When it comes to your health and wellness, you are allowed to be skeptical.
Here’s what you need to ask to ensure you’re getting the highest-quality herbal supplements.
The use of herbal medicine dates back thousands of years. The history of botanical ingredients and their traditional use in cultures around the world have informed modern research into current-day plant-based wellness. But, when choosing the best herbal supplement for you and your specific needs, there are a few things to consider.
When it comes to your health and wellness, you are allowed to be skeptical – in fact, you should feel encouraged to ask questions and seek proof. Quality, reputable companies that have vetted their ingredients and doses from reliable sources will be eager to answer your questions and help you find the right solution.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates dietary supplements (including herbal supplements and plant-based supplements) and their ingredients, but the FDA doesn’t test their safety and effectiveness before those products are made available to you. That means the responsibility is on you to choose the best plant-based supplements from brands you trust.
Every plant-based supplement is required to have a “Supplement Facts” label that will include a list of ingredients and the amount per serving, the serving size, servings per container and other pertinent information.
What’s on the label should match what’s in the bottle. If an ingredient is unfamiliar to you, be sure to talk to your health-care professional before taking that product. If you’re taking a specific herb to support a certain bodily system or function, check to see how much of that herb is actually included. Low-quality herbal supplements may only contain a small amount of the herb listed on the front of the package. Similarly, they may contain a “proprietary blend” that doesn’t provide much insight into the ingredient quantities. Instead, look for products that list higher quantities of active ingredients, and reach out to the brand directly if you have any questions.
Key elements to be aware of when looking for high-quality herbal supplements:
- Are you getting a sufficient and therapeutic dose of the desired herb? Check if the company tests incoming ingredients to ensure they contain sufficient levels of the desired compounds.
- Does the herb contain sufficient and therapeutic amounts of the key active compounds? For example, rhodiola should contain 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside.
- Are the right parts of the herb being used? For example, the key active compounds in turmeric come from its rhizome (a root-like structure), or hemp from its flower, or ashwagandha from its root; although some companies will use other parts of the plant like the stem or the leaves.
- Is the company intentional about delivery and nutrient absorption? Turmeric alone is likely a waste of money as its difficult for the body to absorb on its own; the presence of black pepper extract and lipids (fat) have been shown to significantly increase the absorption of turmeric’s valuable compounds. Liquids have also been shown to create better absorption vs. yet another capsule.
Who’s in charge here?
One indicator that a company has done its due diligence and is producing a high-quality product is the people who work there. Dig around on the company’s website. Do they have medical doctors, trained dietitians, clinical herbalists or other qualified medical professionals working with them? Is the company testing all incoming ingredients to ensure they contain the desired compounds in sufficient quantities? Are their experts using their own personal experience or evidence-based research and medical education? Are they inflating or misrepresenting their credentials to gain your trust? Look for brands associated with reputable, ethical health-care professionals who are committed to quality, safety and efficacy.
Where’s the evidence?
Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), herbal and plant-based supplements are required to use certain language and are prohibited from making many claims regarding the efficacy of certain ingredients. This is why you’ll see language like “supports a healthy inflammatory response” on turmeric herbal supplements, for example.
However, companies that are dedicated to providing an effective, natural therapy will be diligent in their research and testing. The company should be happy to share this information with you!
Dietary supplements must also have a disclaimer saying the product does not “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” as, per FDA regulations, only a drug can make those claims. If you see claims that seem too good to be true, they likely are, or the company is violating FDA rules. Ask to see the evidence if a product purports to do something that no other supplement seems to do. Science-backed research is a sign of a quality company you can trust.
Trustworthy companies providing high-quality, plant-based wellness have nothing to hide. Be your own health advocate, and ask these questions – along with any others that come to mind – before you buy plant-based supplements.
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