Amidst a search for a variety of supplements to aid in boosting my health to new boundaries, I have become a frequent visitor of the area health food shops and vitamin stores.
Granted, I get in the aisle and feel completely overwhelmed with the layers upon layers and stacked, 15 feet long and 6 feet high towers of redundant options.
I become paralyzed, staring at the bottles.
I pick up bottles and read the backs.
The herb name is the same on four different bottles. The brands are different. One has the herb root however. Another says it is made of leaves and stems.
At least, through most of my last decade (and this past year in particular), this was my experience. I know from the online forums, some of you feel the same.
Reading labels is so important, but understanding herbs is a far cry from my knowledge of hydrogenated oils, code names for dairy, various preservatives, and hidden sugar bombs. Despite the fact I can actually pronounce the ingredients listed on the back of herbal bottles, I am about as educated in knowing the herb I am buying and what that means as I would be buying a prescription from Merck and understanding the label of their pharmaceuticals.
Lucky for me, I have two amazing sisters, and one of them is a graduate of The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. She is learning and sharing immensely powerful information on the power of herbal medicine.
One thing I “knew” already: quality of herbs from brand to brand is not the same.
One thing I recently learned from my sister – quality of herbs from brand to brand are NOT the same. In fact, brand quality differs wildly. Further, most of the stuff at my local grocer, almost everything I can find at The Vitamin Shoppe (where I bought all of my herbs earlier this year), most everything from online discount vitamin and herb pharmacies, and even half of the items I find at my local Whole Foods and Earth Fare… are CRAP.
Seriously. No, those are not at all the words she used. She has simply been sharing her information regarding what quality products are, how extracts and tinctures should be made, and what I should demand from my products. It is far more than the “standardized”, “organic”, “high quality” labels so many of these brands tout.
Since then, I have stopped by The Vitamin Shoppe looking for a particular herb, I stopped at Whole Foods, and I even stopped at our local hippy-dippy-crowd co-op.
Whole Foods carries the better selection, with brands like Gaia (great stuff!) intermixed with some crap.
My big shock, however, was the local co-op.
This place is so locally loved, I have praised it previously in the blog. Raleigh residents who like having their auras read, heal earaches with ear candles, and eat macrobiotic vegan diets shop here. Customers are apt to believe in neti pots and chiropractic care to heal their sick children over giving them antibiotics. Gluten-free products and super pricey “natural” foods line their aisles.
Yet when I stood in their massive aisle of herbal supplements, all I found were brands I will personally never buy for myself again, nor would I recommend to others.
Solaray, Country Life, Nature’s Bounty, and Solgar. Literally everywhere.
I cannot speak on behalf of these brands (and others most commonly found in these aisles) as for what they are, how they are made, nor to what industry standards they adhere. I can only say that I will never buy these brands again. I, personally, read their labels and feel that they have very little industry enforcement as far as guaranteeing they are the product and quality you want.
I, personally, will not be purchasing those brands, nor many other similar brands, again. For me, I just think “yick,” and what a complete waste of my money.
So disappointing… but then again, very gratifying to feel like I actually have some idea what to buy and what to avoid.
I am empowered.
So, perhaps you get what you pay for.
Except, I realized from online shopping and the Whole Foods worthy options (Gaia, HerbPharm, Barlean’s Organics), that the superior quality brands cost only a couple dollars more than the junk. So for nearly the same price, you can enjoy real benefits from your supplements.
Remember, though… without research and education, you might just pay a lot for lousy crap at your fancy, local co-op, and you end up with some sort of watered-down filler.