by Jamelle Zablow-Moloney
24 March, 2023
Herbal Supplements are a great way to reap the benefits that this beautiful planet has given us. Here in the United States, we have a rocky relationship with Herbal Supplementation. This article addresses how to safely choose your herbal supplements when adding plant-based medicinal compounds to your health journey. When shopping for supplements, it is important to know about the regulatory system of medicinal plants and supplements if you are living in the United States. This background is a great informer of how diligently you should research the supplements you want to try. You can learn more about the United States regulatory system as it is applied to herbal supplements in a separate blog post here.
Best practice when using herbal supplements is to first consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are taking the right supplement at the right dosage and frequency. It is imperative to know how the supplement will interact with other supplements, OTCs, and prescription medicines that you are taking. Supplements can cause health risks when used with other herbs and medications. They can increase or decrease the effectiveness of other substances, and they can increase or decrease the side effects of substances. Other good resources for this type of information include the Mayo Clinic and Consumer Reports.
Being well-informed about the herb's medicinal nature and the recommended dosage and use of the supplement you want to take is a must before purchase. Much of the time, you will run into supplement labels that: contain a mixture of herbal compounds, contain a low dose of the compound you are seeking, have a requirement to consume multiple capsules/pills each day, contain various derivatives of the compound you seek or derive the compound from various sources, and do not label their source of the compound, how it was processed, or even if it is active. Do your due diligence in researching what you want to take and the best way to benefit from it before hitting the supplement market. Further, it is a very good idea to add only one new product at a time when trying new herbal supplements so that you can easily see the effects it will have on you before adding another. Reading the label thoroughly will help you determine if the dosage of the supplement you are buying contains an effective amount of your desired compound.
Because there is very little regulation surrounding the labeling of herbal supplements, it is important to know what to look for. When purchasing a new herbal supplement, seek brands that label their products with a transparent mindset. A healthy herbal supplement label will give dosage recommendations and cautionary advice on the use of the supplement alone, as well as with other medicines, natural or pharmaceutical. Your supplement’s label should note the amount of the compound in each capsule or pill, all additives and other ingredients used in creating the product, and a quality seal of approval from a third-party reviewer. Just as pharmaceutical labels do, a supplement label should contain a warning for pregnant or nursing mothers, as well as any known and common side effects. It is wise to pay close attention to the label for dosage instructions and to look for a daily maximum dosage recommendation. If the supplement label you are exploring does not list this information, it is important to research how much of the plant compound is recommended in your daily diet, any possible side effects and medical interactions that could arise, and the recommended frequency of the supplement.
It is important to read the label in search of additive ingredients that may contain allergens. Many products are made with soy capsules, for example, creating a sensitivity or allergic reaction in those who cannot have soy. Other ingredients and information of this type may or may not be labeled on your supplement’s packaging, making the need for a supplement background check almost imperative before purchase. When reading labels on supplement packaging, you must be aware that due to a lack of regulatory standards, there may be properties and ingredients in the compounds that are not listed on the label. The label can also be a misrepresentation of the dosage present in the supplements. Supplements can contain DNA from others plants or animals, causing allergic reactions or interference with cultural and religious practices.
Today there are many reputable companies and individuals who make herbal supplement products and who can inform consumers of the best way to benefit from plant-based medicines. According to Verified Market Research, Nature's Bounty and Gia Herbs are two companies leading in industry standards, and I personally enjoy the instruction of Claude Davis's The Lost Book of Remedies when working with raw herbs.
To summarize your Supplement shopping, do your research and check your labels:
Check with your doctor if you can to collect as much information about the supplement, possible interactions and side effects, and dosage details
Research the herbal supplement you are interested in taking to find recommended dosage and frequency amounts from a reputable source.
Check the supplement label for:
a third-party quality stamp
cautionary or warning advice
the correct (or close to) amount of the compound per daily dosage
an honest list of ingredients with the amount of the compound you are seeking per dose
common and known side effects
a description of what the compound is used for, and other information about how to use it properly
contact information for the company
1. Davis, Claude. The Lost Book of Remedies. Edition One. Claude Davis, 2018.
2. Friso, Guilia. Plant-Based Medicine Course Transcript. Cornell University. Historical Applications of Plant-Based Medicine. College of Agriculture Life and Sciences. 2020.
3. Top 7 herbal supplement vendors treating medical problems of international consumers. 2021. Verified Market Research. VerifiedMarketResearch.com. https://www.verifiedmarketresearch.com/blog/top-herbal-supplement-vendors/ . Retrieved 24, March, 2023.