Being Informed about Herbal Supplements  

Herbal dietary supplements, also called botanicals, are plant extracts and plant-based nutritional products. Herbal supplements have been used for millennia for a wide range of medicinal purposes. Today, many supplements are used to complement dietary programs or to add nutrients to help resolve deficiencies.

FDA regulations ensure that all herbal supplements meet required manufacturing standards. However, the regulations do not guarantee that the supplements you choose to take will be safe or effective for you. It is important to make a well-informed decision about any supplement you want to use.

The information below is provided by Banyan Botanicals, to help you become more familiar with various benefits and risks in using dietary supplements for any needs you may have.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?

Manufacturers of herbal supplements required by the FDA to adhere to good manufacturing practices. Herbal supplements are regulated not as foods or drugs, but as dietary supplements. FDA regulations of herbal supplements include the following, among others:

  • Companies must have supporting research in order to make a claim that a product can address a nutritional deficiency, have an effect on body functions, or support good health. But, products must bear a disclaimer that the claim has not been evaluated by the FDA.
  • Manufacturers must ensure that herbal supplement products consistently meet federal standards of quality, including standards regarding contaminants, ingredients and quantifications.
  • Dietary supplement products on the market are monitored by the FDA. Products determined to be unsafe can result in federal government action against a product manufacturer, or distributor or both. And, an FDA warning may be issued, and/or the supplement be removed from the market.

Potential Side Effects of Herbal Supplements

Because regulations are not the same for supplements as for medications, many herbal supplements sold are not subjected to the same levels of rigorous scientific testing performed on products offered by Banyan Botanicals or by other high-quality providers. This is despite the fact that all herbal supplements, including all-natural products, can have effects similar to those from medications.

For example, a supplement that is potent enough to improve mood or lower cholesterol is naturally also strong enough to present potential health risks. Further, taking certain herbal supplements in combination, or using supplements while taking certain prescription medications may be harmful to health, or even potentially life-threatening.

Learn the potential side effects of any herbal supplement you’re considering, before you buy it. Also, consult with your doctor before you begin taking a supplement, especially if you are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, or have health problems, or if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

It’s important to talk with your doctor before using herbal supplements. And, do your own research to ensure that you know what’s in the herbal supplement you’re considering before you buy it. Start by reading the FDA-required labels on herbal dietary supplements, which information must include:

  • Herbal supplement name
  • Complete list of ingredients
  • Active ingredient
  • Serving size and amount
  • Company name and address of either the manufacturer or distributor

A convenient way to obtain additional information about herbal supplements is by using the Dietary Supplement Label Databaselocated on the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) website. You can search by brand name, manufacturer, etc. If you don’t understand some information on the label or from any other source, call your doctor or pharmacist for an explanation.

Where to Get Reliable Information about an Herbal Supplement

Herbal supplement manufacturers are required by law to ensure that every claim made about a product is not false or misleading, and that the claim is backed by sufficient evidence. However, you should also use other information resources:

  • Consult with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • See scientific research results regarding the supplement. (Mayo Clinic’s suggested resources include the Office of Dietary Supplements.)
  • Contact the manufacturer with questions about a certain product.
  • Call the distributor and ask about test dataits claim(s) about the product.

Who Should Not Use Herbal Supplements?

It is important that you consult with your doctor before taking an herbal dietary supplements, especially if you have health problems. And, you should not take herbal supplements if:

  • You’re taking prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.— Serious side effects may occur when certain supplements are combined with prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. For example, if you are taking aspirin, blood pressure medications or blood thinners, you should ask your doctor about risks of interactions.
  • You’re under age 18 or over age 65.— Herbal supplements have generally not been tested on children, and safe amounts for children have not been researched. And, metabolization of herbal supplements may be different in older adults.
  • You’re pregnant or breast-feeding.— While supplements may be healthful for you, they may be harmful to your fetus, or to your breast-feeding baby. It is generally advisable to avoid taking any kind of medication or supplement during pregnancy or breast-feeding, unless recommended by your doctor for your personal needs.
  • You’re having surgery.— The success of a surgery can be impacted by various herbal supplements. Certain herbal supplements may reduce effectiveness of anesthetics, or cause potentially serious complications, such as high blood pressure or excessive bleeding. As soon as you discover that you will be having surgery, inform your doctor about any herbal supplements you’re taking or are thinking about taking.

Safe Use of Herbal Supplements

After you do your research, and have decided to try herbal supplements, follow these guidelines:

  • Check for FDA alerts and advisories.— See updates to the agency’s list of supplements currently under review. The list includes those that have been reported as causing adverse effects.
  • Choose a brand carefully.— Select brands that have been tested by independent validation sources, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention (USP), ConsumerLab.com, or another reputable assessor.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s Instructions.— Do not take more than the recommended dosage of any herbal supplement. And, don’t take the supplement longer than the maximum recommended length of time.
  • Keep a record of what you take.— Take just one supplement at a time, in order to determine if it is effective for you. Keep notes to track how long you’ve been taking the supplement, the amount you take, and any effects you experience. Stop taking the supplement if it doesn’t seem to be effective for your intended purpose in taking it.

Banyan Botanicals

Our extensive selection of herbal supplements are well tested and can deliver important health benefits. In addition to providing you with only the highest quality of herbal products, the Banyan Botanicals team of experts is dedicated to serving as a reliable resource for knowledge for consumers of, and people seeking information about herbal supplements.

For More Information

For more information about herbal dietary supplements, contact Banyon Botanicals to speak to one of our highly knowledgeable staff members.