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Safe, Effective Herb Quality

A client sent me a link to the herb safety article below this morning, asking for my feedback. The study found that the majority of herbal products the researchers tested were contaminated with a variety of fillers and ingredients not on the label; previous studies have found some (usually advertised for diet or impotence) contaminated with drugs. That’s not because the industry is “unregulated” as the authors claim, because they are under the same regulations as food manufacturers. That sounds reassuring, but at the Children’s Museum in Houston’s bug exhibit I learned that the average American consumes a couple of pounds of bug parts every year, all in compliance with acceptable contaminant level limitations! The challenge for supplement manufacturers is to find or do testing that adheres to their own, hopefully high, standards rather than relying strictly on their sources’ claims. To show how that can vary, If I were to hand-pick red clover blossoms (the therapeutic part) and put them in a jar, my label would read “pure red clover”. However, it would read the same if I mowed a field of red clover with a diesel tractor and put all of the plant parts, including the diesel drippings, in the jar.

That’s why I stick with the companies I do. Nature’s Sunshine, for example, is the only company to use gas chromatography, the only means of differentiating golden seal from much cheaper oregon grape, on every batch of raw material they use. I work with several other companies as well for different products. Muscle testing the amount of a particular product needed ranges profoundly from one company to another for the same quality reasons. I have seen people need as many of eight of a supplement from one company when they needed only one from a different manufacturer. Quality really does matter if you are using herbs to support specific organs and functions since it is specific nutrients and other elements that do the job. People often ask me if it would be better to grow my own; it would not. Plants can only absorb nutrients that are in the soil to begin with, and in Florida that means not much. There are some native medicinals here, but very few, which is probably part of the reason that Florida was relatively sparsely inhabited even by native tribes. I support consuming local plants as much as possible, since what grows in a given area has traditionally been what people need, but I am a global creature and travel extensively outside of my home range, so that shifts things also.

The reason for the drug contamination is cultural. We insist on quick, easy fixes; Nature works gently, over time. While it is possible to resolve acute conditions quickly with natural remedies, changing chronic conditions is a process, not an event. Herbs are intended to balance the body, not override it as drugs do. As long as we insist on something outside of ourselves to ‘fix’ us without changing what got us where we are, we will be deceived and disappointed. As a rule, you get what you pay for with life and with herbs. Safe, effective herbs are a godsend; honor them by caring responsibly for yourself and paying for the quality that you and they are worth.

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