With an increasing population taking vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements for dilemmas such as certain health conditions, disease prevention, for sleep issues, and not consuming sufficient amount of the vitamins and nutrients due to personal dietary choices, the well-informed consumers are starting to pay more and more attention to ingredients, nutrients, and plant components in these products.
The ease of access to the internet has played a huge role in making information and knowledge widely available to the public and empowering consumers to take control of their health and their choices of supplements.
Consider Some Questions as a Start
The best way to start is to analyze the company’s website information along with the product’s ingredients with the following questions in mind:
Are they transparent?
Do they clearly list the ingredients in the product?
Do they offer some scientific testimonials?
Do they provide additional materials and resources, or is it all sales material?
Who manufactures the supplement? Most supplement distributors buy their formulas from a third party.
Will they share information related to the functions of the ingredients?
Evaluate Herbal Supplement Potency
A responsible consumer also investigates product quality. Technology makes it possible for a provider to demonstrate very exacting processes that can be measured. Also, the science behind the product has made it possible to extract the active ingredients or preserve the quality of the compounds for the most effective supplement possible. Innovation has found ways to enhance the bioavailability of supplements for maximum health benefit.
A high-quality product will also allow for the measurement, tracking, and quality control during every step of the process from growing of the herbs to extraction to manufacturing and reporting, which may include the planting and cultivating process control, field management system, water and soil quality, ecological environment, etc.
Key Elements in Evaluating an Herbal Supplement
Past several decades ago, this step could have required a lot of work form the consumers. However, with the establishment of the Global Standards along with the requirements of quality control process in herbal supplement, it has become simpler for a consumer to identify companies that meet high quality standards.
There are 6 Global Standards used to evaluate the manufacturing process. Companies that meet these standards receive a certificate and can use these labels on their websites and promotional materials. Look for these labels:
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.
Products that have any – or all – of these will proudly display them on the company’s website and promotional materials.
These reflect an herbal supplement provider’s commitment to transparency. As a consumer, you can evaluate any products to determine if it is the one you would use or recommend. If you have any questions, you can always communicate them with a customer service representative or reach the company on its website.
Additional Information to Investigate
While these demonstrate a high-quality process and product, a responsible consumer 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 quality products usually do not contain fillers or unwanted extra ingredients like sugar, dairy, yeast, or corn.
Trends in Herbal Supplement Intakes
The popularity of supplements can be illustrated below:
70% of adults 60+ take at least one supplement daily.
54% of adults ages 40-64 take a daily supplement.
40% of young adults from ages 20-39 take daily dietary supplements.
The best health benefit results come from the best supplements either discovered with one’s own research or recommended by the mainstream healthcare providers. This means high-quality ingredients, a precise agricultural and manufacturing process and choosing the right supplement.
The products that consumers in the West use as herbal supplements, people around the world have used as medicine for thousands of years. Many people around the world still do even today. In the West, specifically in the U.S., herbal and dietary supplements have become exceptionally popular; therefore, it is crucial to be an informative consumer for yourself and beloved family members.
Lastly, this article is not meant to treat, diagnose, or prevent any disease; it is for informational purposes only so make sure to consult with your physician and pharmacist before starting any new medications, medical food, or supplements.
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.