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November 4, 2013

Herbal Supplement Purity

Here's a study published in October that reveals the sorry state of the herbal supplement industry. It was published by BMC Medicine. You may find the PDF version to be easier to read (I know I did). The researchers/authors are affiliated with the University of Guelph in Ontario and Bharathiar University in India.

The researchers took 44 herbal products from 12 companies and subjected them to DNA testing. They compared the results to a library of DNA from 100 identified herbs.

  • Only 48% of the tested herbal supplements contained some of the herb identified on the label.
  • 59% of the samples contained some plant material not listed on the label.
  • 33% of the samples included contaminants or fillers not listed on the label.
  • Only 2 of the 12 manufacturers provided completely unadulterated, correctly identified herbs.
  • 3 other manufacturers included NONE of the labeled herb in their products.
  • The other manufacturers provided some pure herbs, some contaminated samples, some with unlabeled filler, and some with another herb entirely.

Some examples of what they found:

  • A product labeled as St. John's wort actually contained Senna alexandrina and no St. John's wort. Senna alexandrina is a laxative while St. John's wort is not. Prolonged use of Senna alexandrina can cause chronic diarrhea, cathartic colon, liver damage, abdominal pain, epidermal breakdown and blistering.
  • Several products were contaminated with feverfew which can be used to treat fever, migraines and arthritis, but it does have negative side effects including swelling and numbness in the mouth, oral ulcers, nausea, and diarrhea. Pregnant women should not consume feverfew.
  • A Gingko product was contaminated with black walnut which could be dangerous to those with nut allergies.
  • They found unlabeled fillers including soy, rice, wheat.

It is very unfortunate that the paper does NOT identify the manufacturers of any of the products, good or bad.

Filed under Food and Drink,Health | permalink | November 4, 2013 at 12:34 PM

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