Herbal Supplements: Actually Rice, Weeds
DNA tests reveal dilution, substitution
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2013 3:04 AM CST
Updated Nov 9, 2013 6:59 AM CST
Herbal remedies line the shelves at a store in Houston.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

(Newser) – Tests to determine what's really in popular herbal supplements found a key ingredient is often missing: herbs. Researchers conducted DNA tests on 44 bottles of the remedies sold by 12 companies and found that around a third contained no trace at all of the healing herb they were supposed to contain, reports the New York Times. Instead, the supplements were made of powdered weeds or fillers like rice and soybean, which were used to dilute other supplements that did contain some of the plant listed on the label.

Some widely used remedies including St. John’s wort and echinacea were diluted or replaced with plants that had side effects including nausea and flatulence, or that could be deadly to people with nut allergies, the researchers found. Consumer advocates—and even groups representing the $5 billion-a-year supplement industry—say it's time for tighter regulation. "If you had a child who was sick and 3 out of 10 penicillin pills were fake, everybody would be up in arms," complains a researcher whose study last year uncovered similar levels of fakery. "But it’s OK to buy a supplement where 3 out of 10 pills are fake. I don’t understand it. Why does this industry get away with that?"

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Showing 3 of 81 comments
iq145
Dec 18, 2013 11:31 PM CST
Confirmed: i've positively identified one brand name that practices this: "Natural Factors".
Harriet Engle
Nov 10, 2013 5:25 PM CST
Having worked in the industry, briefly, I must add that there is some internal regulation of herbal supplements. The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, American Herb Association, and American Botanical Council are the main three organizations that work with supplement manufacturers to insure quality, conduct research, and promote responsible use of herbal supplements. Unfortunately, there is a long history of "snake oil" profiteering in America, and these dangerous fakes are widespread. An educated buyer is a safe buyer. Do your research, and talk to a licensed/certified herbologist.
iq145
Nov 10, 2013 10:49 AM CST
They closed the interview (video) with the phrase "Buyer beware", but HOW can they beware? What you read will be a lie, and the sellers are allowed to do so! i can't understand why the authorities don't crack down on these people, just like anybody else who'd sell products to someone that're not as advertised! http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/herbal-supplements-are-often-not-what-they-seem.html