Did you ever wonder how much of the declared herbal ingredient is in your supplement? And what else could be in there? A recent study came to some shocking findings.
Real Herbs Vs. Herbal Supplements
How do you find out if your herbal supplement is pure and safe?
Simple. You first take samples of the 42 real herbs most commonly used in herbal supplements and extract their genetic fingerprints.
Then you compare these fingerprints with those found in 44 common commercial herbal supplements. If a product is pure, there should be nothing in there but the DNA of the herb stated on the bottle.
In case you lack the DNA testing lab, some Ontario researchers went through the trouble for you. Their findings are unsettling:
- 59% of the 44 products tested contained undeclared ingredients
- 32% substituted the main ingredient
- 22% were contaminated with other herbs
- 21% contained fillers such as soybeans, wheat or rice
- 10% contained stuff that couldn’t be classified at all
In all, only two companies of the total twelve had products that can be considered authentic.
Ginkgo Without Ginkgo
Those undeclared fillers of course mean that if you are an allergic, you run a serious health risk (beside being cheated out of your money). But even if you aren’t suffering from allergies, you won’t be safe.
Because some other highlights were a Ginkgo product that contained no Ginkgo at all, “pure” St. John’s Wort coming with the liver-damaging laxative Senna alexandrina, and several supplements being contaminated with Feverfew (Parthenium hysterophorus), which can cause oral ulcers and nausea.
The Ontario researchers summarize it like this:
Currently there are no standards for authentication of herbal products. Although there is considerable evidence of the health benefits of herbal medicine, the industry suffers from unethical activities by some of the manufacturers, which includes false advertising, product substitution, contamination and use of fillers. This practice constitutes not only food fraud, but according to the WHO, serious health risks for consumers.
And that, I’m afraid, is the truth. This wasn’t the first study to come to these conclusions, nor will it be the last. It won’t change as long as legislation such as this is torpedoed by lobbying groups getting help from the Honorable Orrin Hatch.
Ask The Companies!
For supplement manufacturers it is easy to verify the purity of their products through using the same simple DNA “barcoding” method the above researchers used.
So in absence of legislation, it’s up to you to put the pressure on: if you use herbal supplements, ask the companies behind them if they do or how else they ensure the safety of their products. A trustworthy business won’t have any problems with that.
Picture courtesy of “Bruce“.