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Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by wdb, Nov 4, 2013.

  1. wdb

    wdb Admin

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    Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem
    A bit worrying if it is accurate.
  2. Tammy

    Tammy Senior Member

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    If it is accurate it would be nice to know the name of the supplements as well as the companies.........they went through all the trouble of testing but can't reveal this info?
  3. SOC

    SOC Moderator and Senior Member

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    Several years ago my GP suggested I sign up for the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. It has several excellent features useful for people taking lots of supps, including med and other supp interactions, and evaluations of the research into effectiveness. At that time, at least, it also had lists of supplement companies whose products were regularly tested by outside labs to verify that their products are what they say they are.

    I didn't keep up with it because it is a subscription service, but it was valuable while I had it. Probably worth signing up for a short time to get basic info and do research.

    My lousy ME memory has lost the names of most the companies that got high marks for product quality, but I think NOW Foods was among the most economical of them, so I still purchase from them.
  4. xchocoholic

    xchocoholic Senior Member

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    There's a rating system used by the supplement industry. I'm sorry I can't remember the details right now but I remember at one point Country Life and Metagenics had the same rating and only Metagenics is considered top quality.
    seleil likes this.
  5. vamah

    vamah Senior Member

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    Exactly what I thought. I would like to know what the two companies are that had all their suppliments pass the tests. They would get all my business from now on.
    Little Bluestem likes this.
  6. IreneF

    IreneF Senior Member

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    This was in the N Y Times. I think they didn't want to imply that certain brands were better or worse than others, which is why the authors didn't name names. The problem--at least in the US--is that because herbs and supplements aren't regulated as drugs, there is no body like the FDA to oversee and test products. It's a case of caveat emptor.
    Firestormm likes this.
  7. Beyond

    Beyond 10% of discount in iHerb!--> PEZ915

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    This corresponds with my experience, given that only the half or less of supplements I have taken (maybe a hundred) had effects at all. You need to choose the brand carefully. In fact, in my mind it would be useful making a thread only to list the placebo, crappy brands and those that deliver.

    What happens with brands like Metagenics, is that they work and are of quality but grossly overpriced. They do this most likely because they are aware that the cheaper brands often don´t work. I avoid these overpricers since I am not rich.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
    redrachel76 and xchocoholic like this.
  8. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    In Australia we do have a watchdog that covers herbs, vitamins etc., and it deals with drugs too. However I don't think it properly enforces anything unless a complaint is made. "Too little too late" should be the mantra of most of this oversight.

    If you try a supplement and it does nothing, does it mean its the wrong supplement, or were you sold a dud?
  9. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    The EU were seeking to introduce some regulation of supplements I seem to recall. Was a bit of a 'stink' about it at the time from those who make use of herbal remedies etc.

    I would like to see this kind of review repeated with commercially available tests, e.g. to see if they are accurately able to detect and then adequately help diagnose disease.
    barbc56 and Little Bluestem like this.
  10. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    This is an issue that has always concerned me. Here is a related blog about the study Firestormm cites.

    (my bold),

    This is food for thought:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org...and-quality-of-herbal-supplements/#more-29140:

    The man who started all this in the US in 1994 is Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah which just happens to be largest state that produces supplemental products. He definitely has a conflict of interest. Before 1994, supplements and herbs were regulated.

    The legislation passed in 1994 is called the Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, or the DSHEA where the onus is on the FDA to prove a supplement/herbal products are not harmful and of consistent quality whereas with prescription drugs the manufacturer needs to prove the efficacy of that drug through rigorous standards.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/21/us/politics/21hatch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    IMHO, this is an issue that transcends whether or not someone believes in the efficacy of supplements/herbs. Quality control is imperative.
  11. Beyond

    Beyond 10% of discount in iHerb!--> PEZ915

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    Pretty much, yeah. A lot of us try things that don´t work when in reality what we are taking does not work because lacks quality or directly is some kind of placebo. Sadly only trial and error helps here, and relying in the word of others.
  12. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    Uh, sorry. That should be the @wdb . :rolleyes:
  13. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Note this statement in the article:
    I would have preferred to see chemical rather than genetic analysis on the herbs. Each herb contains one or more active principles, which are the chemicals responsible for the most of the therapeutic effect of the herb. For example, St. John’s wort contains the active principles of hypericin and hyperforin.

    It would have been better to measure the amounts of the active principles in each herbal supplements, as that is what actually counts.
    Little Bluestem and Valentijn like this.
  14. barbc56

    barbc56 Senior Member

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    I agree that it would be nice to know which companies. They probably didn't list the them because of legal liability. However, if we had tighter regulations, we probably would know which ones are selling the dubious supplements/herbs.

    The way these substances are regulated in the US, it's like the fox watching the hen house!

    This analogy is not mine but darn, I can't remember where I read it. :thumbdown:
  15. IreneF

    IreneF Senior Member

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    Two problems with that--first is that the manufacturer could could package up some hay and add synthetic active principles. Second is that herbs, by their nature, contain varying amounts of different chemicals. A processor could add "active principle" to a real, but weak, herb. There would be no way to tell the difference.

    This is in fact what happened with so-called herbal viagra.
    barbc56 likes this.
  16. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    That would not necessarily be a problem at all, since it is the active principles that have the main therapeutic effect. It may even be an advantage, since some natural ingredients in herbs can be toxic in high amounts (eg: salicylates).

    And there are products sold like this. For example, one of the active principles of turmeric root is curcumin, and many supplement manufactures do supply curcumin products which are nearly pure curcumin, with little of the other turmeric root chemicals present in the capsules.

    High quality manufacturers do this all the time: they fortify many of their herbs by adding more of the active principle than is naturally found in the herb. Such herbs are known as "standardized extracts". When you buy a standardized extract herb, you are guaranteed that there will be a certain specified percentage of the active principle present in each capsule.


    It is interesting that this study found that many herbal products apparently have none of the genetic material left from the herb, but without known what manufacturing processes these herbs went through which may potentially affect this DNA barcoding process, the results of this study would not seem to be reliable.

    If these authors did discover via DNA barcoding that some herbal product capsules only had rice genes in them, you'd think that these authors would then apply simple chemical tests on such products, to see whether they contain any of the active principles or not. It is a half-baked conclusion if they only relied on DNA barcoding. You'd need to perform chemical testing to say for certain that these products have no herbal content.

    I find it strange that the authors of this study did not publish the names of the supplement manufactures. Perhaps these authors were aware that without chemical testing, their conclusions were not very solid, and so this is the reason they declined to publish the manufactures' names.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2013
  17. dannybex

    dannybex Senior Member

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    They certainly have a much better track record than drugs regulated by the FDA. Much, much better.
  18. IreneF

    IreneF Senior Member

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    At least the drugs regulated by the FDA are likely to be what they are supposed to be. Imagine what would happen if birth control pills contained something else!
    barbc56 likes this.
  19. dannybex

    dannybex Senior Member

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    Of course that's true, but still the death rates from properly prescribed drugs far far outweigh -- by the tens of thousands -- those supposedly connected to nutritional supplements. And that's just the death rates, not the many millions of cumulative so-called "side effects" from many medications. Ironic that the FDA goes after supplements if someone dies, yet they allow drugs to be sold that they know have death as a 'side effect'. I'm not saying all drugs are bad and all supplements are good, that would be ridiculous. It just seems that supplements, when chosen (with a docs supervision if possible) can help rebuild and restore mitochondrial function (per Sarah Myhill, et. al) for example, whereas for the most part, drugs just suppress symptoms and don't usually address causes of those symptoms. Of course there are exceptions...
  20. IreneF

    IreneF Senior Member

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    The point isn't whether supplements are good or bad, or better or worse than regulated drugs; the point is that you may be buying a pig in a poke. Consuming an inert substance isn't going to hurt you, but it's not going to help you, either, and it costs money. The best you can say about a fake herb or supplement is that it's a placebo.

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