMAA is actually a synthetic drug.
The authors of the study used several analytical methods to determine whether geranium plant material or its oil contains detectable quantities of DMAA. They used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, and liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry. These devices use different methods to break down molecules into ionized fragments and determine the identity of the fragment by its mass and charge.
The researchers obtained several types of samples for their experiments. This included twenty commercially-available vials of geranium oil and three vials of authenticated geranium oil. They also used authenticated parts of the geranium plant that were either young, mature, fresh, or dried. Furthermore, three dietary supplements with “geranium extract” on the ingredient label were analyzed for DMAA content.
The researchers found no evidence of DMAA in the vials of geranium oil (either commercial or authenticated) or in the plant material. However, the dietary supplements that listed “geranium oil” on their ingredient list contained massive amounts of DMAA.
The researchers concluded, “The amounts of MHA [methylhexanamine, another name for DMAA] measured are incompatible with the use of reasonable amounts of P. graveolens extract or concentrate, suggesting that MHA was of synthetic origin.”
The original study that linked DMAA to the geranium plant was published in a Chinese technical journal in 1996 by Ping, et al. The report was not peer-reviewed. The authors allegedly used a mass-spectrometry technique similar to the techniques used by the researchers who found no evidence of DMAA in the geranium plant.
Even before this new research was published, most experts agreed that DMAA was not a botanical extract of the geranium plant. The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) refused to allow its members to list DMAA as an herbal substance. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently rebuked several manufacturers of products containing DMAA, calling it a synthetic substance that is not allowed in dietary supplements.
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