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American Botanical Council Organizes Strong Counter to Media on Recent Black Cohosh Research PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Weeks   

American Botanical Council Organizes Strong Counter to Media on Recent Black Cohosh Research

Summary: After news broke December 19th that suggested that black cohosh would become another in a growing line of supplements not supported by results from major NIH research grants, the American Botanical Council swiftly issued a detailed response. The argument: the media was inappropriately judging the botanical - used to control hot-flashes - based on one study when "the majority of published trials" have found the herb effective. The response, developed by ABC's executive director Mark Blumenthal with the assistance of a top-notch set of botanical researchers including Mary Hardy, MD, Gail Mahady, PhD, Fredi Kronenberg, PhD, Francis Brinker, ND and Daniel Fabricant, PhD. The ABC work is a strong rebuttal to the media's quick dismissal of the well-researched and widely-used herb.
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Image The Austin-based American Botanical Council (ABC) was ready last month when the media seemed to pass summary judgment against black cohosh's effectiveness for menopausal symptoms based on one study.

ABC's executive director Mark Blumenthal, a widely interviewed resource in the same mainstream media, told the Integrator that ABC had spent significant time in 2004 due to claims, also showing up in the media, of significant liver toxicity in the herb. An
NIH-backed one-day meeting was held in November 2004. "We couldn't find anything compelling," recalls Blumenthal.

The negative outcomes of a study, led by Katherine M. Newton, PhD, of the Group Health Center for Health Studies, were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Annals chose to publish the outcomes with
a corresponding editorial Carol M. Magione, MD, MSPH of the David Geffen School of Medicine (UCLA) who wrote, conclusively: “Black cohosh is not effective.”

Image
Black cohosh, from nccam.gov
Blumenthal knew past research - and a lot of it - supported various commercial brands, mostly out of Europe. Remifemin, for instance, a product popularized in the United States by Michael Murray, ND, speaking on behalf of Enzymatic Therapy, is backed by over 15 trials. Within two days, and working with a top set of researchers and clinicians (see side-bar), ABC released an in-depth, 2100 word analysis to its members entitled "Black Cohosh Clinical Trial Not Representative of Previous Research Showing Positive Benefits."

   

Researcher-
Clinician Team
Involved
with the
ABC Counter-
Statement


Mark Blumenthal

Mary Hardy, MD

Gail Mahady, PhD

Fredi Kronenberg, PhD*

Francis Brinker, ND

Daniel Fabricant, PhD*


* Both are investigators
on other NIH-funded
black cohosh studies.





The conclusion to the analysis is provided by Daniel Fabricant, PhD, himself a co-investigator on a separate black cohosh trial. Said Fabricant: “This new study should not be called conclusive by any stretch.” Gail Mahady, PhD, an associate professor of pharmacognocist at the University of Illinois notes that the previous 10 trials since 2003 "were all positive." Francis Brinker, ND, an author of botanical resources who is associated with the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, notes that all extracts are not created equal: "We shouldn't blame, say, Peter Cohosh for the failings of Paul Cohosh (or reward Peter for Paul's success), unless there is some good evidence for bioequivalency.” Nor should we shoot black cohosh twice with the same bullet. Los Angeles-based clinician and researcher Mary Hardy, MD, cautions that this “is the second time data from this trial has been reported in the medical literature, so care must be taken not to count this study twice in looking at the whole body of literature.”

Blumenthal told the Integrator that he is awaiting two additional studies "of the most widely utilized extract" which are under way. One is that with which Fabricant is involved. The second, also funded through the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is led by Fredi Kronenberg, PhD, of Columbia University's the Rosenthal Center at Columbia University.

For now, as Blumenthal notes at the top of the ABC release:
“The medical literature contains many controlled and uncontrolled trials that support the efficacy of the two leading black cohosh preparations for treating menopause symptoms.”


Image
ABC founder and director Mark Blumenthal
Comment
: The ABC's work is evidence of a mature industry defending its truth. For the American Botanical Council, which has worked hard to gain its present status as a leading, not-for-profit research and education resource, the truth is based on a balanced look at the research. While it is unfortunate that the science 
writers who covered the story typically forgot their learning about the way science works, it is akin to unforgivable that Carol Magione, MD, MSPH - who wrote the condemning commentary in Annals - lost touch with the principles in her scientific training as well.

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