Formononetin found in herbal products
August 17 2015
by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Formononetin is an isoflavonoid phytoestrogen found in foods and certain herbs such as red clover and black cohosh.

Formononetin in black cohosh
Analysis of thirteen populations of black cohosh for formononetin.
Phytomedicine. 2002. Department of Biological Sciences, Lehman College and The Center for Graduate Studies, The City University of New York, Bronx, NY 10468, USA.
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa, a North American perennial plant, is a promising natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy for treating menopausal symptoms, but the mechanism of action is not understood. The clinical actions of this plant have been attributed to the isoflavonone formononetin since 1985, when its presence was reported in a black cohosh extract. Others have since looked for formononetin, but have not detected it. We looked for formononetin in extracts of black cohosh roots and rhizomes collected in thirteen locations in the eastern United States, including Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Tennessee. The rhizome samples were extracted using 80% methanol, and the extracts were partially purified using solid-phase extraction to concentrate any isoflavonoids that might be present. We tested for formononetin in these partially purified samples using thin-layer chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography with a photodiode array detector and a mass spectrometer. Formononetin was not detected in any of the thirteen plant populations examined. Remifemin, a German product now on the United States market, and CimiPure, a commercially available black cohosh rhizome extract, were also analyzed. We did not detect formononetin, or ononin (formononetin-7-glucoside), in any sample tested by the above-mentioned chemical analyses. Therefore, the clinically observed estrogen-like actions of black cohosh, such as reduction of hot flashes, are likely due to a compound, or combination of compounds, other than formononetin.

Planta Med. 2014 Feb 18. Protective Effects of Sulphonated Formononetin in a Rat Model of Cerebral Ischemia and Reperfusion Injury. Sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate is a derivative of the plant isoflavone formononetin. The present study aimed to investigate the neuroprotective and angiogenesis effects of sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate in vivo and in vitro. Treatment with sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate (3, 7.5, 15, and 30 mg/kg, intravenous injection) could protect the brain from ischemia and reperfusion injury by improving neurological function, suppressing cell apoptosis, and increasing expression levels of vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 by middle cerebral artery occlusion. Treatment with sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate (10 and 20 g/mL) significantly increased cell migration, tube formation, and vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule levels in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Our results suggest that sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate provides significant neuroprotective effects against cerebral ischemia and reperfusion injury in rats, and improves cerebrovascular angiogenesis in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. The protective mechanisms of sodium formononetin-3'-sulphonate may be attributed to the suppression of cell apoptosis and improved cerebrovascular angiogenesis by promoting vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule expression.

Brain cancer, glioma
Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015. Formononetin sensitizes glioma cells to doxorubicin through preventing EMT via inhibition of histone deacetylase 5. Results demonstrated that formononetin-combined therapy may enhance the therapeutic efficacy of doxorubicin in glioma cells by preventing EMT through inhibition of HDAC5.