How To Evaluate Herbal Supplement Sources
What we in the West call herbal supplements, people around the world have called medicine for thousands of years. Today, many people around the world still do. In the West, specifically in the U.S., herbal and dietary supplement have become exceptionally popular.
- 70% of adults 60+ take at least one supplement daily.[i]
- 54% of adults ages 40-64 take a daily supplement.[ii]
- 40% of young adults from ages 20-39 take daily dietary supplements.[iii]
Consumer demand has fueled a lot interest in taking vitamins, minerals and herbals to promote health and prevent disease. The internet has played a big role too, making information and knowledge available and empowering people to take control of their health. Yet, while popular demand has driven a lot of growth so far, expect interest especially in herbals to skyrocket.
The embrace of integrative medicine by many mainstream healthcare providers may well fuel a new boom in herbal supplements. Yet for both doctors and consumers, the best results come from the best supplements. This means high quality ingredients, a precise agricultural and manufacturing process and choosing the right supplement.
How to Evaluate Herbal Supplement Sources
The best place to start is with the company providing the supplement. Here are some simple questions to consider:
- Are they transparent? Do they clearly outline what’s in the product?
- Do they offer a Certificate of Analysis?
- Do they provide additional materials and resources, or is all sales material?
- Who manufacturers the supplement? Most supplement distributors buy their formulas from a third party.
- Will they share information about the product manufacturing?
Another aspect to look at involves product quality.
Today’s technology makes it possible to provide very exacting processes that can be measured. Science has made it possible to extract the active compounds or preserve the quality of the ingredients for the most potent supplement possible. Innovation has found ways to enhance the bioavailability of supplements for maximum benefit.
The best herbal supplements will leverage technology, science and innovation to produce products to exacting standards. This will also allow for the measurement, tracking and quality control during every step of the process from the growing of the herbs to extraction to manufacturing and reporting.
In the past, this could have been a lot of work. Today, it’s gotten simpler. Global standards have been established to identify companies that meet certain quality standards.
What to Look for as you Evaluate an Herbal Supplement
There are 6 global standards used to evaluate the manufacturing process. Companies that meet these standards receive a certificate and can use labels on their websites and promotional material. Look for these labels:[INCLUDE IMAGES OF LABELS NEXT TO EACH ONE]
- GMP, or Good Manufacturing Practice.
- GAP, or Good Agricultural Practice.
- GEP, or Good Extracting Practice.
- GSP, or Good Supply Practice.
- GLP, or Good Laboratory Practice.
- GCP, or Good Clinical Practice.
Brands that have any – or all – of these will proudly display them.
While these demonstrate a high-quality process and product, you should also check for any additional ingredients. Does the herbal supplement say it is gluten free? Is it soy free? Does it contain preservatives? The best products don’t contain fillers or unwanted extras like sugar, diary, yeast or corn.
If you find these, they reflect an herbal supplement provider committed to transparency. You can evaluate their products to determine if it’s one you would use or recommend. If you have any questions, you can always call and speak with a customer service representative.
[i] Gahche JJ1, et al. Dietary Supplement Use Was Very High among Older Adults in the United States in 2011-2014. J Nutr. 2017 Oct;147(10):1968-1976. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.255984. Epub 2017 Aug 30.
[ii] Kantor ED, Rehm CD, Du M, White E, Giovannucci EL. Trends in Dietary Supplement Use among US Adults From 1999–2012. JAMA. 2016;316(14):1464-1474. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14403.