20/20: Warnings About Herbal Supplements

Consumerlab.com sells its seal of approval to products that pass its tests. Some companies argue this is a conflict of interest, and they also object to the fact that the company uses only one bottle of each brand it tests. But the company stands by the accuracy of its results.

Whether it’s ginseng, sam-e or chondroitin, Consumerlab.com says its test results are a snapshot of an industry with obvious problems. “Until someone is actually out there checking, there’s not a huge incentive to fix the problem,” says Cooperman.

But the manufacturers says there’s no problem. David Seckman, head of the National Nutritional Foods Association, says the trade group and the manufacturers run programs that encourage quality control. “We think that the industry should follow good manufacturing practices,” he says.

Concerns Over Drug Interactions It’s bad enough that you may be getting ripped off if you buy supplements that do not contain what they list on their labels. But even worse, you may be risking your health. As Joe and Terri Graedon have been warning listeners about for years on their weekly radio program, The People’s Pharmacy, taking supplements with certain medications can result in potentially dangerous interactions that the labels do not always warn you about.

“People are just sort of popping down pills to relieve depression and arthritis and they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Joe Graedon says. “But these are chemicals. They’re just like drugs. In the wrong combination they can cause complications just like drugs.”

Anesthesiologists are now warning patients to stop taking herbal supplements two weeks before surgery.

The Graedons, who are strong advocates of herbal medicines, believe there’s a simple solution for the problems above — better labeling standards to protect consumers and to ensure they’re getting what they paid for.

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