Herbal Supplements: Are You Wasting Your Money?
A Billion Dollar Industry
Herbal supplements have become a very big profit-making business in the health industry of North America comprising up to $60 billion worth of expenditure. However, not all of these herbal supplements are healthy, nor do they contain what they are purported to. Many of the herbal supplements found at your local stores are either contaminated or do not contain the actual herb you though it contained. These are the findings of an extensive study done on some of the herbal manufacturing firms in the U.S.A and Canada.¹
Standards of Measurement
This research analyzed 44 different types of herbal supplements. The supplements were unknown to the tester so that their authenticity could be more accurately measured. The research utilized DNA barcoding that is a state-of-the-art biotechnology which helps identify plant constituents based on gene sequence. Prior to DNA barcoding there was no effective manner which to evaluate the authenticity of herbs because the morphology of the plant, which was used to identify it, changed during the processing of the plant.
Results Show Most People Waste Their Money on Supplements
The findings discovered that more than 83% of the products tested contained product substitution. In other words, the product did not wholly contain the actual herbs listed on the label; instead, it contained a different species of that plant. It was also noted that about one-third of the products contained fillers such as wheat or rice. These fillers were found to be present in 21% of the sample. These substitutions and fillers completely affect the supplements efficacy in an adverse manner.
Why Mislabeled Products Can Adversely Affect Your Health
The following examples of herbs were found to be contaminated:
- St John’s Wort: It was missing the actual St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and instead contained the herb named Senna alexandrina (Fabaceae). Senna is an approved FDA non-prescription laxative. If taken regularly, this herb is well-known to cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and liver damage.
- Echinacea and Dandelion: These were found to be contaminated with the Feverfew herb. Feverfew has the ability to react with other medications which are metabolized by the liver, and may increase bleeding in those who are on anticoagulants such as Warfarin or Coumadin. It is also not advised that pregnant women do not take feverfew.
- Gingkgo: It had been found to be contaminated with black walnut leaves which could be catastrophic for anyone with a heightened sensitivity to nuts causing them to develop an allergic reaction.
The FDA is Monitoring Your Safety, or Are They?
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) pays very little attention to Vitamins and supplement regulation despite discovering substitutions or even dangerous constituents in supplements. They fail to carry out regular testing on these products making it difficult to identify the authentic supplements since their names are not published.
What Supplements Should I Buy?
It is evident by the findings of this study that you will need to pay serious attention to the quality of herbal supplement you purchase. The only supplements I use or recommend to patients are those products which undergo strict testing on each batch of raw material or finished product. This way you are assured that the herbal supplement you are paying for has been tested, verified and recommended for use. The three companies that I personally use don’t sell to the public and only health care professionals; however, they do sell to the patients of them. Some of the companies you can find OTC, but not many. This link will show you which companies have met strict testing to ensure the highest quality. Clicking this link will enable you to order from the company which I get all of my supplements from. The provider code you will want to use is Unda.
When it comes to supplements, you get what you pay for. If you are going to search for the lowest priced supplement on the internet, you will have paid, however much you paid for it, too much. These cheap products are worth nothing in value to your health, and you have wasted your money. On the flip side, sometimes they are priced high and are still worth nothing in value.
Written by: Dr. Christopher Fucci
1. Newmaster, S., Guric, M., Shanmughanandhan, D., Ramalingam, S., Ragupathy, S. DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products. BMC Medicine 2013, 11:222