Adulteration of Black Cohosh is “rife” – BHMA

The British Herbal Medicines Association (BHMA) has warned that the situation in which an unregulated Black Cohosh product caused liver failure “must never be allowed to happen again”.

Earlier this week the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned consumers about the dangers of unlicensed Black Cohosh remedies after a woman suffered serious liver failure when she took an unnamed unlicensed product containing the herb. The woman subsequently required a liver transplant.

In a statement, the BHMA said that the case was a “tragedy for the individual concerned and an important reminder of the need to regulate the supply of herbal medicines in the public interest”.

The Association says that it has consistently called for strict controls of the supply of black cohosh since reports were published almost 10 years ago linking consumption of unregistered products to liver disease. It points out that despite it having been a legal requirement since April 2011 for all manufacturers of black cohosh (and other herbal medicines) to register products under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, many non-registered products have remained on the market.

The BHMA says adulteration of Black Cohosh with the wrong species “is rife” resulting in finished products with “uncertain safety profiles”.

These products continue to be a threat to public safety says the Association, which is calling on the UK regulators to take “robust steps to ensure that this tragedy doesn’t happen again”.

• The campaign group Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) – which blames “cowboy sector” for the latest Black Cohosh health incident – has criticised the BHMA’s position. ANH’s scientific director, Dr Rob Verkerk, told “You can’t help feeling that the BHMA is exploiting an isolated case of misfortune to tarnish responsible food companies that have long sold carefully selected and manufactured black cohosh food supplements with no history of significant adverse events.”