If you follow our sister site Eat Drink Better, you probably read about the herbal supplements lawsuit that began last week. I encourage you to check out Jennifer Kaplan’s in-depth piece on the lawsuit. Here are the deets so far in a nutshell:
+ The New York State Attorney General’s Office is calling out four major stores for selling phony or mis-labeled herbal supplements after DNA testing showed that they either didn’t contain the herbs they claimed to or contained unlisted allergens like wheat, soy, or tree nuts.
+ The store brands in question are: GNC’s Herbal Plus, Target’s Up & Up, Walgreens’s Finest Nutrition, and Wal-Mart’s Spring Valley.
+ The suplements in question are: echinacea, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort, and valerian root. The New York Times has a complete list of the supplements involved in the class action.
+ If you purchased these supplements, you can sign onto the class action here.
Coverage of the herbal supplements class action has talked a lot about which brands to avoid, but which companies make trustworthy herbal supplements? Let’s talk about it!
Finding Trustworthy Herbal Supplements
One thing that all of the brands involved in this lawsuit have in common is that they’re generic store brands. Unfortunately, store brands aren’t the only culprits. One researcher – Dr. David A. Baker – looking into the quality of herbal supplements told the New York Times that the supplement industry was basically “The Wild West.”
Dr. Baker was talking about the lack of regulation in the supplement industry. Because of a law passed in the 90s, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The industry polices itself, and you know how well that always works out.
Finding trustworthy supplements takes research and careful label-reading. Label-reading might feel fruitless, since supplement manufacturers aren’t always truthful with their ingredients lists, but there is something else that you can look for on a product label: certification.
Consumer Reports has been testing herbal supplements for years, and according to their FAQ on supplements, name brands are more reliable. But even they aren’t 100 percent trustworthy. They suggest looking for The U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) certification.
There are a few supplement certifications out there, but Consumer Reports says that USP is the most trustworthy herbal supplements certification out there right now.
The USP website lists the brands of herbal supplements that they’ve certified. These are the brands on the site, as of this writing:
- Nature Made
- Kirkland Signature (Costco’s store brand)
- TruNature (another Costco store brand)
- Berkley & Jensen (BJ’s Wholesale Club brand)
- Blueberry Health Sciences (BHS)
- JounHealth Inc.
This lawsuit has been a PR nightmare for the supplement industry. Herbal supplement manufacturers have lost consumer trust, and with good reason. The real solution is better regulation. In the meantime, looking for USP certification looks like the next best way to find trustworthy herbal supplements.
Image Credit: Supplements photo via Shutterstock