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Contents of Black Cohosh Products May Vary

Black cohosh (Actea racemosa) is an herb native to North America that is becoming more widely used in the United States for health purposes, primarily for menopause-related symptoms. Dr. Bei Jiang and colleagues at Columbia University, the City University of New York, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently analyzed the chemical components of 11 black cohosh products available in the United States. They found that four contained an Asian species of black cohosh-which is cheaper and easier for producers to find—either alone or in combination with North American black cohosh. Compared with the species cultivated in North America, the Asian variety has different chemical properties, is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat different conditions, and may have different effects on the body. The remaining seven products contained only North American black cohosh, but with different proportions of the main chemical components.

The researchers concluded that the varying chemical makeup of black cohosh products may produce different health effects, and that methods are needed to ensure their quality and ingredients. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 3, 20061.

Journal Publication Date: May 3, 2006

1 Editor’s note: A recent review of data by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain found that liver problems could result from taking black cohosh. The problems were rare, but potentially serious. The MHRA will now require that labels on black cohosh products in Britain carry an updated safety warning. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry May 3, 2006.

Publication Date: 
May 3, 2006

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