By Patrick P. Jones, DVM
Hopefully preaching to the choir here but...
A recent study showed that many of the herbal supplement products on store shelves contain little or none of the herb on the label.
Researchers chose several popular herbs (Echinacea, St. John's Wort,Gingko bilboa...) and purchased randomly selected products at healthfood stores and other natural supplement outlets. They then did DNA analysis of the contents of the products.
Of the 44 products tested, 1/3 contained none of the herb on the label.
Many of the remaining 2/3 contained so much useless filler as to render the small amount of herb actually found medicinally irrelevant due to dilution. Fillers included, soybean, wheat, rice, powdered weeds and even walnuts (which could be lethal to a person with nut allergies!). Remember, these were not herb blends or formulas. These were all products labeled as single herbs.
My Book and all of my other writing, lecturing and teaching is founded on the idea that we need to become what I call "HomeGrown" herbalists. In other words, we need to be growing or gathering our own medicines so we know what the heck we're dealing with. The quality of the stuff you grow or gather will be vastly better than the bulk herbs you buy even from the most reputable companies. Their aromas and colors are so much more intense that it makes me wonder what the heck the companies are doing to their stuff.
Sadly, the days of us trusting corporate America to protect its consumers are gone. There is no regulation on the herbal supplement industry in the United States. None. Consumers are completely at the mercy of the companies producing the products. As bad as our situation in the US is, depending on foreign companies to produce and distribute safe products is even a worse idea. Can we really believe the poor guy in china that's getting paid a dollar a week to wildcraft herbs really cares what he stuffs into his bag? Can we really believe the company he works for has a strong commitment to the welfare of their American customers? Not so much.
There are some companies that I feel I can trust in a pinch but, by and large, I prefer to grow or gather my own medicinal plants. I have about 1/2 acre of property dedicated to herb production and am growing about 90 different species. All of my landscaping is medicinal, edible or both. Within 5 miles of my home, I can easily find and harvest that many more species. It's amazing what can be done when we get motivated.
So, my advice is to leave those fancy bottles of "herbs" on the store shelves and grow yer own...like a good HomeGrown Herbalist.