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Mrs. Lydia Pinkham’s Herbal Supplements

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What a surprise that the herbal supplement/alternative medicine industry is filled with hucksters, scam artists, and grifters, the likes of which American medicine hasn’t seen since the days of patent medicine before the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906

For the study, the researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. To avoid singling out any company, they did not disclose any product names.

Among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes, nausea and flatulence.

Two bottles labeled as St. John’s wort, which studies have shown may treat mild depression, contained none of the medicinal herb. Instead, the pills in one bottle were made of nothing but rice, and another bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative. Gingko biloba supplements, promoted as memory enhancers, were mixed with fillers and black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies.

Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.

Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.

In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author, Steven G. Newmaster, a biology professor and botanical director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.

Unfortunately, we live in a society of extreme individualist consumerism where the everyday person thinks they can make their own medical decisions based on whatever information then glean from the internet and Jenny McCarthy appearances on The View, ignoring the advice of real doctors, refusing to give vaccinations to their children, starting public health crises, etc. That there’s a market of corporations openly taking advantage of these people is hardly shocking. What would shocking is if people realized medicine should not be a consumer choice to be taken lightly.

Of course, if we had a well-funded FDA with greater power to investigate, inspect, enforce, and punish, these products would be safe, even if they didn’t do anything for you. But returning America to the Gilded Age means undermining the FDA and opening up new markets for those selling adulterated foods and medicines. Poisoning consumers is the definition of freedom for this world view.

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