Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 405, Issue 13, pp 4409–4417

Primary constituents of blue cohosh: quantification in dietary supplements and potential for toxicity


DOI: 10.1007/s00216-013-6783-7

Cite this article as:
Rader, J.I. & Pawar, R.S. Anal Bioanal Chem (2013) 405: 4409. doi:10.1007/s00216-013-6783-7


Dietary supplements containing dried roots or extracts of the roots and/or rhizomes of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) are widely available. This botanical has a long history of use by Native Americans and its use continues to the present day. The primary constituents of blue cohosh are its alkaloids and saponins. The structures of the alkaloids magnoflorine, baptifoline, anagyrine, and N-methylcytisine have been known for many years. The last 10 years have seen a great increase in isolation and identification of the large number of saponins present in blue cohosh. Important developments in nuclear magnetic resonance techniques have contributed substantially to the increase in elucidation of the structures of the complex saponins. Several authors have described quantitative methods for both the alkaloids and saponins in blue cohosh. Such methods have made it possible to quantify these constituents in dietary supplements containing this botanical ingredient. Concentrations of both alkaloids and saponins vary substantially in dietary supplements of blue cohosh. The nicotinic alkaloid, N-methylcytisine, a potent toxicant, has been found in all dietary supplements of blue cohosh analyzed. The teratogenic alkaloid anagyrine has been found in some but not all dietary supplements.


Blue cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides Alkaloids Saponins Dietary supplements 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Office of Regulatory Science, Center for Food Safety and Applied NutritionUS Food and Drug AdministrationCollege ParkUSA

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