Problems Persist With Ginseng Supplements

Long-time readers know of my fondness for ConsumerLab.com. Their independent testing of natural medications (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) guides my teaching and my prescribing. Now, a review by ConsumerLab.com finds 45% of ginseng products don’t provide the full amount of the ingredient indicated on the label, or worse, are contaminated.

ConsumerLab.com is now reporting that five out of eleven of the most popular ginseng supplements in the U.S. were selected for testing and contained less ginseng than expected from their labels or were contaminated with lead and/or pesticides.

Problems with the quality of ginseng supplements have been reported by ConsumerLab.com since 2000. Ginseng is a popular herb with U.S. sales last year of $83 million according to Nutrition Business Journal.

“Consumers need to be wary of the quality of ginseng supplements” said Tod Cooperman, MD, President of ConsumerLab.com.

“People should also recognize that there is enormous variation in the amount of ginsenosides — key ginseng compounds — in marketed supplements. We found most products to provide approximately 10 to 40 mg of ginsenosides per day, but some yielded much higher amounts, including one that delivered a whopping 304 mg.  We are not aware of human studies with the higher amounts. The effects might certainly differ from one product to another.”

Ginseng has often been promoted for increasing vitality. While there is not much clinical evidence to support an energy boosting effect, studies indicate that that certain preparations may help prevent colds and flus or keep blood sugar levels down in people with diabetes. A range of other uses have been suggested but lack strong evidence.

The new Product Review of Ginseng Supplements provides test results for fifteen supplements – eleven selected by ConsumerLab.com and four tested at the request of their manufacturers/distributors that passed the same testing through CL’s Voluntary Certification Program.

Also listed are two products similar to one that passed testing but sold under different brand names.

Brands included are Action Labs, Bluebonnet, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Imperial (GINCO), Nature Made, Nature’s Bounty, Nature’s Plus, NSI (Vitacost), Pharmanex, Puritan’s Pride, Solgar, Spring Valley (Walmart), TruNature, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, and Whole Foods.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York.

Of importance, it has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products.

Enter your email to subscribe to Dr. Walt's blogs.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dr. Walt Larimore will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.