But finding which herbs or supplements to take is less than half the battle. The real challenge is to find the right brand at the best price.
The big problem is that the government doesn’t require herbs or supplements to be tested for quality before companies offer to sell them to you. While the FDA closely regulates the prescription drugs that we take, by law neither that agency or any other can regulate the sale of herbs and supplements.
When I spoke with Steven Bratman, M.D., the creator of the Natural Health Encyclopedia recently, I mentioned some brands that I had used and thought highly of. His reply stunned me: “You can’t rely on any particular brand, no matter how good you think its reputation is.”
There’s another problem. “Information wants to be free,” as Whole Earth Catalog creator Steward Brand famously said in 1984. But the best information about herbs and supplements isn’t.
Since your tax dollars don’t insure that they supplements you want are any good, to separate the apples from the lemons you may need to buy that information directly.
Few websites charge for their information, but ConsumerLab.com is one. A one-year subscription is $24.
Until recently I resisted the urge to pay for their objective tests of herbs and supplements, because of a “love letter” that ConsumerLab President Tod Cooperman, M.D., sent me five years ago for alleged “misuse” of their “proprietary information” – which I got from one of his press releases – on my website. He told me that I could license his information for $50,000 or more per year. I don’t have that kind of money, but Dr. Bratman finally convinced me to subscribe.
ConsumerLab.com “has been conducting systematic independent surveys of supplements for several years, and has frequently found that the labels of some products are grossly inaccurate,” Dr. Bratman says. “Companies aren’t sued for their deceptive practices nor go out of business, and consumers go on buying whatever brand is cheapest or most convenient, regardless of whether it contains any of the substance they are trying to purchase. For this reason, before you buy a supplement, I recommend that you first look it up on the ConsumerLab website to see which brands are actually contain what they say on the label.”
To date that website has reviewed more than 700 products in more than 50 supplement and nutrition categories. And they courageously name the products that fail their tests. Their reviews include many products of great interest to people with diabetes, including cholesterol lowerers, chromium, ginseng, multivitamins and multiminerals, noni juice, omega 3, and alpha-lipoic acid.