May 5, 2006
Many black cohosh products are fake – study
By Anne Harding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Some products now sold in the
US as black cohosh don't contain the popular herbal medicine at
all, a new study shows.
The herb has been used for several decades in Europe and
North America to treat menopausal symptoms and some clinical
trials have suggested it can indeed help treat hot flashes.
Black cohosh is becoming scarce in the wild, raising the
possibility that manufacturers may turn to related Actaea
species that are cultivated in China and can be obtained more
While these herbs are used in Chinese medicine, they are
not employed for treating menopausal symptoms, Dr. Edward J.
Kennelly of the City University of New York told Reuters
And right now, because it's not clear which components of
black cohosh are responsible for its potential effects, there's
no way to tell if the Asian herbs may also help fight
menopausal symptoms. "They do have similar compounds; it's a
bit of a black box, really," Kennelly said.
To investigate the authenticity of black cohosh products
now on the market, Kennelly and colleagues tested 11 different
Three of the products were made from the herb's cheaper
Asian cousin and contained no black cohosh, they report in the
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. One other product
contained both Asian cohosh and black cohosh.
"Right now it looks like a number of products aren't really
black cohosh," Kennelly said. He and his colleagues do not name
the brands of the products they tested. However, he said, they
have informed the Food and Drug Administration and the American
Herbal Products Association of their findings. Kennelly also
noted that some Web sites, like consumerlab.com, offer
independent testing of herbal products.
"It's a little bit difficult for the consumer I guess at
this point," he said.
SOURCE: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 17,