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Black Cohosh Adulteration Bulletin Released by ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program

Quality consortium’s fifth Bulletin explores black cohosh adulteration and highlights analytical tools to detect known adulterants

AUSTIN, Texas (June 13, 2016) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program announces the publication of a new Botanical Adulterants Bulletin (BAB) on black cohosh (Actaea racemosa).

The Black Cohosh Bulletin begins with information on the plant species, its cultivation, harvest, market size, known adulterants, frequency of adulteration, potential therapeutic and/or safety issues with the adulterating species, and analytical approaches to detect adulterants. Sevenexpert reviewers provided input on the Black Cohosh Bulletin.

Black cohosh has been a popular ingredient in North American herbal medicine for centuries. Today, it is primarily used to alleviate menopausal symptoms. According to data published by the American Botanical Council (ABC) in the annual Herb Market Report in its peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram, black cohosh has been one of the best-selling five botanical dietary supplements in the mainstream market over the past three years.

The goal of the Bulletins is to provide accounts of ongoing issues related to botanical identity and adulteration, thus allowing quality control personnel and lab technicians in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient, dietary supplement, cosmetic, and conventional food industries to be informed on adulteration problems that may be widespread and/or imply safety concerns. As with all publications in the Program, the Bulletins are freely accessible to ABC members and registered users on the Program’s website.

“Black cohosh is a popular herb in the United States and other industrialized nations,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC founder and executive director and director of the Botanical Adulterants Program. “Our publication of this new Bulletin will help responsible companies in the herb and dietary supplement industry to exercise appropriate extra diligence in quality control testing to ensure that they are selling authentic North American black cohosh.”

The new Black Cohosh Botanical Adulterants Bulletin complements a previous extensive article on this topic published in ABC’s peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram issue 98 in 2013 by noted author and photographer Steven Foster, entitled “Exploring the Peripatetic Maze of Black Cohosh Adulteration: A Review of the Nomenclature, Distribution, Chemistry, Market Status, Analytical Methods, and Safety.” A photo of black cohosh was featured on the cover of the same issue.

An extensive Black Cohosh Laboratory Guidance Document produced by the Botanical Adulterants Program in December 2015 summarized and evaluated 36 analytical methods for accurately determining the identity of black cohosh botanical raw materials or extracts.

The new Black Cohosh Botanical Adulterants Bulletin incorporates information compiled in these previous publications but adds new updates and advances.

Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC chief science officer and Botanical Adulterants Program technical director, who wrote the Black Cohosh Bulletin, commented, “Adulteration of black cohosh continues to be a problem. Since the publication of Foster’s HerbalGram review on black cohosh adulteration and the Laboratory Guidance Document last year, new studies have confirmed the illegal substitution of botanical material labeled as ‘black cohosh’ with closely-related Asian plants; however, these Asian species are different from authentic North American black cohosh. The goal of this new Bulletin is to further increase awareness of black cohosh adulteration.”

The Black Cohosh Bulletin is the fifth publication in a new series of Botanical Adulterants Bulletins, which provide timely information and updates on adulteration issues to the international herb and natural products communities. The Bulletin on goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) root and rhizome was published in early June, preceded in April by the first three Bulletins on bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) fruit extract, grape (Vitis vinifera) seed extract, and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) herb. The Botanical Adulterants Program plans to release additional Bulletins in the coming months. The next in the series is a Bulletin on arnica (Arnica montana) flower.

About the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program

The American Botanical Council (ABC)-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program (BAP) is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, trade associations, analytical laboratories, industry members, and others that advises industry, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. To date, more than 175 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the Program.

To date, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program has published five extensively peer-reviewed and referenced articles on the history of adulteration, the adulteration of the herbs black cohosh and skullcap, adulteration of bilberry fruit extract, and the sale of synthetic antimicrobial compounds labeled to contain so-called “grapefruit seed extract.” In addition, the Program has published three Laboratory Guidance Documents reviewing and evaluating analytical methods to authenticate and detect adulteration of bilberry extract, black cohosh, and skullcap. The Program also publishes a quarterly e-newsletter, the Botanical Adulterants Monitor, that highlights new scientific publications related to botanical authenticity and analysis to detect possible adulteration, recent regulatory actions, and Program news. All of the Program’s publications are freely available to ABC members and registered users on the Program’s website.