Formononetin found in herbal products
August 17 2017
by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

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

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.

Biomed Chromatogr. 2013. Simultaneous quantification of paeoniflorin, nobiletin, tangeretin, liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, liquiritin and formononetin from Si-Ni-San extract in rat plasma and tissues by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Laboratory of Pharmaceutics, Jiangsu Key laboratory for Molecular and Medical Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, People's Republic of China. In this study, a sensitive and reliable liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method was developed and validated for the determination of seven bioactive components including paeoniflorin, nobiletin, tangeretin, liquiritigenin, isoliquiritigenin, liquiritin and formononetin in rat plasma and tissues after oral administration of Si-Ni-San extract using astragaloside IV as internal standard (IS). The plasma and tissue samples were extracted by solid-phase extraction. Chromatographic separation was accomplished on a C18 column with a multiple-step gradient elution. The quantification was obtained by scanning with multiple reaction monitoring via an electrospray ionization source that was operated by switching between the positive and negative modes in two MS/MS scan segments. Full validation of the assay was implemented. In conclusion, this method demonstrated good linearity and specificity. The validated method was further applied to the determination of actual rat plasma and tissues after oral administration of Si-Ni-San extract. The results provided a meaningful basis for the clinical application of this prescription.

J Nat Med. 2013. Calycosin and formononetin from astragalus root enhance dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase 2 and nitric oxide synthase expressions in Madin Darby Canine Kidney II cells. Department of Pharmacognosy, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nagoya City University, Nagoya, Japan. Nitric oxide (NO) is a crucial vasodilator produced by nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) is an endogenous NOS inhibitor and mainly catabolized by dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH). As we reported, the antihypertensive effect of shichimotsukokato (SKT), a formula of Japanese traditional kampo medicine consisting of 7 crude drugs, in 5/6 nephrectomized rats, is mediated by the DDAH-ADMA-NO pathway. Our present study aimed to explore the effective compounds of SKT using Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) II cells. We isolated two isoflavones, calycosin and formononetin from astragalus root, one of the components of SKT, which can promote DDAH2 protein and mRNA expressions in MDCK II cells. The neuronal NOS levels were also upregulated by the treatment of calycosin and formononetin. These results suggest that calycosin and formononetin could be the active ingredients of astragalus root and SKT that cause antihypertensive effects. The increased levels of DDAH2 and NOS may enhance NO production, decrease ADMA level and improve endothelial and cardiovascular dysfunction.

J Diet Suppl. 2012. Effects of sodium metavanadate and germination on the sprouting of chickpeas and its content of vanadium, formononetin and biochanin A in the sprouts. Department of Biological Sciences, Taishan Medical University, Tai'an, Shandong, PR China. Chickpea sprouts (CS) may become one of the natural products of high demand due to their nutritional values. The aim of this work was to study the enrichment of vanadium (V) during the germination of chickpea seeds in order to combine the high nutritive value of sprouts with a readily bioavailable source of essential trace element-V. Chickpea seeds were germinated in sodium metavanadate solutions (NaVO(3)) with different concentrations for 6 days. It was found that the addition of sodium metavanadate produced slight stress effect, and the growth of CS was inhibited. The addition of sodium metavanadate significantly increased V content in CS in a dose-dependent manner. The highest V content in CS was observed when germination was carried out in the NaVO(3) solution with 1,200 mg/L NaVO(3) concentration. Chickpea seeds germinated in 50 ∼200 mg/L NaVO(3) solutions for 6 days at 28 C showed a higher germination rate (>99%%) and a higher content of isoflavones including formononetin and biochanin A than those obtained in NaVO(3) solutions with other concentration in the same germination conditions. Therefore, a concentration of 50∼200 mg/L sodium metavanadate solutions should be used for the production of V-enriched chickpea sprouts (VCS).

J Neurol Sci. 2013 Dec 27. Formononetin protects TBI rats against neurological lesions and the underlying mechanism.