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Nov 11, 2013

Black Cohosh Adulteration

Black Cohosh Adulteration
 Actaea        racemosa  

The root of Black Cohosh has grown increasingly well known for its medicinal benefits over the past 200 years.  In more recent years, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and numerous worldwide universities have continued to publish a large amount of literature on this subject. So what is it that intrigues them about this botanical? -The answer, though not so simple, is quite fascinating and offers positive medical future outlooks.

Black Cohosh Root comes in the forms of whole, chopped, semi-whole, dry powder, and liquid extract. Using these forms they are then formulated into pharmaceutical supplements that benefit the treatment of menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, heart palpations, nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances, tinnitus, vertigo, excessive perspiration, depression, premenstrual discomfort, and painful menstruation.
So, Black Cohosh is unquestionably good for women’s health. What else can we expect from this wonder plant? Historically, Black Cohosh has been used for nervous system health and as an antispasmodic, but while the uses span over various medicinal uses, due to a process called adulteration, these benefits may be subsided. Adulteration is the process of mixing additional inferior ingredients into a pure mixture. A great example of this is adding water to dilute wine and lower the price.

Understanding adulteration and the setbacks of this process of adulteration raises concerns for the supplements being made by such a pure and beneficial herb. Not only does variation occur within purity of the extract, it also occurs in the source itself. The reliability of a foreign source of Black Cohosh is of concern since multiple plant types can be translated from Mandarin into English as Black Cohosh. When much of the material arrives in bulk quantities in forms such as chopped or powdered, identifying the true make-up to be pure Black Cohosh may need lab testing.

What we can understand from this is the true makeup of a supplement containing what is labeled as Black Cohosh, just may be its closely named counterpart. For a buyer, seeing a product that can be labeled Black Cohosh yet is a third of the price, may be tempting, which in-turn provides little incentive to suppliers to seek out reliable supply sources, which offer a high base price parallel to a non-adulterated substance.

The good news is that there is scientific botanical identification tools used that can identify a product’s level of purity. This offers the opportunity for companies to provide authentic materials to use in supplements, which in turn avoid misrepresentation to a product in a supplement that will not provide the intended benefits, and also avoid potential harm. When buying supplements, base decisions on not only the benefits of the product, but also the reliability of the company supplying it and Caveat emptor!

Foster, S. (2013). Exploring the Pheripatetic Maze of Black Cohosh Adulteration, A Review of the Nomenclature, Distribution, Chemistry, Market Status, Analytical Methods, and Safety Concerns of this Popular Herb. The Journal of the American Botanical Council, 98, 32-51.