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Not All Supplements are Created Equal

In a May 16th News Headline, Nutra Ingredients USA announced that "black cohosh has no benefit on hot flushes [according to a] US team." They report begins by stating "[t]he new findings should help women look for other methods to control the menopause symptoms, the Mayo clinic scientists told the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference." Dr. Barbara Pockaj, lead physician of the study, states in the report that "the findings demonstrated absolutely no improvement of symptoms when women took black cohosh compared to placebo. This finding is extremely important, because we can now say to our patients that black cohosh does not work and we have to try other methods to control their symptoms." The researchers conducted a four week cross-over design study involved 132 women; other clinical trials of black cohosh have run from 3 to 6 months. In a May 17th News Release, ABC reported that the product used in the trial was the researchers attempt at a Remifemin® (Schaper & Breummer, GmbH & Co. KG, Salzgitter, Germany) replica; it is unclear how successful the researchers were with their replication.

Interestingly, Dr. Pockaj had conducted a pilot study last year (21 women; 1 week of baseline; 4 weeks of therapy) that found that Remifemin did decrease hot flashes in women (see the full summary at HC 030552.282). ABC also reported that a longer, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 304 menopausal women using Remifemin had demonstrated that the preparation produced clinically significant benefits (Osmers R, Friede M, Liske E, Schnitker J, Freudenstein J, Henneicke-von Zepelin H-H. Efficacy and Safety of Isopropanolic Black Cohosh Extract for Climacteric Symptoms. Obstet Gynecol 2005;105:1074-83.)

No herb extracts are identical, in the same manner that no conventional medicine is identical to each other. To categorically state that black cohosh (in all the herb's many forms) cannot benefit menopausal women based on a study conducted for a shorter period of time than black cohosh experts recommend and incorporating a "knock-off" supplement that has never been tested is ludicrous.

Lori Glenn, Coordinator