Hordenine is found in some everyday foods such as barley and the bitter orange. Beer brewed from barley may even increase levels of hordenine in the blood. Its effects range from increased energy and focus to protecting the skin. However, taking too much hordenine may cause false positives in drug tests and produce a variety of negative side effect

What is Hordenine?

Hordenine, otherwise known as N, N-dimethyltyramine, is an alkaloid mainly found in plants such as barley that are used as feed for animals [1].

It is adrenergic, meaning it causes nerve cells to release the neurotransmitters epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Molecules like epinephrine and norepinephrine increase energy and focus and are part of the “fight-or-flight” response [1, 2, 3].

There used to be scandals with racing horses that were given food containing hordenine in order to improve performance. However, in most countries, the slight increase in performance caused by hordenine was deemed insufficient to be considered cheating [1].

This is mainly because hordenine’s effects are short-lived and a very high concentration of hordenine is needed to bring about any noticeable effect [1].

In Canada, however, it is considered illegal and horses are not allowed to eat hordenine-rich diets [4].

Hordenine can be used to measure beer consumption, as hordenine levels in the blood increase significantly following consumption. Forensic toxicology reports can use hordenine as a suitable measure for beer consumption [5].

Food Sources of Hordenine

  • Bitter orange [6]
  • Barley (beer brewed from barley can also increase levels of hordenine) [7]

Health Benefits of Hordenine

1) May Increase Alertness

Horses injected with hordenine (intravenously) showed increased alertness within two minutes. A 100% increase in heart and breathing rate accompanied the increased alertness [4].

However, the effect only lasted 20 minutes. When hordenine was given orally, alertness did not increase [4].

Some side effects included profuse sweating and defecation immediately after [4].

Hordenine increased response to noradrenaline in rats by 65%. This effect was also seen in guinea pigs [8, 9].

The hordenine did not produce any bodily changes by itself. This means that it does not increase alertness directly, but in an indirect manner by keeping noradrenaline from being removed [8, 9].

2) May Increase Energy

Because hordenine increases response to noradrenaline, some effects of noradrenaline such as increased energy and focus are also seen after hordenine consumption [10, 11].

3) May Protect the Skin

When melanin, a skin pigment, is overproduced, it can cause several skin disorders such as freckles, age spots, and melasma (brown patches on the face) [12].

Several skin lightening products that decrease melanin already exist, but they can cause toxicity, skin cancer, and other skin problems [12].

Therefore, molecules that can decrease melanin production without side-effects are needed. Hordenine decreased melanin production in human cells by 30% [12].

It achieved this by inhibiting cAMP production, which is responsible for expressing proteins needed to create melanin [12].

Hordenine Side Effects, Limitations & Dosage

1) May Reduce the Breakdown of Other Neurotransmitters

Monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) inactivates hordenine. MAO-B is responsible for inactivating other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and phenylethylamine. When MAO-B is busy breaking down hordenine, it may cause other neurotransmitters to build up [8, 13].

Dopamine buildup can cause increased reactivity to stress [13].

2) May Cause Fluctuations In Blood Pressure

In cats, hordenine initially decreased blood pressure, but this decrease was followed by a large spike in blood pressure. Afterward, the blood pressure decreased again to a larger degree, only to recover once again [14].

People sensitive to blood pressure changes should not take too much hordenine.

3) May Cause Convulsions

Hordenine increased convulsions (measured by knee jerks) in cats [14].

It is a cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it keeps the enzyme cholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine. Acetylcholine carries the signals from your nerve cells to cause things like movement. By blocking cholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine, your body would naturally not stop moving and may keep convulsing [14].

4) May Decrease Protection from UV Radiation

Melanin protects human skin by absorbing free radicals and preventing UV damage. Because hordenine decreases melanin production, it can increase UV damage. In individuals not suffering from overproduction of melanin (hyperpigmentation), hordenine may do more harm than good [12].

5) Continuous Consumption May Damage Kidneys

Voles fed high doses of hordenine-containing foods developed damage in their kidneys (in the proximal tubules). Tubular hydropic degeneration, which is damage done to the kidney cells due to overfilling with water, occurred in the voles fed the highest concentration of hordenine [15].

Glycosuria, a disease where glucose is released from the kidneys to the urine, occurred in 62% of the voles [15].


Due to the lack of hordenine studies on humans, it is difficult to pinpoint a recommended dosage. A hordenine capsule supplement recommends taking one capsule of hordenine (50 mg) with each meal [16].

One study gave cats 5mg/kg of hordenine claiming that the low dosage was the threshold to see any effect. The study mentioned that 10-30mg/kg of hordenine is a big dose. Although this dose may translate over to humans, it is a very rough estimate. Ask a doctor to see how much hordenine is right for you [14].

Limitations and Caveats

1) May Cause False-Positives in Drug Testing

Hordenine can cause false-positives in drug tests testing for opioids [17].

The opioid tests that hordenine can affect are [17]:

  • Morphine
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Apomorphine

The biggest cause of hordenine increase in humans is through beer brewed from barley. People who need to take certain opioid drug tests are advised to drink barley-brewed beer in moderation [17].

2) Limited Clinical Testing

There are no clinical tests on hordenine yet, so it is difficult to predict how hordenine would affect humans. More extensive testing is necessary to fully validate many of hordenine’s effects.

User Reviews

There are not many reviews out for hordenine as its usage as a supplement is limited and there are not many hordenine supplements out for sale. One reviewer did say that the hordenine supplement provided them with energy throughout the day and gave the supplement a glowing review [16, 18].

Another reviewer recommended taking the supplement along with other pre-workout supplements [16, 18].

One user noted that it provides “serious stimulation” and increases well-being and pleasure without being addictive. He strongly recommends the supplement [19].


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