Mother Earth Living

5 Herbal Supplement Companies You Can Trust

Do your homework before supplementing your diet with herbs. These five herbal supplement companies are dedicated to sustainability and safe sourcing.
By Deborah Huso
January/February 2013
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To ensure that your supplements are free of fillers and pesticides, buy from companies you can trust, such as Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs, Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems, New Chapter and Barlean’s Organic Oils.
Photo By Thomas Gibson
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Herbal supplements promise to relieve everything from migraines to insomnia, but unless you’re careful about where you obtain them, you might be getting more than you bargained for—such as pesticides or fillers. Lauren Schmitt, a registered dietician and personal trainer with Healthy Eating and Training in Studio City, California, cautions consumers to do their homework before using herbs for better health. “The FDA does not regulate herbal supplements the same way it does food and drugs,” she says. “The consumer may need to do some research on her own.”

Schmitt urges consumers to read labels carefully and to avoid herbs produced in China, India or Mexico, where regulations are not as strict—in some cases, traces of prescription drugs have been found in supplements from these countries. Schmitt says to stick with herbs organically produced in the United States and Europe and to run any herbal supplement you plan to take past the Dietary Supplements Labels Database.

“One of the things that’s really important is to get herbal supplements from a reputable source,” says Elena Michaels, a naturopathic doctor and psychotherapist based in Valencia, California. “Don’t buy discount products.”

If you’re uneasy about identifying high-quality supplement sources, don’t worry. We’ve eliminated some of the research for you by rounding up five herbal supplement companies that work to provide high-quality, organic, sustainably produced products. We asked them to tell us about what they do, from providing good products to contributing to their communities.           

Herb Pharm

Overview: A family-owned herbal health-care company, Herb Pharm offers its supplements as liquid herbal extracts for maximum absorption.

Health: About 60 percent of the company’s herbs are sourced from its 85-acre, certified-organic farm in southern Oregon; no use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, or genetically modified seeds; acquires remaining herbs from global sources that are also certified organic

Environment: Participates in the Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program, which allows the company to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from wind generators and geothermal heat capture; listed as a United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary and has received “Salmon Safe” certification, ensuring its land management practices protect agricultural and urban watersheds

Social: Donates 5 percent of its net profits to environmental organizations such as the Audubon Society and Sierra Club

Products: Liquid herbal extracts, wildcrafted herbs grown in natural habitats, and herbal oils and salves for topical use

Gaia Herbs

Overview: Founded by a master herbalist in 1987, Gaia Herbs has its own herb farm, offering consumers products Gaia oversees from seed to shelf, in addition to herbs from certified-organic farms in the Pacific Northwest and Peru.

Health: Offers “Meet Your Herbs,” the first industry traceability program that allows consumers to trace herbs from seed to shelf, and “Gaia Organics,” a line of herbal extracts that is made with 100 percent USDA certified-organic herbs; has a scientific advisory board of naturopathic doctors

Environment: Committed to sustainable farming practices as well as land stewardship practices in the acquisition of wild herbs

Social: Helps train the certified-organic farmers from which it sources its herbs; promotes fair trade practices; farm team offers full-time employment in organic farming to immigrants

Products: Herbal liquid extracts, certified-organic herbal extracts and herbal teas

Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems

Overview: Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems is a 30-year-old company that specializes in superfood-based extracts delivered in formulations with plant-source enzymes and probiotics to aid in the absorption of herbs and supplements.

Health: All products are manufactured in the United States at a certified-organic facility and formulated by a board-registered dietician, certified nutritionist and fourth-generation herbalist with a Ph.D. in integrative biology; conducts purity tests on herbs to ensure they are free of heavy metals

Environment: All products packaged in Eco-Guard bottles made from 100 percent recycled material, reducing the company’s bottle carbon footprint by 92 percent; donates to the Plant A Fish initiative, which “replants” native species of aquatic animals and plants in environmentally stressed marine areas; adopted a California beach through the Save Our Shores program

Social: Since 1994, Rainbow Light has donated more than 24 million prenatal vitamins to some 100,000 women in developing nations such as Haiti, Kenya and Guatemala; also donates multivitamins for children

Products: Offers certified-organic products; allergen-free products; SafeGuard products, a line of supplements free of additives such as iron and copper that could interfere with prescription medications; and VeganGuard products, a line of supplements free of animal-derived ingredients

New Chapter

Overview: Founded 30 years ago by Master Herbalist Paul Schulick, New Chapter’s mission has always been to formulate its products based on the use of whole plants in their pure, unadulterated form.

Health: Offers whole food-based supplements sourced from organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and cultured probiotics to ensure easy absorption and smoother digestion; as most ingredients are organic, New Chapter offers an online list of its organically produced herbs and foods; never uses synthetic ingredients or chemicals in its products

Environment: Dedicated to sustainable, biodynamic farming methods; Luna Nueva, the company’s 200-acre biodynamic ginger and turmeric farm in Costa Rica, is Demeter-certified—the highest level of organic farming certification in the world; uses 100 percent recyclable packaging; composts, recycles or reuses 85 percent of company waste; started Sacred Seeds, a global initiative to save medicinal plants vulnerable to habitat loss, and makes financial donations to support rainforest conservation in Costa Rica

Social: In compliance with the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act, New Chapter audits suppliers to review compliance with the company’s environmental standards as well as policies against human trafficking and slavery; donates prenatal vitamins to women in Indonesia

Products: Herbal supplements as capsules, freeze-dried powders, liquid extracts and tonics

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the publication of this article, New Chapter was bought by Procter & Gamble. 

Barlean’s Organic Oils

Overview: A leading manufacturer of omega-3 supplements, Barlean’s Organic Oils began as a fishery in 1972 and eventually evolved into an organic seed mill that focuses on providing omega-3 fatty acid supplements and flax seed oil supplements to consumers. Family owned and operated, this farm now produces a variety of organic herbal oils and was rated the No. 1 health-food store brand for consumer satisfaction by Consumer Labs in 2009.

Health: Uses the cold-press method, which helps retain antioxidants, to process its 100 percent organically produced North American seeds into oils

Environment: Rated one of the Top 100 Green Companies in America by Green Patriot, an organization founded by Green Patriot Radio host David Steinman to honor eco-minded companies and lobby for more companies to adopt sustainable practices

Social: Donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to Vitamin Angels, which helps distribute vitamin and nutrient supplements to undernourished children worldwide, and Nourish America, which works to provide nutritious foods and vitamin supplements to impoverished American families, children and seniors

Products: Organic flax seed oil, coconut oil, olive leaf complex and green food concentrates

Note: While much of the information in this article is verifiable by third-party sources, some information is not subject to any third-party verification standards and was sourced directly from the supplement companies.

10 Supplement Ingredients to Avoid

Since herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, it’s important to do your homework before buying, paying special attention to the ingredients. Here are the top ingredients you should avoid. The FDA has warned against several, and some are even banned in European nations.

Aconite: Can cause nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure or respiratory system failure

Bitter orange: Linked to fainting, heart attack, stroke or death

Chaparral: Can lead to liver damage and kidney problems

Colloidal silver: Can cause side effects such as blue-tinted skin, and neurological and kidney damage

Coltsfoot: Linked to liver damage and cancer

Comfrey: Linked to liver damage and cancer

Country mallow: Can cause heart attack, stroke or death

Greater celandine: Risk of liver damage

Kava: Risk of liver damage

Lobelia: Can lead to low blood pressure, coma or death

It’s also smart to check the warnings issued by the FDA at Dietary Supplement Alerts and Safety Information or the alerts of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Alerts and Advisories.

Give Herbs a Chance

When starting a new supplement, it’s wise to keep things simple. “It is best to stick with a single herb versus a formula of herbs to start,” says Lauren Schmitt, a registered dietician. “The body needs time to adjust to an herb. Allow time to figure out if there are positive or adverse effects on the body.” 

It can often take weeks or months for a supplement to cause allergic or adverse reactions. “Not everything in the health-food store is safe for everyone,” cautions naturopathic doctor Elena Michaels. For several weeks after starting a new supplement, watch for common symptoms of an allergic reaction: shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, stomach pain, nausea, cramping, vomiting, skin rashes, hives and lightheadedness.


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Post a comment below.

 

AbundantLiving
7/2/2014 5:39:49 PM
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AbundantLiving
7/2/2014 5:33:28 PM
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Shivalik Herb
5/20/2014 1:23:15 AM
Good information thanks !

Mary
5/12/2014 1:13:56 PM
It's too bad you didn't mention Nature's Sunshine Herb company out of Utah. They passed the FDA audit with flying colors, no demerits. They always do because they have their own equipment to test the herbs they buy. Many smaller companies say their product is organic because they think it is, when in fact it is not even the herb they think they bought. It's shocking and a good reason why some don't get the results they expect with herbs. The may in fact be taking fillers or even the wrong herb.

Charles Carter
1/25/2013 6:38:04 AM
Great herbal products!

Charles Carter
1/25/2013 6:36:30 AM
You can't do any better that Penn Herb!

Sandra Dattoli
1/24/2013 5:08:31 PM
I know I wouldn't trust them now.

Sandra Dattoli
1/24/2013 5:07:32 PM
All you have to do is read the labels. And also, if the supplements are not food based supplements, you are putting lots of chemicals into your body, needlessly. Robert Scott Bell recommends choosetobehealthy.com, whose supplements are ALL organic, food based.

Sandra Dattoli
1/24/2013 5:05:36 PM
It sounds like you have been listening to the "lame-stream media and/or Dr. Oz, who is now promulgating this "elitist" b. s. because people want to eat good, clean, organic food or use herbs. Herbs are not out of reach. They are much less expensive than prescription drugs. Now, with the mega increases of food in grocery stores, it is actually cheaper to buy from local growers. This elitist baloney is a new brainwashing tool and totally untrue.

Sandra Dattoli
1/24/2013 5:02:35 PM
Thank you. I didn't remember who actually bought them out. And BTW, who on earth cares what the FDA says??? That alone tells me this information is totally false.

Sandra Dattoli
1/24/2013 5:00:53 PM
New Chapter is no longer a company you can trust. It was recently bought out by a major conglomerate. Also, your cautions on colloidial silver and the other herbs, like Lobelia are totally false. I would suggest anyone reading this, rather than taking the advice suggested here, is to listen to the Robert Scott Bell show on naturalnewsradio.com This stuff is bogus!

SuzanneShelton
1/23/2013 8:56:57 PM
Clearly this is a partial list, and subjective. There are some very good companies not listed in the article which have been mentioned in the comments, such as NOW Foods. I'd like add Herbalist & Alchemist to the list for best companies in the market. I've worked with them and use their herbal formulas. Stellar quality, very good people.

Jeannette Bruscato
1/23/2013 4:08:00 PM
I agree with you. Shaklee is a pioneer in vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements. Dr. Shaklee worked with Dr. Fink who first discovered vitamins necessary for human health. They were the first manufacturing plant in the US to become carbon neutral. They also were the only company to pull its Ginsing off the market when the world supply was tainted by a fungicide because of excess rain. Their research is the reason I use these products, No other company I've ever come across devotes so much to the scientific knowledge regarding nutritional science.

MARGOT MCCORMACK
1/23/2013 12:14:10 AM
interesting to read your article and I am also wondering why Standard Process and Biotics Research Co. are not on your list? is it that you can get their product only from a health provider? or are they considered food supplements?

MARGOT MCCORMACK
1/22/2013 10:48:35 PM
Why is Biotics Research and Standard Process not on you list? Are they considered FOOD supplements and because are only available from a health professional?

sujungen
1/22/2013 9:06:19 PM
What about Mountain Rose Herbs?

Yvette Ruiz
1/22/2013 8:35:17 PM
Sorry, but Swansons Vitamins may be cheaper, but almost if not all of their own pruducts do contain Magnesium Stearate. Dr Mercola wrote an excellent article about this "Poison" check it out on www.mercola.com

Yvette Ruiz
1/22/2013 8:32:46 PM
Sorry...type o... PROCTOR & GAMBLE

Yvette Ruiz
1/22/2013 8:31:54 PM
Yes, I agree with you. They sold out to Procyor and Gamble, I just posted it.

Yvette Ruiz
1/22/2013 8:30:38 PM
I used to trust New Chapter products but now they have sold out to Proctor & Gamble which hs ties with Monsanto from what I had read. I will no longer purchase New Chapter products because of this.

Bruce
1/22/2013 7:15:00 PM
Nice that you print the herbs to avoid, courtesy of the FDA. Inaccurate partial information, often incorrect.Everyone wants to make herbs into drug. Herbalists use most of these herbs, usually in combination with other herbs.Some like country mallow, used like Ma Huang or ephedra is a stimulant and should be used correctly. If in doubt seek the assistance or a trained herbalist or a naturopathic doctor. Remember there is a use and a misuse to everything. If aspirin had to go through new drug certification today , it would not pass- yet it is widely used today.- yet many use it without apparent harm. The FDA is not an unbiased source.

CPWS
1/22/2013 6:56:59 PM
Why isn't Shaklee on this list??? Here's an excerpt from their website: At Shaklee, scientific research has been a corporate strategy for over 30 years. Our commitment to clinical and scientific research separates Shaklee from the competition and has resulted in over 100 scientific papers—90 of them published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Our research studies are designed to help advance the state of scientific knowledge in the health and nutritional sciences, and they are a significant component of the Shaklee Difference. What other companies can say this? I wouldn't take any vitamins or supplements unless they come from Shaklee.

Geraldine McNamara
1/22/2013 5:16:32 PM
New Chapter was just bought out by a mainstream conglomerate. I'm not sure I would trust them anymore.

tnt1989
1/22/2013 5:13:22 PM
How do you know these facts?

Tanya Cummings Boozer
1/22/2013 4:52:56 PM
Not all of Swanson's supplements are completely organic and free of harmful ingredients.

Tanya Cummings Boozer
1/22/2013 4:51:37 PM
Me too

Tanya Cummings Boozer
1/22/2013 4:51:08 PM
What do you mean by "more and more out of reach"?

Tanya Cummings Boozer
1/22/2013 4:50:15 PM
The herbs are suggesting people avoid have some wonderful health benefits, they are only possibly dangerous if misused just like any other herb or even food.

Jordan Eske
1/22/2013 4:20:47 PM
I don't believe these lists and I'm grateful to know who to not trust. thanks for whoever sent me this email

Jordan Eske
1/22/2013 4:18:51 PM
Please recheck all the lists and those companies because I have some entities that will be sending your formal resolutions.

Phyllis Marie
1/22/2013 4:18:04 PM
It is sad that herbals are more and more out of reach of regular working folks and the working poor. Again health even from humble beginnings is elitist.

Barbara Rempel
1/22/2013 4:12:29 PM
I would be interested in a list of all the companies you checked. That would tell more of the whole story.

Melanie Riley
1/22/2013 4:04:39 PM
Why isn't NOW Foods included in this list?

Keith
1/22/2013 3:47:46 PM
Thank you for this article. However you forgot to list the BEST Supplier--SWANSON VITAMINS. swansonvitamins.com They survived EVERY attempt to close them by FDA for many years. They also mgf and bottle own product and usually much cheaper than most other companies, PLUS shipping is always $4.95 no matter how much one buys.








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