Contamination and Substitution in Herbal Products

Posted by Emily Rubeo on

I'm going to try to start another new series here. I carve out a couple hours a few days a week to work on my coursework (if I can) and I have tons of information and thoughts I'd love to share with you all so.. how about Study Sundays? 

A couple facts, little more history on me and some questions.

Contamination and substitution in Herbal Products
❓Have you ever taken an herbal product and found it did just nothing and figured it was all a bunch of woo-woo? Have you ever been hurt by one? (I hope not!)

Let's start with a study done on the quality of herbal products (1). This study used DNA barcoding to test the authenticity of 44 herbal products from 12 different companies (not disclosed). The results were a bit eye opening. 59% contained plant species NOT included on the label and a third of them contained contaminants or fillers also not listed on the label. Only 2 out of 12 of the companies had any products without substitutions or fillers (some of these were dangerous). This results in not only ineffective products (from otherwise effective herbs!) but potentially dangerous ones and reduces consumer confidence in herbal medicine as a whole. (Another reason for ineffective herbal products is not preparing them in the appropriate menstruum or method and misidentifying plants).

Another study done showed that about a quarter of 2,609 Chinese medicines were adulterated and over half contained two or more pharmaceuticals (2). Among ayurvedic herbal medicines another study found that lead, mercury and arsenic contamination was in about 20% of remedies from U.S. and Indian suppliers (3).
Many years ago, I started my journey toward health (I won't go into those details here). I started purchasing some herbal products and I tried homeopathy (that never did anything for me). I noticed little to no differences. (That's not to say there aren't any effective herbal brands but the ones I used, did not help me much and I've heard it from others. The price tag on some of them was outrageous as well).

So.. In conjunction with mindfulness with regards to my food and environment, I started to learn herbalism and make my own remedies (and skincare) and well.. I found they just worked a heck of a lot better than what I was buying that SAID it had the same stuff in it. This has led me to be incredibly distrusting of so much that is sold out there and to just make it all myself with ingredients I know I've sourced thoroughly.

Eventually, I started sharing those products with loved ones and then... Handmade by Bumble was born a few years ago.

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