Those herbal remedies you buy in the drug store as a healthy alternative for aches, pains and discomfort may have precious little, or not a trace, of the active ingredient touted on the label. That was the disturbing result of a thorough testing of six herbal treatments: echinacea, ginseng, St. John’s Wort, garlic, ginko biloba and saw palmetto from the stores Walgreen, Walmart, GNC and Target in New York State.
On average, only 21% were found to contain the active ingredient after DNA testing, with only 4% of Wal-Mart’s products containing what was described on the label. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the products should be removed and told ABC news, “This investigation makes one thing abundantly clear: The old adage, ‘buyer beware’ may be especially true for consumers of herbal supplements.” Walgreen spokesman James Graham said the company takes the findings very seriously and as a “precautionary measure, ” it is removing certain products from the shelves.
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The tests were quite thorough, with 78 samples tested 5 times each with 390 tests. They were performed by James Shulte II of Clarkston University using DNA barcoding technology. In addition to lacking partially or even entirely the product mentioned on the label, there were contaminants in the supplements that might aggravate symptoms of those with allergies.