According to news just in from the American Chemical Society, millions of women use the herb black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) as a dietary supplement to help treat hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. However, there are no definitive clinical trials to say whether they are wasting their money or not. Some studies report that black cohosh helps relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, while others do not.
A new study to be published May 17 in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry reveals that many of the black cohosh supplements sold across the US actually do not contain any of this plant at all. Rather, they are formulated with a related plant species that has none of the same chemical compounds or clinical applications as the native North American plant.
Edward Kennelly, Fredi Kronenberg and colleagues report that a new analytical technique, allowed them to quickly test 11 products on the market claiming to contain black cohosh. Three contained an inactive adulterant, and one contained both genuine black cohosh and an Asian imitator. Products containing only black cohosh varied significantly in the amounts of the compounds believed to relieve menopausal symptoms.
“In the US, botanical dietary supplements are regulated as foods, rather than drugs,” noted Kennelly, “The manufacturers are required to follow good manufacturing practices, so this misbranding should not occur. Unfortunately, our study shows that at least in the case of black cohosh, many manufacturers are not following the regulations.”
In other words, caveat emptor applies as always, adds Kennedy: “Consumers should be aware of this situation in order to make proper choices for their health care.”