There has been some recent media attention regarding DNA testing of herbal supplements sold in 4 chain stores. The supplements they tested, echinacea, garlic, ginseng, and gingko, contained no plant material and were found to contain rice, beans, pine, citrus, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplant, and wild carrot not listed on the labels. Some believe that testing was done improperly and that other testing should have also been performed, but for me, the testing proved what I tell everyone, all supplements are not created equal.
The supplement companies I use for the patients in my practice are pharmaceutical grade. They are held to standards and are checked by companies like the USP (United States Pharmacopeial Convention). They are guaranteed to be 99% pure, no binders, fillers, dyes, or unknown substances. They are guaranteed to be 100% effective until the date they expire and to be bioavailable, meaning the body should be able to digest them. There is nothing like this in place for over-the-counter supplements. This standardization process takes more effort and expense, therefore the cost of these supplements is higher.
The main herb company I use is Mountain Rose Herbs. Click here for a great article about the careful process they undergo for sourcing their plant material. They are also very concerned about the sustainability of the plants. They grow the herbs or buy directly from herb growers. If they harvest in the wild, they do this ethically and with respect to the ongoing thriving of the plants. I once heard a Native American woman speak at a herb conference. Her family had fields of echinacea for years and years. They would harvest the roots of certain areas every three years, as is proper for the plant. They went out for the harvest one year and every plant in all the fields was gone, stolen. Big business doesn’t think about the plants or the people who tend them.
Selling supplements has never been my dream, but I have found that when people take supplements from over-the-counter companies, they often do not get better or their lab values do not improve. Take vitamin D for example. Some people actually have a problem breaking down vitamin D in the body. If someone takes a cheap vitamin D supplement and the numbers do not improve, I don’t know if it is the vitamin D or the person. I felt I had to have high-quality supplements available to my patients to ensure they are getting exactly what they need.
It’s tricky for us Herbalists and Natural Medicine experts when studies like these are done, because the media will make blanket statements that all herbal supplements are not what they say they are. Please know that this is entirely untrue. The statement that supplements sold in chain stores are not what they say they are could be entirely true. Take care with what you buy and what you put in your body. Work with companies and practitioners who care about the quality of their products, care that they make you better, and care about the earth they are harvesting from.
Please share this with your friends who may not be getting what they think they are in their supplements. Want more information on how to improve your health? Schedule your personal consult with me today and check out my Health Transformations E-course, perfect for distance learning. Sign-up by March 1st and save $50!