(NewsTarget) Nedra Alleman of Afton, Wyoming came up to me holding a bag of supplements that must have weighed three or four pounds. She was not selling me anything, rather she was asking me which of these I would use or recommend.
One by one I went through the bag. Like every natural healer, I have a standard that I adhere to. I have decided what my beliefs are and I only use supplements that meet my criteria. Nedra was just one of literally dozens of people who have approached me over the last year about their supplements. "Which should I use?", "Which are the best?", and "Should I use this, or throw it away?" are some of the common questions I receive.
I have learned to be cautious in my response. I tell them what my standard is and how I feel about each supplement but I only really tell them to throw out the ones that have something in it I believe to really impede good health. I also tell them what supplements I might use instead that would yield similar results without the questionable ingredients.
This problem is far from isolated or new. Actually, since supplements began to be sold as a package in ancient China, a science called “Alchemy” was used to “enhance” nature’s medicines. Bone meal, animal blood, mineral deposits, ground metals, fibrous fillers, along with a whole art and science of manipulating the ingredients with fermentation and heat might show up in your “herbal” supplement and medicine.
Today, we are not much different from ancient (and modern) China. True, you probably will not find bone meal in your herbs, although you might.
When you go to the health food store today, you will find that out of 60 dry supplement products (meaning not liquid) that appear to be herbal (meaning that they have herbs pictured, described, labeled or otherwise advertised on the label), only about 15 are truly plant derived.
Out of 45 herbal supplements commonly sold, about 7 will be plant based (with fillers that are cellulose or millet or rice flour, etc.); about 25 will be laden with preservatives of all types and the remaining 13 are filled with extra stuff that may include preservatives but also includes refined vitamins, minerals, chemicals, amino acids, isolated plant constituents, etc. One of that thirteen will have no whole herbs at all in it, but will only contain some isolated chemical derivative of an herb combined with other isolated nutrients - in other word, they are drugs in herb clothing.
From the list of herbal products in any given herb store, you will find two brands that are consistently herbs only. This will be Wholistic Botanicals (who makes Dr. Christopher Original Formulas) and Nature’s Sunshine. Many brands promoting themselves to be “pure and natural” in fact are neither.
I wanted to discover if this variation in quality was perceived by the herb consumers. I went to the Herb and Vitamin Depot in Hiram, GA to find out.
The kind woman there who spoke with me shared that when customers come in who want a specific standard (i.e. just herbs in a specific milligram quantity), they are the ones who are already somewhat educated in identifying herbal quality and will know what they want. When someone does not know what to get, she usually turns to manufacturer information on various products or to products that she, herself, has gotten good results from to help them decide.
As far as the purity of herbal supplements, the store clerk had very little to say except that they would at least be pharmaceutical grade, meaning that they were free from dangerous impurities. This is a very important customer safety issue, to be sure. She had nothing at all to say about customers coming in with questions about the “other stuff” in “herbal” supplements. Apparently, this is not well enough understood to even draw a question.
The question arises then, does there need to be education on the subject of content or should we just turn to manufacturer statements to determine the usefulness or validity of the products we use?
Of course, the history of that also brought us a very benign sounding product extracted from asparagus, known as aspartame. This miracle sweetener filled health food stores not very long ago as a natural sugar free supplement. The manufacturers certainly had plenty good to say about the product and its value.
So, can we really trust manufacturers or research panels for that kind of labeling?
I approached Traci, of Traci’s LLC, who also recently published Traci’s Transformational Health Principles and who is a strong voice for defining “natural” in a way that protects people. I asked her what her standard was for natural and she told me about a concept in her book called the “natural food filter.”