Ecological and Chemotypic Analysis for Improved Growth and Management of Naturally Occurring Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.) Populations in Western Maryland


Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.) is a perennial herb native to deciduous woodlands in eastern North America with an extensive history of traditional use, most commonly for rheumatoid arthritis and female reproductive issues. Modern clinical research has maintained this herb’s relevance into the 21st century with a majority of authentic black cohosh raw material still harvested from naturally occurring populations in Appalachian woodlands for use in botanical supplements. Increased use and interest in black cohosh have led to increased wild harvesting, reports of adulteration, and stress on this important natural resource. In an effort to study this significant medicinal plant as part of an ecosystem, and to understand factors that would contribute to the more effective growth and maintenance of black cohosh, key chemical, physiological, and ecological aspects of two occurring populations in western Maryland were surveyed. Rhizomes were harvested from six populations of naturally occurring black cohosh in two state forests located in the Allegheny Plateau and Ridge and Valley physiogeographic provinces of Maryland. The concentrations of five medicinal compounds found in black cohosh extracts, actein, 23-epi-26-deoxyactein, cafeic acid, ferulicacid, and N-methylserotonin, were compared with plant reproductive status as well as accompanying overstory and under story species, soil moisture, and soil pH at each site. Compound levels showed a complex dependence on physiography but were independent of reproductive state. The findings provide clues to guide efforts at effective growth and management of wild populations of black cohosh and other threatened medicinal plants.

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Vickers, A. , Brosi, S. , Howell, J. , Kaur, B. , Puthoff, D. and Eisenstein, E. (2015) Ecological and Chemotypic Analysis for Improved Growth and Management of Naturally Occurring Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.) Populations in Western Maryland. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 6, 3272-3281. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2015.619319.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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