Herbal supplements at Walgreens and GNC were recently pulled off the shelves because they were adulterated or misbranded products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action, as they should. This doesn’t mean all herbal supplements are unsafe.
The fact is, herbal supplements are regulated in several ways. The following are some guidelines that responsible companies follow.
• Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): In accordance with these FDA regulations, a company or practitioner has to assure the consistent quality of the product. With herbs, for example, they record the specific part used, when it was harvested, the cleansliness of the facility and more. It’s quite detailed.
All products, whether pharmaceutical or herbal, should have a number and date for each batch. If you have an adverse reaction, you can report the batch number and your reaction. A reputable company would refund you and take that information for their records.
• Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA)
A person or company can not prescribe, give medical advice or make medical claims for their product. That’s why you see the disclaimer “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Stating that something ‘Helps boost the immune system’ is necessarily more general than claiming ‘Cures Cancer’.
• USDA Certified Organic
Look for the official seal on the package and on the company’s website. This certification is specifically more rigorous than ‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’. For example, something organic, though not certified organic, could still be genetically engineered or use sewer sludge as fertilizer.
• Sustainably Harvested, Ethically Wildcrafted
Beyond Certified Organic, a company that knows and respects plants also pays attention to how they’re grown and collected. That means harvesting only what’s needed, taking care that the environment is preserved in the process, leaving endangered plants to grow. Some companies are members of United Plant Savers.
When you’re looking to purchase an herbal remedy, it’s important to look for these standards for safety and quality. If your health problem is chronic or complicated, you’d benefit from consulting with a professional herbalist. Your Western Medicine doctor should also know what herbs you are taking to avoid contraindications with other medicines.
Herbs can provide safe and appropriate therapy. The bottom line is, read labels and websites. You will find honest businesses run by people who are knowledgeable about plants. You will find people that care about the plants, the health of the planet and the health of the people they meet.