Q: There are so many different nutritional and herbal supplements to buy at health food stores. How do I know which is better than the next?
This is one of the most frequent questions my patients ask. Shopping for nutritional or herbal supplements at a natural-food store might seem overwhelming at first, but with a little knowledge, you can find the right products for your needs.
Having worked in the industry for more than 20 years, I know not all supplements are created equal. Some are of exceptional quality, while others may contain fillers, colorings, sweeteners and other additives you don’t need.
In some cases, supplements may not contain the purported amounts of a nutrient or active constituents of an herb.
Or if a supplement company doesn’t adequately analyze the raw materials used in the product, it could even contain pesticides, heavy metals or other chemicals.
Unfortunately for consumers, many of the companies with the highest standards sell their products only to physicians.
If you’re shopping for herbal supplements, the good news is that some companies produce “standardized extracts” of their products.
This means that the active constituents of the herb (the parts that have the effects you are looking for) have been quantified, so you know you’re getting the specific amounts as listed on the label. I recommend that you look for standardized extracts whenever you buy herbal supplements.
There’s more good news: the National Nutritional Food Association has created standards for quality, safety and integrity of dietary supplements and products.
The NNFA has also developed a Good Manufacturing Practices program that provides third-party certification to help ensure the quality of nutritional supplements, with reviews on how they are produced.
Companies are rated after being reviewed and audited. An “A” rating is for excellent compliance with NNFA standards, a “B” is for good compliance but with some deficiencies noted and a “C” is for fair or poor compliance with many deficiencies. A “C” rating requires a re-audit of the company’s facility. Companies earning an “A” are allowed to use the GMP certification mark on their labels.
So next time you shop for nutritional or herbal supplements, make sure you’re buying quality products by looking for standardized extracts and checking for the small GMP certification mark on the container. You can also go to www.nnfa.org to look up companies that have received GMP certification.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com