Supplements Your Health & Wellness

Herbal supplements may not be what you think they are

Written by Diane Archer
The New York State Attorney General’s office just issued a press release revealing that many “herbal supplements” sold in big retail stores are not what they appear to be.  Indeed, many “herbal supplements” sold at Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC lack even a trace of the herbs listed on their containers. And, many contain filler ingredients not listed on their labels.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, DNA testing of store-brand herbal supplements such as Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and Ginseng revealed not even a trace of the herbs listed on the products’ labels. Only 21 percent of the time did the DNA testing confirm DNA from the plants listed on the labels. Walmart-brand herbal supplements were the most misleading, with only 4 percent of the DNA tests showing DNA from the plants listed. More than a third of the tests (35 percent) revealed contaminants and fillers in the products not listed on the products labels.

Shockingly, the US Food and Drug Administration provides very little regulatory oversight of these supplements. They require that companies selling the products test them only for safety and that their manufacturers adhere to good practices that would keep them from mislabeling the supplements. But, there are no real protections in place for consumers.

As it is, there is very little data to suggest that these herbal supplements are of any health or wellness value. David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest advises “consumers should stop wasting their money in the herbal supplements aisle.”

The Attorney General has written to each of the retailers to ask that they stop selling these supplements.  It is illegal to sell products with misleading labels.  The question is whether the retailers will be removing the supplements from their shelves throughout the country.  It’s hard to imagine that the problem resides in New York State alone.

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2 Comments

  • I think this article is off base. There are very good supplements on
    the market. I can not over stress that most parents need a super good high-school biology class so that good common sense can be
    used in assessing available supplements. I am 74 yo and I take
    quite a few supplements: Krill, glucosamine, cheap multivits., saw
    palmetto (never again GNC) and pppuuullllllenty of Vitamin C. I
    was raised in Oregon where Dr. Linus Pauling is ensconced in heaven well above God and mammon. My point here is stop the
    “protective” babble and let the market play out. We know a fraud
    when we see and hear one. There are people out there taking
    internal cleansers that I wouldn’t …..,,,,,well, you know.

  • I think you’re doing an excellent public service here. I have not bought into most herbal remedies. There really needs to be a common sense approach to taking these things. Some are contra-indicated with certain prescription meds, so people should always ask their Dr. Or pharmacist about them. Sounds like the herbs are all about the money and it seems to work. The stores and manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank.

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