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U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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Higenamine: What Athletes Need to Know to Compete Clean

Higenamine was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List in 2017 and is classified as a beta-2 agonist, which means it is prohibited at all times, both in and out-of-competition.

Keep reading to learn more about this prohibited substance that’s becoming more common in dietary supplements.

 

What is higenamine?

A substance found in a variety of plant sources, higenamine is found in several herbs used for traditional medicine, and now the supplement industry has started using it as a substitute for Dimethylamylamine (DMAA) and ephedrine. Higenamine is called by various names and below are some of the many names that athletes should check supplement labels for:

    • higenamine
    • norcoclaurine
    • demethylcoclaurine
    • Aconite
    • Annona squamosal
    • Nandina domestica
    • Tinospora crispa

It’s also important to remember that because of post-market regulation, some dietary supplement labels do not list all of the ingredients they contain, including prohibited and harmful substances.

Some products that are known to contain higenamine can be found on USADA’s Supplement 411 High Risk List. When it comes to supplements, keep in mind that the only way to have zero risk is to use zero supplements. Athletes who choose to use dietary supplements do so at their own risk.

 

Why is higenamine prohibited at all times in sport?

Research indicates that higenamine has mixed adrenergic receptor activity, meaning it may act as a general stimulant. It may be found in some pre-workout, energy, or weight-loss products.

In one 2019 study, 24 supplements products, most of which were marketed for weight loss or energy, were analyzed for higenamine. The amount of higenamine in the supplements was anywhere from trace amounts, to 62 ± 6.0 mg per serving. If adhering to the recommended serving sizes, users could consume up to 110 ± 11 mg of higenamine per day with these products. According to the study, five products also listed higenamine, but were inaccurately labeled and contained both more and less than what was indicated.

 

Does higenamine have health any purposes?

Higenamine can act as an anti-asthmatic to open up airways, and may be cardiotonic, which means that it can strengthen the heart contraction to increase cardiac output. Studies in mice and in test tubes suggest higenamine may be used to help the heart in the event of an adverse event like a myocardial infarct or heart failure. These effects have not been confirmed in human studies yet.

Higenamine currently has no government regulatory approvals for clinical use in the United States.

 

Are there side effects from higenamine?

In some circumstances, higenamine may also increase blood pressure and cause irregular heartbeats. Dietary supplements may not limit the dose or may put higher amounts in the product that have been studied, which increases the chance of experiencing high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and other heart problems at high doses.

 

Need more information?

For questions about specific products, substances, and methods, contact USADA’s Drug Reference Line at drugreference@usada.org or call (719) 785-2000, option 2.

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