Herbal Supplements Are A Rip-Off, New Study Claims

Herbal Supplements Aren't what They Seem

A new study shows that many herbal supplements are really a rip-off. DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs aren’t actually what they seem. Instead, they are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

The information could be a blow to the estimated $ 5 billion per year US industry, where unproven herbal supplements promise everything from weight loss and fighting off colds to stopping hot flashes and boosting memory.

Using DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that was used to uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies, reports The New York Times.

They found that many of the supplements weren’t what they claimed to be. Pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted or replaced completely by cheap fillers, such as soybeans, wheat, and rice.

Findings included bottles of echinacea supplements, often used to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground bitter weed, an invasive plant from India and Australia that has been known to cause rashes, nausea, and flatulence. Two bottles labeled St. John’s wort contained none of the herb.

Instead, they held Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub known for its laxative powers. Gingko biloba supplements, often promoted for enhancing memory, were mixed with fillers like black walnut — a potentially fatal hazard for anyone allergic to nuts.

Of the 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third had outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the advertised plant in the bottle. Many others were laced with filler ingredients that weren’t listed on the label.

The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine and come as no surprise to many in the natural health world, where a number of smaller studies were conducted in recent years. However, these are the first findings backed up by DNA testing and offer likely the most credible evidence of tampering, contamination, and mislabeling in the medical supplement industry.

David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, commented on the study:

“This suggests that the problems are widespread and that quality control for many companies, whether through ignorance, incompetence or dishonesty, is unacceptable. Given these results, it’s hard to recommend any herbal supplements to consumers.”

Representatives of the supplement industry deny that it reached the extent suggested by the recent study. Stefan Gafner, the chief of science officer at American Botanical Council, a nonprofit group that advocates using herbal supplements, believes the study is flawed, partially because the bar-coding technology can’t always identify herbs that are purified or highly processed.

However, there is no way for the FDA to know for sure, since the system essentially uses an honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, which are heavily monitored and tested, supplements are normally considered safe unless proven otherwise. Under a law passed in 1994, they can be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight.

[Image via ShutterStock]

Herbal Supplements Are A Rip-Off, New Study Claims is a post from: The Inquisitr News

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