Clients often ask why they can’t just buy the supplements I recommend at Wal-Mart or Walgreens, instead of buying the specific products I recommend. I would like to tell you about a recent study done that answers that question. *

To test the potency of over the counter herbal products, Canadian researchers bought products at supermarkets, health food stores, and pharmacies. They used DNA barcoding to test the authenticity of 44 herbal products representing 12 companies and 30 different species of herbs.

The results:

  • 59% of the products contained DNA barcodes of plant material not on the label.
  • 33% of the products contained contaminants/fillers not on the label (gluten or soy).
  • only 16% of the companies had products without any substitution, contaminants or fillers.

The study’s conclusion was that “most of the herbal products tested were of poor quality, including considerable product substitution, contamination and use of fillers. These activities dilute the effectiveness of otherwise useful remedies”.

There are other contaminants that can affect the purity of a product.  The average retail brand generally only tests for microbiology and potency.  Most of the brands that I recommend are third party tested for dioxins, PCB’s, rancidity, herbicide/pesticide & fungicide, aflatoxins, chemical solvent residue, heavy metals, stability, microbiology, potency, and authenticity.  They also test every lot of incoming raw materials (not skip lot testing), and never rely on a Certificate of Authenticity from the supplier (they retest everything themselves or it is done by a third party).

So, given that most of the herbal/supplements sold over the counter at large chains, are suspect for a number of quality issues, I continue to ask people to use the brands I have researched and am familiar with.  There are enough variables when working with mental health….I don’t want the quality of the supplement to be one of them.

Below are links to websites I would recommend visiting if your treatment plan includes purchasing herbal supplements:

*To view the entire article click here.
DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products.
Newmaster SG, Grguric M, Shanmughanandhan D, Ramalingam S, Ragupathy S.
BMC Med. 2013 Oct 11;11:222. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-222.