by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

A famous American, I think it was Benjamin Franklin, once said ” there is nothing one man can make that another cannot copy, make at poorer quality, and sell for less: and a buyer who thinks only of price, is this man’s natural victim.” I mention this as part of a larger concern, which is the quality of the supplements we buy for our health. I often have people say they have tried this or that, and it didn’t work, who, when pressed, tell me they bought the cheapest possible form of the nutrient. Certainly when two things are identical, it makes sense to buy the cheaper of the two, but with supplements, it’s not that easy.

First of all, companies do exist who for motives of profit simply do not put what they say is in their formulas, in there: it may be a different less expensive variety of the substance, or a lower grade of it, or it may bear no relation to it at all. 
, there is wording which can make it appear as though the potency is higher than it is. 
, there is the leeway in the law, which makes it acceptable to put in as low as 90% of label claim – on an expensive vitamin or herb, that can be a quick way to make a profit.
, there are companies who skimp on safe manufacturing procedures, a sure way to save themselves a lot of money.
, when it’s a question of herbal remedies, there are the variations in growing, processing and harvesting which can mean that although the herb is in there, the amount of the active therapeutic ingredient can vary widely. Variables such as rainfall, sunlight, storage conditions, soil quality, & temperature can all affect the quality of the final product. In addition, the active components of a herb vary from species to species, and between root, fruit, leaf, rhizome and stem. You certainly cannot rely on benefits from a herb’s quality, potency, activity and consistency if the plant species is not listed (in Latin) and the part of the plant used is not specified on the label. One example is Goldenseal:  the part that has the most potent medicinal activity is the root, but I have seen companies marketing the aerial part of the herb in a flagrant attempt to mislead.  Other still do not specify which part they are using.  The root is extremely expensive.  The leaves are not!
we all want “natural” products, but did you know that anyone can label their products “natural” if they contain no more than 4% natural ingredients?

I have noticed a trend lately that disturbs me a bit:  it is related to the undisputed fact that the people with the money get their message out.  It appears to be cloaked in the claim “Independent Lab”, and takes the form of publishing positive test results on amount of active ingredients present in a number of companies’ formulas, and stating that the Lab will not publish the negative reports, but if the supplement you are thinking of buying is NOT on the positive list – you should assume it has not passed the test.  Since we are all intelligent people in this forum, I will just state the facts, not my deductions!

Additionally, the names that appear on the “positive” list are all the new drug company babies: it is therefore interesting to read a report that an organization called the All American Pharmaceutical & Natural Foods Corp., in Billings MT contends that some manufacturers and suppliers are “spiking” their supplements with synthetic active ingredients, undetectable by the kind of testing used to determine the amount of standardized ingredients present. I will simply remark that some companies have easier access to the synthetics than others!

But it is all very alarming, and is indicative of the entry into the supplement market place of companies whose motivation is not the health of the consumer. but their own bottom line.

Is there any way to know what one is getting? Yes, there certainly is. Make sure that the company whose product you are buying follows GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices), that they submit their products for independent analysis, that they belong to the NNFA, the Natural Foods Trade group, which monitors quality – or make sure that the retailer you are buying from is your guardian at the gate, only selling products whose pedigree they have checked.  Then you can be sure you’re getting your money’s worth, and doing the best for your health!

A website with much information about  supplement quality. –

Related articles you may find interesting: