Black Cohosh Contains Potent Antioxidants, Protects Against DNA Damage

BACKGROUND: The herb black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa L.) has been used as a traditional remedy for easing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. Like other herbs, black cohosh may be a rich source of antioxidants, which may prevent free radical-induced DNA mutations involved in cancer development.

RESEARCH: In a series of experiments, researchers tested the overall activity of black cohosh extract, as well as the antioxidant activity of 10 individual compounds found in black cohosh, in the presence of menadione, a chemical known to cause free radical damage. These experiments were performed in breast cancer cells.

RESULTS: The experiments demonstrated that black cohosh extract is a potent antioxidant. In addition, six of the ten principal constituents also reduced the levels of DNA damage in breast cancer cells.

IMPLICATIONS: The findings of this study suggest that black cohosh may protect against cellular DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species by acting as an antioxidant. The identification of new agents and sources of antioxidant compounds may help provide protection against oxidation-related diseases, such as aging, cancer, and inflammation. Burdette JE, Chen SN, Lu ZZ, et al, "Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa L.) protects against menadione-induced DNA damage through scavenging of reactive oxygen species: bioassay-directed isolation and characterization of active principles," Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2002; 50:7022-7028.

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