Updated 10/30/21. Higenamine is an herbal stimulant extract rumored to speed fat loss and enhance exercise. But does it? In this review, I'll address such nagging questions as how much do you use and does higenamine have any side effects? More than that I'll show you the proof. This review is unbiased and evidence-based. Yes, I'll give you my opinions, but the main focus is on the clinical evidence. No hype. No maybes. No false promises. Just the proof. When you know the evidence, you can best decide if it's right for you.
1 What Is Higenamine?
Higenamine, also called norcoclaurine or demethylcoclaurine is an herbal extract, common to plants native to India, Japan and China.
On supplement labels, you may see this extract listed as:
- Nelumbo nucifera
- lotus seed
- Indian lotus
The extract is sometimes used in dietary supplements designed for weight loss and enhanced workouts (pre-workouts). It might also be used in erection supplements too. Higenamine is often thought to be effective for the following reasons:
- improve exercise performance
- increase fat burning
- accelerate weight loss
- lower blood sugar/help diabetics
The sections below will cover the evidence for these and other conditions this extract is thought to help.
Plants Containing Higenamine Include:
|Plant||Also Known As|
|Nelumbo nucifera (lotus seeds)||Indian lotus, sacred lotus|
|Nandina domestica (fruit)||heavenly bamboo /sacred bamboo|
|Aconitum carmichaelii (root)||Chinese aconite/Chinese wolfsbane|
|Asarum heterotropoides||Snakeroot and wild ginger|
|Galium divaricatum (stem and vine)||Lamarck's bedstraw|
|Annona squamosa||Sugar Apples|
Because it is found in nature, the extract is allowed to be used in dietary supplements.
2 How Does Higenamine Work?
Research has noted it appears to improve heart pumping action, specifically in the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart. The extract appears to do this by both increasing the force of heart muscle contractions and by altering the electrical signals of the heart.
If the left ventricle of the heart can pump more blood, it can deliver more oxygen and nutrients to muscles during exercise. It also has beta-agonist properties, making it work similar to some asthma drugs.
3 Is Higenamine Banned?
Currently the US does not ban higenamine in dietary supplements. For example, these two supplements contain it:
There are others also.
On January 1 2017, The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) banned higenamine and other beta agonist drugs. On their website, they specifically identify this extract as one of the banned drugs and has sanctioned athletes who said they did not know they were taking it.
This is important info for any drug-tested athlete.
Sports dietitian Marie Spanno, MS, RD, has a nice breakdown of 3rd party companies which test supplements for banned substances.
4 Is Higenamine Addictive?
Very little research has examined whether higenamine is addictive. Researchers in one study noted a volunteer discontinued participating in a study because, while he enjoyed the “feeling,” he feared he might become addicted after the study ended. This not proof of addiction though.
Higenamine Video Review
Here's a video review of of the research I created
5 Higenamine And Exercise
Is higenamine an effective pre-workout? I believe we need human proof to know for sure, but since WADA has banned it, you can assume they believe it gives athletes an advantage.
Evidence suggests higenamine can make the heart beat faster. This could lead to more blood and oxygen being pumped to muscles during exercise. The drug might also allow an athlete to absorb more oxygen from the lungs. These effects might lead to better athletic performance.
One small study (8 men /8 women) noted a combination of higenamine, caffeine and yohimbine increased the amount of fatty acids in the blood compared to placebo. In theory, this could mean more fatty acids would be available to fuel muscles during exercise.
But this was not an exercise study. It occurred under resting conditions – not exercise. So, it's not proof it enhances workouts.
Also, since this study involved a combination of ingredients, we don't know if higenamine was responsible for the release of fatty acids.
Much of the evidence for exercise improvement stems from studies in China where people were given intravenous higenamine. They literally injected it! This is not the same thing as taking a supplement. Currently, there are no exercise studies involving higenamine dietary supplements.
For what its worth, in lab animals higenamine appears to reduce nitric oxide production. To me, this makes its use in pre workouts supplements dubious.
6 Does Higemaine Help Weight Loss
Currently, no human clinical studies have investigated if this herb extract reduces appetite or helps people lose weight. Nobody knows if it works or doesn't work.
Researchers in Tennessee did observe an increase in free fatty acids in the blood of men and women after they took a combo of higenamine, caffeine and yohimbe. But this does not prove the substance has fat burning effects because the study:
- involved a combination of ingredients
- was not about weight loss
- did not show improvements in fat burning ability as measured by breath tests analysis
Bottom line: Somebody needs to take people into the lab and give them higenamine -by itself – and see if it helps them lose weight.
7 Higenamine And Erectile Dysfunction
As men get older, they may experience erection difficulties. So can higenamine help? It's too soon to know. Preliminary evidence involving rats tells us the extract seems to relax muscles in the penis (and clitoris) called the corpus cavernosum. This might allow more blood to enter the penis and improve erections.
But, that's lab rats. What about people? This is unknown until the studies are published. Remember, ED can be a sign of heart disease.
Bottom line: Don't just try to treat a symptom. Talk to your doctor about improving the cause.
8 Higenamine And Diabetes
Some say this herb extract can help diabetics. As proof, a Chinese study is sometimes cited. The problem is the study didn't involve diabetics. Rather, the researchers reported cells had increased blood sugar uptake when they were exposed to higenamine.
Cells sitting in a Petrie dish are not the same thing as a human with diabetes. It's an interesting study but it's flawed reasoning to recommend this herb extract to diabetics based only oncell research. They weren't even human cells either -they were rat cells.
We're not rats (well, most of us aren't…)
Because diabetics may also suffer from heart, kidney, and blood pressure problems (to name a few), the extract cannot be recommended until its properly tested.
9 What About Spinal Cord Injuries?
One mouse study has noted higenamine improves spinal cord repair. But that's in mice. What about people? There is no proof either way. Thus far, no clinical study appears to have tested this herbal extract in people with spinal cord injuries.
Because people with spinal cord injuries face a multitude of problems such as:
- breathing problems
- bladder problems
- blood pressure problems
- blood clot problems
please speak to your doctor first if you are thinking about experimenting with this substance.
10 Does Higenamine Improve Asthma
Higenamine is technically called a beta-2 agonist. One of the things it does is open up the lungs so they can take in more oxygen. This means higenamine is a bronchodilator and works similar to some asthma medicines. So, does this mean the extract would help you if you had asthma?
It's too soon to know. There appears to be no clinical trials of asthmatics.
11 Higenamine And Arthritis
There are no studies involving people with arthritis. Therefore it's anyone's guess if the extract would help or not. Because of the lack of research, even if it did help, nobody knows how much to use. Like many things with this extract, it's a guessing game.
12 Higenamine vs. Hordenine
Hordenine, an extract from barley and other plants also has stimulant properties. Both extracts are used for similar reasons: weight loss/ fat burning and improved workouts. Some supplements may even contain both extracts.
No investigators have looked at whether hordenine is effective for either obesity or weight loss. Hordenine was shown to double heart rate and increased respiration 250X above normal when it was injected into horses. But what about people taking it by mouth?
Effects and side effects will take research to determine.
Nobody has compared hordenine to higenamine. So are they better together or is one better than another? This is unknown.
13 Higenamine vs. Synepherine
Synepherine is one of the best known fat burners. It came on the scene when the FDA banned ephedra and was originally sold in “ephedra free” supplements. On supplement labels, it can be identified by these other names:
- Citrus aurantium
- Bitter orange
- Seville orange
Because it's been around longer, there are research investigations on synepherine. That research is a mixed bag when it comes to weight loss. In other words, some researchers says it works while other studies say it doesn't work. The same thing appears to be true for improvement of exercise .
No studies could be located which compared synephrine to higenamine to see which might be better. Likewise, even though both extracts may be used in preworkout drinks, evidence proving this the combination works cannot be located.
14 Is Higenamine Safe?
This is the $64,000 question. Animal research suggests when injecting the drug, it takes a lot to kill mice. Scientist call this the LD50 -the lethal dosage which kills 50% of lab animals.
For higenamine, that dosage is about 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. This amount is based on rats which are very different than people. This dosage is not appropriate for humans.
I'm not comfortable basing dosage instructions on studies where lab mice are injected with a substance. Anybody who gives you a specific amount to take and says it's safe is guessing in my opinion.
I think we need human proof it's safe for humans. Fortunately, those studies are now starting to trickle down the pipeline.
Researchers in Tennessee saw no significant changes in heart rate blood pressure, liver enzymes or other factors tested when they gave people 1-3 capsules per day of Higenamine (50 mg per capsule) with or without caffeine (125 mg per capsule) or yohimbe (3.5 mg per capsule) to 48 young men (early 20s) for 8 weeks.
- The men refrained from energy drinks and caffeine. This is not be a real life situation.
- They could choose how much higenamine etc. they ingested based on how they felt.
In another study, researchers in China also saw no problems when they gave people intravenous higenamine to 10 men and women for 3 minutes. In my opinion, this study is not relevant because:
- it involved intravenous use of the drug
- it only lasted 3 minutes
- it only involved 10 people
So, is higenamine safe? We need better studies to know this answer.
15 Any Higenamine Deaths?
No deaths were known when this review was updated. While that's good, it's difficult to know for sure because it's often is used alongside other ingredients. I say this not to scare anyone but to just admit that we don't know.
16 Higenamine Side Effects
It is difficult to determine adverse reactions and side effects because:
- There's not much human research on this substance
- Reports of side effects often involve multi-ingredient supplements. This makes it hard to pin down what caused the problems reported to doctors.
The substance does appear to interfere with drug metabolism enzymes. This means it may potentially interact with a wide range of prescription and OTC medications such as but not limited to:
- blood thinners
- calcium channel blockers
- high blood pressure medicines
- heartburn medications
- cancer medicines
- dementia medicines
- anti-inflammatory medicine
Some of these interactions may make the drug break down too quickly while interactions may make a drug break down too slowly. Either scenario could be bad for your health.
Based on this, it's best for the following to speak to your doctor/pharmacist:
- Anyone with heart disease or blood pressure problems
- Anyone who takes medications of any kind
- Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding
- Anyone with liver problems
- Anyone who uses energy drinks, pre-workouts or nitric oxide booster supplements.
In addition, stop taking it at least 2 weeks before having surgery. Higenamine appears to have a blood thinner effect. This is sage advice for pretty much all supplements too.
Much of what we know about side effects comes from individuals who took a supplement and ended up in the hospital such as this report:
Doctors in Maryland reported the case of a 22 year old man who developed rhabdomyolysis after taking a supplement containing higenamine and performing strenuous exercise. He experienced pain from rhabdo for 4 months afterward. The supplement he was taking was JACK3D micro.
However, there are big problems with this report such as:
- we don't know how much higenamine was in the supplement
- we don't know if the exercise caused the rhabdo
- the man admitted to taking 150% of the recommended dosage
Or was it a combination of all three? We just dont' know.
The FDA Office of Dietary Supplements gives you a way to report problems you experience with dietary supplements. It's called the Safety Reporting Portal. You can also call the FDA at 888-SAFE-FOOD.
17 How Much Works?
There is no known optimal dosage to take to achieve benefits. This is due to a lack of quality human research. Unfortunately, most studies:
- contain small numbers of small people
- only contain young, healthy people
- usually don't last very long
Making this even more difficult is some investigators combine the herb with additional ingredients. All of this makes it impossible to guess at dosages. Something else to consider is even if higenamine really has benefits, the dosage might be different depending on what we were talking about – fat loss, exercise enhancement etc.
18 Quality Higenamine Supplements
In a recent investigation, researchers tested 24 supplements in the US which contained higenamine. These included weight loss and energy supplements. Supplements contained up to 62 mg per serving.
The supplements tested were:
|Adrenal Pump (Total Body Nutrition)||Apidren (NutriPharm)||Beta-Stim (Ronnie Coleman Signature Series)|
|Burn-HC (VMI Sports)||Defcon1 Second Strike (Platinum Labs)||Diablo (ANS Performance)|
|DyNO (RSP Nutrition)||Gnar Pump (Brosupps)||Higenamine (Powder City)|
|High Definition (MBI Performance)||HyperMax (PerforMax Labs)||iBurn2 (M4 Nutrition)|
|Liporidex Max (Nuretix Research)||Liporidex PLUS (Nuretix Research)||LipoRUSH DS2 (NDS Nutrition)|
|N.O. Vate (Applied Nutriceuticals)||OxyShred (EHP Labs)||Prostun-Advanced Thermogenic (HD Labs)|
|Pyroxamine (Myokem)||Razor8 (AllMax Nutrition)||Ritual (ANS Performance)|
|Stim Shot (LeCheek Nutrition)||ThermoVate (Applied Nutriceuticals)||Uplift (NLA for Her)|
What is concerning is only 5 products listed higenamine dosages but none of the products contained what their labels indicated. They could have had more or less than the amount listed.
It was estimated people could be getting up to 110 mg per day when they followed the dosing instructions. Some supplements contained up to 200% more higenamine than their labels indicated.
This lack of quality control makes side effects and toxicity more likely.
19 Higenamine Pro And Con
|Only small amounts are found in plants||Lack of human research|
|Possible multiple drug interactions|
|Elevates heart rate|
|No evidence it helps weight loss|
|No evidence it improves exercise|
|Lots of hype|
20. Is It A Supplement?
In October 2021, the Food and Drug Administration classified higenamine (and hordenine) to be a New Dietary Ingredient (NDI). This means before it can be used as a dietary supplement, companies have to submit to the FDA an NDI notification. This paperwork needs to include proof it is safe.
21 So, Higenamine: Yes Or No?
I say no because I don't see enough human clinical proof yet. There is no doubt, future research will shed light on this herbal extract. But for now, there are too many unknowns for my taste. You are not an experiment. You are worthy of science-proven supplements. Avoid supplements containing higenamine until we know more about it.
Roseann Zinke says
I don’t think I would take higenamine. If it affects the left ventricle by making it pump harder and raises the heart rate and maybe affects THE ELECTRICAL CONDUCTION SYSTEM OF THE HEART, it sounds way too scary to take! Some young, seemingly healthy people can drop dead from an unknown rare electrical conduction defect in the heart. A coworker of years ago lost her son that way when he was playing football in high school!!
(I’m reading at least one of your reviews every week, Joe.)
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, Sorry to hear about what happened to your coworker’s son. So very sad. I would not touch higenamine with a ten-foot pole. Ive seen it in several pre-workout supplements and I wish companies would stop using it.
1 a week yay! 🙂
So it looks like higenamine is pretty safe then, yes?
Jaquene, time will tell. While I was happy to see no deaths reported, I dont know if we can say that means higenamine is safe. Most people just dont take higenamine by itself. Its often one of many ingredients a supplement might contain. I want researchers to take people into the lab and give them higenamine – by itself – and see what happens.
I’d also love to see what happens when people exercise while taking higenamine by itself.
Eventually, I know those studies are going to be done.
Hey Joe, I’ve never heard of higenamine. I checked and it’s not in any of the supplements I take. Thanks for this interesting review- and the video! You should do more videos 🙂
I just shared this review with the trainers at the gym I work at.
Hey Dani, Great, thanks so much for sharing my review with others! I really appreciate it 🙂