Study Publicizes Black Cohosh Substitution with Chinese Cimicifuga

(April 26, 2006, Silver Spring, MD) -- An article in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry* reports that three of eleven black cohosh supplements purchased in the United States and tested did not contain black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa). Instead, the three products contained less expensive extracts of Chinese cimicifuga (specific other Actaea spp.) that do not have all the same chemical compounds or clinical uses as the native North American plant. A fourth product indicated a probable mixture of the two plants. The products tested were purchased from 2002 through 2004.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) last year added these Asian Actaea species to its list of potential botanical adulterants to warn industry to be on the lookout for this economic substitution. Manufacturers have a responsibility to know what they are selling and to take adequate steps to ensure that the ingredients in their products match the product labels and vice versa.

“One of AHPA’s responsible member companies brought this concern to the association's attention a year ago,” said Steven Dentali, PhD, AHPA’s vice president for scientific and technical affairs. “AHPA promptly notified its membership and has since identified a practical, appropriate, and inexpensive analytical method that industry can employ to differentiate extracts of black cohosh from closely related Asian species.”

Black cohosh supplements are used by women to manage hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Chinese cimicifuga is a well known ingredient in many Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas. Its economic substitution for black cohosh is not considered to raise a safety concern.


* Jiang B, Kronenberg F, Nuntanakorn P, Qiu M-H, Kennelly EJ. Evaluation of the botanical authenticity and phytochemical profile of black cohosh products by high-performance liquid chromatography with selected ion monitoring liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(9):3242-53.

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