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The Big Business of Herbal Supplements

Business  (tags: herbs, herbal supplements, testing, purity, quality, efficacy, dose, regulation, profits, industry, big business )

- 706 days ago -
The herb supplement industry made over five billion dollars in sales. While profit motive drives the volume of the claims made for such products, testing to verify such claims is frequently lacking.

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Julie E. (375)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 11:18 am
Hi Brian! What are your feelings about herbs? Just curious :)

Brian M. (210)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 11:42 am
Yes, because asking me about my feelings is somehow more useful than actually reading the article and making a thoughtful comment? Please limit comments to those relevant to the articles posted. Personal conversation in a thread is inappropriate.

I use some herbal supplements, but it is worrisome that, while most people decry the lack of adequate regulation of Big Pharma or the lack of adequate regulation for food safety, everyone takes it for granted that an corporate entity worth over 5 billion dollars doesn't need even the least oversight. At present, there is nothing to guarantee that herbal supplements even contain the herbs listed on the label, much less whether the herbs do what is claimed, as well as whether the capsules contain an effective dose of herbs standardized to deliver the same percentage of active ingredient in each capsule(tablet, or unit of dose). There is inadequate research into the issue of side effects. Many herbs are quite good, but may need warning messages to avoid contraindications and conflicts with other herbs and medicines. Until there is adequate regulation of this industry, Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware.

I research carefully what I consume. I buy only from companies with the best reputations for research and quality controls of their products. But, until we have better regulation, the best approach to supplements is buyer beware.

Brian M. (210)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 12:04 pm
I think herbs are great and can be quite useful. Many of them are better than standard pharmaceuticals. Nonetheless, I want to know that when I buy something, I have real assurance that what the label says is what is in the capsule. At present, manufacturers aren't required to list whether filler ingredients are GMO or not. This is another hazard to public health. There aren't even any requirements to ban filler ingredients that aren't safe for human consumption. I take herbs because I care about my why would I want my herbs to come with something like titanium dioxide mixed in? Not regulating keeps manufacturer costs low, but raises the risks to the consumer. Be careful out there.

Carol H. (229)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 4:44 pm
noted, thanks Brian

Roger Garin-michaud (129)
Wednesday June 19, 2013, 7:28 pm
noted, thanks!

Jonathan Harper (0)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 4:42 am

John De Avalon (35)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 5:35 am
Better natural than chemical...

John De Avalon (35)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 5:40 am
Since they introduced a license system for herbal products here in the UK many herbal products have disappeared from the shelves, the prices of those that remain have soared and the biggest player in the British herbal scene now is Big Pharm! (They at least have the financial clout to afford the huge license fees)


Brian M. (210)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 12:14 pm
Here in the US, many herb supplement companies are subsidiaries of larger corporations, many of whom are already affiliated with Big Pharma. The problem here isn't the costs to the supplement industry; it's the lack of purity and standardization of the ingredients. The public has a right to know.

Julie E. (375)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 5:10 pm

Hey Brian. First of all, I read the article before I left my comment. I was curious about you taking Natural herbal products as I did not know if you were for or against herbs. So to me, my question was relevant.

Julie E. (375)
Thursday June 20, 2013, 5:31 pm
Now reading your second comment, that was the response I was hoping to get from you. I studied for a short time to be a DN, Doctor of Naturopathy. About 10 years or so ago, that title was taken away from all DN's as the USFDA did not want us to use Doctor next to our names. So Herbologist, etc.

I also want to know what all ingredients are in anything that I take. What I found with herbs when I made my own tinctures years ago, was that I had to try it out the product on myself before I shared with family or friends. I would get the fresh herbs from certain growers as the strength, taste, and smell was a bit different from each grower.

Your article did make me think about maybe why the FDA will not "approve" or "label" herbal supplements as being a "natural medicine," beneficial to one's CC, Chief Complaint for medical reasons. I have tried tons of herbs for various reasons. I now mainly use them for, aromatherapy and tea's.
I am just waking up so I hope I made sense.

Kerrie G. (135)
Friday June 21, 2013, 7:37 am
Noted, thanks.

Kathy B. (106)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:14 am
I would expect anyone that is thinking of using a herbal product to be as thorough in their research of it's benefits and possible side effects as they are in deciding which drugs that their doctor wants to subscribe.

Any reputable supplement seller will have this information available to their customers and potential customers, along with a disclaimer such as "For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

There are laws against making claims about the health benefits of food and herbal supplements. Diamond was recently required to stop making claims regarding the health benefits of walnuts, some cereal manufacturers have had to stop claiming that consuming oats is beneficial to heart health.

It's a bit silly to claim that herbs and food health claims aren't regulated.


Kathy B. (106)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:16 am
Arghh, prescribe instead of subscribe, you're right Beverly, it's too early in the morning :)

Brian M. (210)
Friday June 21, 2013, 1:04 pm
Sorry, Julie, I probably "mis-processed" your original comment and took it the wrong way. I agree with your approach: if people are going to buy herbal supplements, ideally they should get them fresh and whole, from local, organic growers that they know and trust. A trusted herbalist who is well-educated, well-trained, and has experience preparing herbs on demand from customers is also a good choice. Herbs can be quite good. Rather the problem in this field is when corporations apply an industrial model of production and distribution that focuses more on profit than on people and their health. At present, those big chain "health" stores sell mass produced products that may or may not contain much, if any, of the herbs people think they are purchasing; they market "new" products with insufficient research as to efficacy; and they control their costs by using questionable ingredients as fillers.

However, it is silly to compare food regulation with supplement regulation. They are not regulated the same: the food industry is poorly regulated. The supplement industry, thanks to its big corporate lobby, is largely unregulated. People have a right to know what they are taking and whether it actually works or not.

Brian M. (210)
Friday June 21, 2013, 1:05 pm
typo: "...on demand FOR customers."

Susan B. (71)
Friday June 21, 2013, 3:31 pm
Thank you for this article

Julie E. (375)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:41 pm
I agree with you 100% about knowing what we are taking. People need to read and learn about labels including myself. (I am getting better). What is in the product? Fillers, pesticides, additives, etc? What is the strength? What are the ingredients in the product? So many ingredients in products and many of us don't even know what the ingredients are. Scary!

Remember a 16 year old girl finding out that Gatorade had "bromeliad?" (fire retardant) in it? That ingredient was suppose to have gotten taken out after the backlash Pepsi cola got.

I get very nervous taking certain medications and supplements. The side affects can be different with everyone. I am very sensitive to everything, even caffeine. Most people don't know that a multiple vitamins should be broken in half. Take 1/2 in am and the other in the pm. It could be either to much for the body to process and/or the vitamin is a waste as you may pee a lot of it out. Literally a waste :/ So to much/to little, of anything is something people should think about. We get enough toxins from the air we breath. A lot of vitamins have herbs in them.

So, DO YOUR RESEARCH PEOPLE! Get educated on herbal products.

From the article:
Here are some useful tips for the potential herbal product user:

-Don’t be reassured by claims that a product is “natural”
-Traditional use, whether genuine or not, is not by itself a good predictor of safety or effectiveness
Find out what the best scientific evidence says, and seek out critical information specifically
-Respect the fact that herbs are drugs, which means:
They can cause toxicity and side effects They can interact with other drugs you are taking.
-You should inform your physicians about any herbal products you are taking (just as you list your prescription medications)

Brian M. (210)
Friday June 21, 2013, 11:10 pm
If it's on a store shelf, who can really know what's in it? It's better to pay a little extra and go to an herbalist who can prepare your supplements for you from fresh plant material on demand per one's needs.

Julie E. (375)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 7:40 am
You are right Brian.
One of my favorite alternative medicine sites: The owner Marijah McCain knows her herbs.

Julie E. (375)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 3:57 pm
Vitamins: stop taking the pills
Vitamin supplements are good for you, right? Wrong, says a new book – they're a multibillion-pound con and in high doses can increase your risk of heart disease and cancer

Julie E. (375)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 4:04 pm

Apparently you do not like my comments. Sorry for showing my feet again :) I will refrain from making anymore comments on your posts unless I get a special invite. No biggy.

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 4:18 pm
Well, given that my last post is June 21st, and given that I have not said anything against you or your comments, and given that you have waited nine days to say you will refrain from making comments on my posts without a special invite, then I would suggest that you do not hold your breath waiting because I don't know where you get off with your attitude problem. In my June 21st post, I stated: "It's better to pay a little extra and go to an herbalist who can prepare your supplements for you from fresh plant material on demand per one's needs." But that isn't apparently good enough for you. So you have to wait over a week to do a hit and run comment. By all means take your elitist, pro-industry snobbery somewhere else.

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 4:24 pm
We need to get the corporate agenda with its rabid profit motive, its devastation of the environment, and its willingness to poison consumers will all kinds of fillers such as titanium dioxide out of our supplements. Sorry you can't get behind that. I guess you'd rather support insanitea deregulation of all industries rather than stand with the public health.

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 4:28 pm
This is just another example of why we need to take a big Green hammer to the corporate owned and operated two party system because all it is is a sham. Two parties feigning opposition, engaged in a prolonged act of bait and switch, united by a single corporate agenda. Live Green. Vote Green.

Or be like Julie and support the status quo. Exploitation, endless war, devastation to the environment, and no regulation of anything. That's not for me. Just say no to the insanitea. Demand the Green New Deal. Vote Green Party of the United States.

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 5:42 pm
For anyone interested in learning more about how to protect their health in the unregulated, free-for-all that is the supplement industry, you would do well to read:

"4 Dangerous (and Common) Vitamin Fillers You Must Avoid"

Julie E. (375)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 5:54 pm
Geez Brian.
I really don't understand why you have such an attitude towards me. You have misunderstood me yet again. I have agreed with you on this subject. I even added my input about why.

I am not going to bash you like you are trying to do with me. That's is not part of my personality, far from it. Why am I trying to explain myself yet again? Maybe I am hoping that you will open your mind.

I mentioned not leaving anymore comments because you blocked me. When? I don't know. Getting the timing just right for you about when I comment? Apparently that's not going to happen. Since I don't get mad easily, or hold a grudge if I do, I can forget about your unjustified, totally wrong, impression of me.

Julie who? Not this girl!
"Or be like Julie and support the status quo. Exploitation, endless war, devastation to the environment, and no regulation of anything. That's not for me. Just say no to the insanitea. Demand the Green New Deal. Vote Green Party of the United States".

Have a good week Brian.

Julie E. (375)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 6:12 pm
Just one more thing. I would not have come back to this post and added the link from today, had I known that you blocked me as a friend. I was going to send you a personal message, and that's when I found out. I am not sure why I wasted this much time here already.

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 6:20 pm
In your Sunday June 30, 2013, 4:04 pm post, you said, "I will refrain from making anymore comments on your posts unless I get a special invite." Well, I didn't invite you back, so clearly you're going back on your word already. Anyone who is enough of a corporate tool to undermine consumer safety standards is no friend of mine. We need to be demanding that the public's right to know what they're consuming and whether it really works or not is protected. Now maybe you don't mind a bit of titanium dioxide in the products that many people ingest, but most people do.

To repeat: For anyone interested in learning more about how to protect their health in the unregulated, free-for-all that is the supplement industry, you would do well to read:

"4 Dangerous (and Common) Vitamin Fillers You Must Avoid"

Brian M. (210)
Sunday June 30, 2013, 6:22 pm
Thank you, Julie, for yet another hit and run trollish attack. But I'm not buying your feigned outrage when you are the one who came in here and started the trouble.
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