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Inside Your Herbal Supplements47:07
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What’s really in your herbal supplements? Americans spend billions on supplements. What are they getting?

A man leaves a GNC store, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 in New York. Numerous store brand supplements aren’t what their labels claim to be, an ongoing investigation of popular herbal supplements subjected to DNA testing has found, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. (AP)
A man leaves a GNC store, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 in New York. Numerous store brand supplements aren’t what their labels claim to be, an ongoing investigation of popular herbal supplements subjected to DNA testing has found, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. (AP)

Americans love herbal supplements. They spend billions a years on all kinds, hoping for relief, remedy, cure. This week, the New York attorney general reached a deal with the country’s largest supplement retailer, GNC, to guard against selling bottles that contain nothing of the herbs. The attorney general said four out of five tests of herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart showed none of the product advertised was actually in the bottle. Other stuff was. This hour On Point:  we’re looking at the purity, safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, in the supplement-crazy USA.
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Delthia Ricks, senior health writer and medical expert for New York Newsday.

Dr. Arthur Grollman, professor or pharmacological sciences and experimental medicine and director of the Zickler Laboratory of Chemical Biology at SUNY-Stony Brook.

Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases and the director of the vaccine education center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Professor of vaccinology and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Author of "Do You Believe in Magic?," "Deadly Choices," "Vaccines and Your Child" and many others. (@DrPaulOffit)

Dr. Mark Moyad, director of contemporary and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan. Author of "The Supplement Handbook."

From Tom’s Reading List

CBS News: Herbal supplements filled with fake ingredients, investigators find — "The investigation, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, focused on a variety of herbal supplements from four major retailers: GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreen Co. Lab tests determined that only 21 percent of the products actually had DNA from the the plants advertised on the labels."

Bloomberg Business: GNC Reaches Accord With New York State on Herbal Supplements — "In response to state inquiries, GNC has conducted 'rigorous tests' to show that its products are safe and properly labeled, according to a statement Monday. GNC also will begin performing DNA barcoding on products — a method of confirming that supplements have the right ingredients — and add signs to help consumers figure out what they’re buying. The accord represents a victory for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been trying to rein in the herbal-supplements industry — a loosely regulated market."

New York Times: New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers -- "Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies."

Herbs More Effective Than A Placebo

Here are herbs that, by themselves, are more effective than placebo. All have been replaced by their single-active ingredient in modern use. — Dr. Arthur Grollman

Opium poppy
Colchicine
Ergot
Ipecacuhana
Foxglove
Coca
Belladonna
Ma huang

This program aired on April 2, 2015.

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