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Are Your Herbal Supplements Safe?

Nutrition Tips

September 19, 2019 By Naomi Whittel

Some people think there’s no harm in trying a supplement – it might not help but it probably can’t hurt, right?  Wrong.

Even though supplements are thought of as being “natural,” that terminology is incredibly vague.  All nutritional supplements are not created equal so you need to be well-educated before buying.  Some products pose serious risks to your health. I want you to make sure you know what to look for when selecting high quality supplements.

  1. LOOK FOR THE LATIN NAME OF THE HERB ON THE BOTTLE: All herbs have different species, and the wrong one may have no benefit or could do you harm. You need to know what you’re looking for before buying. Trustworthy brands will have the Latin or scientific name of the herb italicized somewhere—either on the front or under “supplemental  facts.” According to the FDA, it must be in the product if it’s listed like that. If you don’t see a scientific name anywhere, don’t buy it.


  1. LOOK FOR THE PART OF THE PLANT BEING USED: All herbal supplements come from plants. But, what’s in the root may be very different from what’s in stem, bark, flowers, leaves, seeds, fruit. Different parts can work in very different ways. If the bottle doesn’t say what part of the plant it’s from, don’t buy it.


  1. TRY THIS TO FIND OUT IF YOU’RE ABSORBING WHAT’S IN YOUR PILLS: To test the quality of your supplements, try this: Heat a cup of water to body temperature, put the pill in and stir for about 30 minutes. If the pill disintegrates, its ingredients should all be absorbed. Pills that don’t disintegrate properly may not release all of their ingredients for absorption, and those ingredients go unused.


  1. BEWARE OF FALSE PROMISES: Supplements aren’t drugs and they can’t be researched or promoted like drugs.  Supplements can be thought of as a little boost to your system to encourage optimal functioning.  Yet, much marketing done to promote supplements frames them as a way to cure disease.  If the product’s marketing is promising you a quick cure simply by taking a pill, put it back.  The right way to use supplements is in conjunction with conscious living that integrates diet, exercise, and well-being.


  1. GMP STAMP OF APPROVAL: While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements, it has created a set of requirements that supplements have to adhere to during the production and storage process to ensure standards of quality. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) mean companies are expected to guarantee the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their dietary supplements. While not foolproof, a label with the GMP sign can help you prevent ingesting something with the wrong ingredients, too much or too little of an ingredient, or contamination with ingredients that pose a risk to your health such as heavy metals or


  1. POSITIVELY PURE: Speaking of purity look for a sentence on the label declaring the product contains no fillers, preservatives, dyes, sweeteners or food allergens such as soy, yeast, nuts, gluten or dairy.


  1. GET THAT THIRD OPINION: You want to make sure the company you’re using has nothing to hide. Either on the label or packaging, the manufacturer should be proud to show off that the product was evaluated by a third-party to conduct an independent analysis for authentication.  This means an objective party came in without any financial ties to the company to screen the product for quality.  If approved, the supplement should have the type and amount of active ingredients it says it does and it should be free of contaminants.


  1. FOLLOW THE CROWD: Look for a company and a product that has a strong track record of success with consumers, qualified practitioners and scientists.  As the CEO of a prominent supplement company, I make sure every product I release has evidence-based science behind it as well as a long history of safety.  Check to see if the brand you’re interested in has participated in any clinical trials or has affiliations with any research teams.  After all, you need to know what you’re putting in your body, so taking time to look into it first isn’t a foolish use of your time! If you have questions about a specific brand, you should contact the manufacturer for more information. Ask to speak to someone who can address your questions and, if the company gives you a hard time, this is valuable information.  If you can’t get someone congenial on the phone to help you with their product, that should make you wonder if they have something to hide


  1. TRUST YOUR RESPONSE: At the end of the day, regardless how wonderful a product purports to be, regardless how shiny and fabulous the packaging is or how confident your favorite practitioner is in the product if you try it out and it doesn’t work for you, don’t force a round peg in a square hole.  Each of us has biology unique to our combined genetic and lifestyle factors.  What works for some people might be the last thing you need and vice versa.  You might need a different dose of the same supplement or perhaps you need a different form of the plant for your particular condition.  Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, work with a registered dietitian or someone qualified to help you understand the nuances of supplements to help you get the right product for your individual needs.  Because when you do, the right supplements can take you from 5 to 10 in terms of how you feel and look!  Additionally, they can speed up the results when you just need a little boost.


This is part of the journey to use food as medicine.  Pure and potent plants that are well-manufactured can offer a wonderful shift in your health, increase your youth span and add more vitality to your years.


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