Associated Press
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that popular herbal supplements sold in well-known retailers like Target, GNC, Wal-Mart and Walgreens aren’t what their labels claim to be.

Herbal Remedies Pulled From NY Shelves

Steve Russell

On February 2, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent cease and desist letters to Wal-Mart, Target, GNC, and Walgreens to stop selling their store brands of herbal supplements, citing evidence from laboratory tests that 80 percent of the products tested contained no trace of the herbs on the label.

Schneiderman told The New York Times that his investigation was inspired by a Times report in 2013 on research at the University of Guelph in Canada that showed about a third of the tested supplements did not contain the herbs listed on the labels.

The federal Food and Drug Administration also became interested when the New York analysis showed several instances of ingredients not mentioned on the label that could harm people with food allergies.

Since the herbal remedies cannot make medical claims, the production of herbs is not supervised like the production of ordinary medicines. Most medicinal herbs can be greenhoused and are not terribly expensive, so it’s hard to see much profit in counterfeiting them. Or so the argument goes that has carried the day against every proposal for regulation. 

Under legislation sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), supplements are regulated on an “honor system,” requiring the manufacturers to verify that their products are safe and accurately labeled. Beating back an amendment that would have required more disclosure of how the manufacturers came to the knowledge of “safe and accurate,” Sen. Hatch claimed the amendment was based on “a misguided presumption that the current regulatory framework for dietary supplements is flawed.”

A close reading of the New York results leads to conclusions that would be humorous if people’s health were not at stake. For example, Walgreens was selling capsules of “garlic.” Only one of 15 contained any garlic at all, and 10 of the 15 samples contained no identifiable genetic plant material. They could have gone to Target and bought the bottles labeled gingko biloba, which had no gingko bilboa, but they did find some garlic. In fairness to Target, their garlic bottles also contained garlic in 14 out of 15 samples, with the 15th containing “no plant DNA.”

All of the herbal remedies tested in New York will be fairly well known even to consumers who don’t use them:

*Gingko Biloba

*St. John’s Wort




*Saw Palmetto

*Valerian Root

Here are some of the lab results.

GNC, Herbal Plus brand:

Gingko biloba—none found.

St. John’s Wort—none found.

Ginseng—none found (but wheat not declared on the label, which is dangerous to those allergic to it).

Garlic—all samples contained garlic.

Echinacea---none found.

Saw Palmetto—only one sample carried the genetic signature for palmetto.

Target, Up and Up brand:

Gingko Biloba---none found.

St. John’s Wort---none found.

Garlic---all but one contained garlic.

Echinacea--- “most” contained Echinacea.

Saw Palmetto---“most” contained saw palmetto (but those that did not contained no plant DNA at all).

Valerian Root---none found (but some samples did test positive for saw palmetto).

Walgreens Finest Nutrition brand:

Gingko Bilboa—none found.

St. John’s Wort---none found.

Ginseng----none found.

Garlic----none found (but there was undeclared wheat).

Wal-Mart Spring Valley brand:

Gingko Bilboa---none found (but there was undeclared wheat).

St. John’s Wort---none found.

Ginseng---none found (but there was undeclared wheat).

Garlic---only one sample tested positive for garlic. Undeclared wheat found.

Echinacea---none found and no plant DNA found.

Saw Palmetto---some samples contained small amounts of Saw Palmetto.

Within New York, the attorney general’s cease and desist order only affects the herbs tested, not all herbs of the same brand.

Outside of New York, the cease and desist order has no force at all. You are on your own.

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Juliet's picture
Submitted by Juliet on
None of those supplements even do what the manufacturers claim, so save your money.