(NaturalNews) Extract of black cohosh may halt the growth of breast cancer cells, according to a new study conducted by the French company Naturex and published in the journal "Phytomedicine." The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Cimicifugae racemosae rhizome, also known as black cohosh, is a plant in the buttercup family that is native to eastern North America, ranging from central Georgia in the south to southern Ontario in the north, and as far west as Missouri. It is also known as black bugbane, black snakeroot and fairy candle.
Black cohosh has a history of use as a traditional medicine for gynecological problems, kidney problems and sore throat, and is commonly used to help relieve the symptoms of menopause.
In the current study, researchers applied extracts of black cohosh to breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting. Growth of cancer cells was inhibited in cell lines that had the extract added, apparently due to an increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis).
The researchers linked the cancer-inhibiting effects of black cohosh extract to its content of triterpene glycosides.
"Taken together, these results indicate that the triterpene glycoside actein and related compounds may be useful in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer," the researchers wrote.
Various safety concerns have been raised over the use of black cohosh dietary supplements by women with breast cancer. A Yale School of Medicine study found that black cohosh increased the cell toxicity of two chemotherapy drugs, doxorubicin and docetaxel, making them more dangerous. At the same time, black cohosh appears to decrease the cell toxicity of a different drug, known as cisplatin.
Black cohosh has also been known to induce labor or miscarriage in certain cases.
The connection of the plant with the female reproductive system is not well understood. Originally, researchers believed that the plant contained phytoestrogens, but this hypothesis is now in dispute.