The Journal of Drug Testing and Analysis published an article earlier this month concerning an herb being sold today that may warrant U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action. The herb is called Acacia rigidula, and its main bioactive is β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA).
BMPEA was first synthesized in the 1930s, but it was only discovered to come from a natural source in 1997. Acacia rigidula is a source of various amines that may have psychiatric effects, based on their chemical structure. BMPEA, in relatively high doses of 960-60,500µg/g, was also found to have these effects. In fact, it may cause a false positive for an amphetamine drug test.
The published article describes how researchers examined 21 dietary supplements found on store shelves and found that 11 of them contained a bioactive amount of BMPEA, meaning 93.7mg a day or more. The authors of the article called for FDA action because BMPEA lacks safety testing despite being found in multiple supplement products.
The researchers are correct when they say that there is not much evidence for BMPEA’s safety. Searching PubMed for Acacia rigidula reveals only four articles on the topic, none of which include tests in living animals, much less people. Searching for information on BMPEA reveals similar lackluster results. The Examine.com page on phenylethylamine (PEA) summarizes the research on BMPEA in section 1.4 (where it is called β-Me-PEA) by describing the chemical structure, since there is so little other evidence.
Despite the lack of evidence for Acacia rigidula’s effects and the nonexistence of safety testing, it’s still found in supplements. Supplement manufacturers, particularly companies that sell stimulants, are in a constant arms race to provide their customers with better, stronger, newer supplements than their competitors. That’s why questionable compounds end up on store shelves.
Untested supplements are potentially dangerous, and that goes double for stimulant compounds. Almost every stimulant is harmful if abused or used improperly, but no research means no warning labels. People that shouldn’t normally take stimulants because of a weak cardiovascular system or heart issues can’t know that they shouldn’t take a supplement containing Acacia rigidula, which puts them at greater risk for harm.
Much more research is needed before Acacia rigidula can be added to supplement products. While an FDA ban may be too reactionary, leaving the compound on store shelves when it might hurt people is an equally poor decision.
Supplement manufacturers adding understudied psychoactive amines to their products should read up on case studies concerning geranium, 1,3-DMAA, dendrobium, and AMP citrate, because adding those compounds to supplements will also summon the FDA to your door.