Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem

It is estimated that Americans spend about 5 billion dollars annually on herbal supplements alone. More times than not however, the claims made and the ingredients listed on the bottle are falsely stated. It has been known for sometime that these products often sold by major retailers are of poor quality and usually offer very little to no effect. The FDA has poor regulation over supplements leading to pills and capsules that are misleading and even potentially harmful to consumers.

Using a method called DNA barcoding, something that has been used in the seafood industry for the last decade to detect fraudulent labeling, researchers are now able to detect with more ease what are actually in these capsules containing herbs. It is basically a ‘fingerprint’ for plants to see if the ingredients match up. After testing products claiming to contain some of the most popular herbs sold in America such as St John’s Wort, Black Cohosh, Gingko, and Echinacea, a disturbing truth was revealed. Either the herbs were diluted or they were completely replaced with other things like soybean, rice, wheat, or even other herbs that could be dangerous and therefore not consumed.

Until the FDA develops more stringent guidelines overseeing the supplement industry, be cautious when purchasing products containing herbs and use the following to guide your purchase. Research the company and look to see if they follow other country’s regulations like Canada, Australia, and Japan which all have very sophisticated guidelines similar to the pharmaceutical industry. Alternatively, see if the company uses third party testing outside of their facility for quality control. In order to get your money’s worth as well as to potentially see an optimal effect on your health, use good judgment or consult with someone to see what the best options are for your health.

To learn more, read the article published in the NY Times here: