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Menopause Health Center

Black Cohosh Not Always What It Seems

Study Shows Some Supplements Sold as Black Cohosh Contain Other Herbs
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April 26, 2006 -- Women who take black cohosh supplements to treat hot flashes and other symptoms related to menopause may not be getting what they pay for, new research shows.

A chemical analysis of 11 commercially available products marketed as black cohosh found that three did not even contain the herb, which is grown in North America. Instead, researchers say, these products contained a related Asian species of the plant that differs not only chemically but also in its clinical uses compared with the North American species. Importantly, the imposter is also cheaper to produce.

One other product contained both the genuine black cohosh and the Asian imitator. And the seven products that contained only black cohosh had widely varying amounts of the compounds thought to be the active agents for the relief of menopause symptoms.

The findings are published in the May 17 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

"The variability between products with black cohosh wasn't too surprising, but the fact that some of these products did not even contain black cohosh was both surprising and worrisome," says researcher Edward J. Kennelly, PhD, of Lehman College and the City University of New York.

Kennelly tells WebMD that the tested products were found in stores in New York City between 2002 and 2004 and were thought to be representative of what was available in the area at the time.

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