The recent New York Times article “Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem” draws attention to issues of regulation in the supplement industry. In the study described in the article, Canadian researchers tested a sampling of herbal supplements from 12 companies using a DNA technology normally used to regulate the fish industry. The researchers found that the DNA “fingerprint” of the herb inside some bottles did not match the herb stated on the label of the bottle. Some of the fakes contained an entirely different herb, and some contained no herb at all.
Understandably upset, many are calling for more laws to regulate the supplement industry. However, there are currently laws in place regulating herbal supplements. The problem is that the FDA lacks the resources to enforce the law, which would mean auditing companies more often. Reputable manufacturers of supplements would like nothing more than rigorous enforcement of existing laws. Creating more restrictive laws without additional enforcement may not give you safer, more effective herbal supplements. It may simply give you fewer herbal supplements to choose from.
How can you protect yourself from fraudulent herb manufacturers? Go to the big companies and the professional lines based in the United States. Fly-by night small companies and foreign sellers have a lot to gain from quickly starting an herb business and selling cheap, fake products. Large and reputable U.S.. companies have everything to lose from selling a fake product, because their businesses are based on consumer trust. In addition, every single reputable supplement manufacturer participates in Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). GMP entails investing in expensive testing laboratories and also requires that products be tested by independent labs for purity and potency.
Reputable companies include Bluebonnet, Solgar, Nature’s Way, Terry Naturally, Xymogen, Pure Encapsulations, Thorne Research, Metagenics, and others.