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Herbal Supplements Often Are Not What They Seem

November 11, 2013
Plain English Version

Herbal supplements are sold in health food stores and drug stores. They promise relief for colds, allergies, fighting colds, hot flashes and memory loss. The ingredients are often exotic and include St. John’s wort, gingko biloba, turmeric, saw palmetto extract, echinacea and dozens more.

There are about 29,000 herbal products and substances.

A new study from Canada makes some dramatic charges. About 44 herbal supplements were tested.

Using DNA testing it found that many of the supplements contained little or none of the ingredients on the label. One-third showed no trace of some of the plants advertised on the bottle.

Instead, many contained powdered rice and weeds. Many were soybean or wheat. One bottle contained only Alexandrian senna. This is an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative.

Many were mixed with ingredients not listed on the label. Fillers can be a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products.

In other words some herbal supplements may be totally fake or include fake ingredients.

A scientist said, “This suggests that the problems are widespread. It is hard to recommend any herbal supplements to consumers.”

Even an industry spokesman said, “Quality control is an issue in the herbal industry.” He added, “I do not think it is as bad as it looks according to this study.”

The F.D.A. audits only a small number of companies. The F.D.A. says companies must test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. The system relies on an honor code. The industry says more oversight is needed.

Supplements are thought to be safe until shown otherwise. They are sold with little oversight. They are pulled from shelves only after complaints of serious injury.

Reading the labels on supplements may not be enough!

Source: The New York Times                                                                                              November 3, 2013

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