One common question I have received on a near daily basis for many years is, “How do I tell if my supplement is good quality?” Fabulous question! People often assume natural products are safe and prefer them to taking medications. This is not always true for a couple different reasons. Not every herb or supplement is appropriate for every body. We are all individual and our bodies work differently. And certainly the same doses are not the same for everyone. The other huge issue that surprises people is the fact that the bottle of herbs or supplements you have may not actually be what the label says! And, that same bottle may contain a contaminate in the form of a medication (yes, some supplements are manufactured at facilities that also manufacture prescription drugs) or a heavy metal (another toxin).
Two years ago the New York Times published an article revealing the attorney generalʼs office did testing on 78 bottles of leading herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens and all 78 bottles failed. They either did not contain what the label indicated, or were contaminated. It’s estimated that consumers waste $1 out of every $3 spent on over the counter supplements and herbs. A manufacturer needs to meet several requirements to be deemed acceptable quality. A couple of these include:
- GMP (good manufacturing practices) certified- This involves many steps, too lengthy to discuss here.
- Qualified lab assays- Qualified lab assays should be run on every ingredient and completed product batch to verify a long list of requirements is met.
I have done exhaustive research the past few years to identify products & manufacturers that I trust have met the above requirements. Some of the pharmaceutical grade companies I recommend have also been evaluated and passed FDA standards. You usually cannot tell supplement quality by just looking at the bottle. I carry many different supplements at the clinic for the convenience of my patients. I also have mail order options for the things I do not stock. If you have an appointment with me, I am going to want you to bring in your current supplements & herbs so I can review them when considering a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
Susan Julian, NP, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner