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NewsBites January 2014 Issue

Herbal Remedies Often Missing the Herbs

What are Americans getting for the $5 billion spent annually on unproven herbal supplements? Many of the pills may contain fillers such as powdered soybean, wheat, rice and even weeds, instead of the promised herbal remedies, according to a new DNA analysis published in BMC Medicine. Researchers randomly purchased 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by a dozen different companies, then tested the contents with a technique called DNA barcoding. They found ground-up “bitter weed” in what was supposed to be Echinacea, rice and a shrub with laxative properties in bottles of St. John’s wort (and none of the actual herb), and black walnut and alfalfa in ginkgo biloba pills. One-third of the pills tested contained no trace of the promised main ingredient. Most (59%) were adulterated with fillers, which could be of concern to people with allergies or who are unable to digest gluten.

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