As herbs become more and more popular, we are seeing manufacturers being careless in the production of these herbs in the form of supplements as well as bulk herb.
Does the FDA regulate herbal supplements?
Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA (which is a joke in and of itself), but not like food or drugs. What’s funny is that the FDA approves harmful preservatives, additives, and fillers in our food and very harmful drugs. So it begs the question, “If they are going to approve food and drugs that are detrimental to our health, why would we trust them and their decision in approving anything at all?” They obviously don’t have nor hold high standards for anything they approve. Regardless, Companies don’t have to seek prior approval before putting their product on the market, but once it’s on the market then the FDA is responsible for monitoring the safety of the product. The quandary is that the FDA allows additives, preservatives, and fillers in herbal supplements so it’s not even an issue of whether or not it’s regulated by the FDA because their quality standards are low. You have to do your own research.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Monitors Herbal Safety
WHO is actually trying to asses the quality of herbs and herbal supplements before they reach the market. They understand that the quality of herbs and herbal supplements “has a direct impact on their safety and efficacy.”
The composition of the soil and the steps taken during the growing process of herbs has to be managed effectively in order to achieve high quality. WHO has developed safety and quality guidelines which include, “Guidelines on good agricultural and collection practices (GACP) for medicinal plants and Quality control methods for medicinal plant materials.” They are also doing a number of things to set and enforce good quality standards in herbs and herbal supplements. Click Here to access the WHO Guidelines for assessing quality of herbal medicines with reference to contaminants and residues. This document contains more information on the actual guidelines and actions being taken.
To me, contaminants in the soil pose a greater risk than additives, but you need to be weary of both as they both make the herb less effective and can cause harm.
Contaminants in Soil include:
- Naturally occurring radionuclides
- Toxic heavy metals
- Emissions from factories
- Environmental pollution
TIPS TO BUYING HERBS
- Do what you can to read labels
- Buy organic (no pesticide residue)
- Do not buy from China or any herbs grown in the southern states of the U.S. (due to high levels of arsenic in the soil)
- Buy whole food plant-based supplements
- Check to make sure the company has safe growing practices in place
Beware of the following additives and contaminants:
Artificial food coloring such as FD&C Blue No. 1, No. 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Yellow No. 5, and FD&C Yellow No. 6.- These serve absolutely no function other than making your supplement “look more appealing”.
Sugar such as organic cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup. HFCS causes depression and weight gain. It goes under the guise of many names not listed here, but is commonly know as HFCS or corn syrup. Cane sugar and HFCS take away the effectiveness of the herb. It has a direct impact on the quality and potency of the herb. It’s an unnecessary ingredient.
Hydrogenated Oils which are oftentimes hidden in soybean oil, one of the major fillers of supplements. At least 99% of all soy is genetically modified as well.
Lead, Mercury, PCBs, and Arsenic – depending on where the herb was grown and originated from you will want to stay away. Arsenic in soil was found mostly in the southern states of the U.S. so avoid buying herbs from there. Herbs from China also carry high amounts of lead and arsenic so even though it states organic be careful buying herbs from there. They do not have as strict of requirements when trading with the U.S. to identify heavy metals in their herbs, and they do not regulate this themselves.
Talc or Magnesium Silicate – this is the same ingredient found in deodorant. Disgusting if you ask me! It’s a cheap anti-caking agent, but it’s similar to asbestos meaning it can harm the body.
Magnesium Stearate – this is typically used as a lubricant so that the vitamins don’t stick to one another. This additive can not only suppress your immune system, but block the body from absorbing any needed nutrients from the herb itself which negates the whole use of even taking a supplement to begin with!
Titanium Dioxide – this is used as a colorant, but has been shown to cause lung inflammation and damage
Now that you are aware of the dangers, you can shop smart! All recommended products on this site have been tested and verified. I do not endorse any product that is not properly tested for these additives or contaminants.