Herbal supplements use plant extracts as their primary ingredients and are considered as medicines across the world. Brands that market these medicines claim that their products provide a wide range of health benefits.
However, no scientific data is available yet to confirm that these supplements are really effective when it comes to energy boost, weight loss, and enhanced athletic performance. In some parts of the world, they are popularly used as safe treatments for various medical conditions.
Does the FDA Regulate Herbal Supplements?
The Food and Drug Administration in the United States regulates these supplements, but there’s a catch. The FDA doesn’t regulate these products as it does the OTC or prescription drugs. Rather than categorizing herbal medicines as a standalone type, the administration classifies them as dietary supplements.
While companies that sell dietary supplements don’t have to get FDA approval, they must make sure that their supplements don’t contain any kind of contaminants, and the labels on them are accurately presented.
The brands need to do their research to support their claims regarding the efficiency of the supplements in helping people with their health conditions and nutrient deficiency. There must have been a disclaimer to mention that their products haven’t been evaluated by the FDA.
These companies cannot make any specific claims, according to the FDA. For example, no brands or manufacturers can say that their herbs reduce the need for urination too often due to an improved and enlarged prostate.
If those companies don’t have proper documents and scientific data to support the claims, the FDA does reserve the authority to take legal actions against them. So, supplement makers cannot get away with unsupported or false claims in the process of selling their products.
The FDA issued certain regulations to ensure that herbal supplements are marketed after meeting their relevant quality standards. Upon any deviation, the authority may remove the products assuming them to be dangerous to public health.
Are Herbal Supplements Ideal for Everyone?
Many herbal supplements contain one or more active ingredients which might have serious side effects when taken with certain prescription drugs or other supplements. Taking the supplements without proper knowledge about the ingredients may lead to undue risks.
So, you shouldn’t start taking these supplements without talking with a doctor or specialist if you’ve one or more of the following conditions.
- Users of OTC or prescription medications
- Breastfeeding or pregnant women
- People with any kind of surgery
- Individuals who are at their sixties or below 18 years of age
The last point may seem confusing because you don’t see any specific medical condition there. Well, few supplements that are on sale have been brought after testing in children. Most of the supplements don’t come with any established indication for safe doses for people below 18.
How Can a Person Know What a Herbal Supplement Contains?
Following FDA’s requirements, supplement brands need to provide the following information:
- Supplement name
- Address and other relevant details of the distributor or manufacturer
- All ingredients used
- List of active ingredients
- Serving size(s) and amount
Not all users of herbal supplements can understand all pieces of information on the label. If you’ve difficulties understanding them, talk to a pharmacist or doctor.
A smart way to get all your required information is to use the Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) which is located on the National Health Institute (NIH) website. You can look up a product by its active ingredients, uses, brand, or manufacturer.
How Can You Use Herbal Supplements with Safety?
Though you might have the opportunity to know everything about a particular supplement, you still need to know the rules of safety while using that. Here’s a list of tips.
- Choose the brand of the supplement(s) by being assured if its products have been thoroughly tested and reviewed by independent sources.
- Don’t risk exceeding the recommended dosages along with the duration for continuity
- Keep note of the changes you experience after taking the supplement. If you don’t see anything significant or obvious even after following the rules, you should stop taking them and meet your doctor as soon as possible.
- Check to see if the company allows consumers to contact them directly for any query. One of those manufacturers is Standard Enzyme that happily answers all questions from its customers.
Finally, you should visit the FDA’s website or database for regular updates on products that are under regulatory review. Follow all of their advisories and alerts. Remember that doing research is just as important as consulting your physicians because you don’t want to put yourself at risk.