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DNA Barcode Identification of Black Cohosh Herbal Dietary Supplements

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Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) herbal dietary supplements are commonly consumed to treat menopausal symptoms, but there are reports of adverse events and toxicities associated with their use. Accidental misidentification and/or deliberate adulteration results in harvesting other related species that are then marketed as black cohosh. Some of these species are known to be toxic to humans. We have identified two matK nucleotides that consistently distinguish black cohosh from related species. Using these nucleotides, an assay was able to correctly identify all of the black cohosh samples in the validation set. None of the other Actaea species in the validation set were falsely identified as black cohosh. Of 36 dietary supplements sequenced, 27 (75%) had a sequence that exactly matched black cohosh. The remaining nine samples (25%) had a sequence identical to that of three Asian Actaea species (A. cimicifuga, A. dahurica, and A. simplex). Manufacturers should routinely test plant material using a reliable assay to ensure accurate labeling.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of AOAC INTERNATIONAL publishes refereed papers and reviews in the fields of chemical, biological and toxicological analytical chemistry for the purpose of showcasing the most precise, accurate and sensitive methods for analysis of foods, food additives, supplements and contaminants, cosmetics, drugs, toxins, hazardous substances, pesticides, feeds, fertilizers and the environment available at that point in time. The scope of the Journal includes unpublished original research describing new analytical methods, techniques and applications; improved approaches to sampling, both in the field and the laboratory; better methods of preparing samples for analysis; collaborative studies substantiating the performance of a given method; statistical techniques for evaluating data. The Journal will also publish other articles of general interest to its audience, e.g., technical communications; cautionary notes; comments on techniques, apparatus, and reagents.
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