If you feel bewildered when trying to read herbal supplement tables, you’re not alone! We all want to make the best decisions when it comes to our health and buying supplements, but how do you go about comparing products when you don’t have a clue what half of the info means?
Read on to find out how to easily decode this information so you feel fully confident in your purchasing decisions.
Note: To be clear, we are not talking about dietary supplements (vitamins and minerals) here, which is something very different. We’re talking specifically about herbal supplements.
You would think serving size would mean the dose, and generally, it does. However, the serving size is what the health claims and the ingredient amounts below this are based on, so it’s an important reference point.
Unfortunately, some companies try to bamboozle customers by showing a serving size and its benefits, but once you get to the suggested dose you find you need to take double the serving size to receive those benefits.
Not such a great deal after all, then!
Unbeknownst to many people, many “natural” supplement ingredients are not made from plants but are derived synthetically to be bioidentical to their natural form. But studies have shown that these synthetically derived vitamins have a lower absorption rate.
If an ingredient is derived from a plant, the common and the scientific name of the plant MUST be named in the Supplement Facts Table. The part of the plant is also required, such as root, flower, leaf, etc.
In order for the plant to be named, it must pass a plant ID lab test. This is carried out using High-Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography (HPTLC), a cutting-edge technique used to assess the quality and identity of botanicals and various other ingredients.
If you see an ingredient that doesn’t have a plant name, then the ingredient is likely synthetic and not from nature, ie. like most Vitamin C. This is important to note if you are looking for a product that is purely plant-based.
Good question, and one we get asked a lot!
If an extracted ingredient has a percentage, then this is a standardized extraction (for more on why we prefer standardized extracts, please click here!), meaning there is a verified amount of the desired active ingredient present.
The FDA requires that if a standardized extract is used, then the name of the active ingredient and the exact percentage are third-party lab-verified and that they’re clearly shown on the label.
If you see a percentage next to an ingredient, it means a lot more testing has taken place to ensure its accuracy and potency.
When you see a ratio next to an ingredient, for example, White Willow Bark 30:1., it means this ingredient is a full-spectrum extract.
For this, no percentage of the active ingredients is required by the FDA. Instead, the ratio shows how much the plant matter was reduced during extraction. The higher the ratio, the more concentrated the final result. (Again, more on this on our Standardized Extracts page.)
If you don't see a percentage or ratio, it means that no extraction has taken place at all. This is simply a whole herb that’s been crushed up with no concentration of extracted active ingredients.
Basically, no extraction = lower potency.
Daily Values were established for use on food and dietary supplement labels to show the number of nutrients needed daily to stay healthy.
Herbal supplements generally don’t provide nutrition, but instead provide medicinal benefits. Therefore, there are no established standards for Daily Values for Herbal Supplements.
This is the area for inactive ingredients that aren’t part of the herbal supplement’s key benefits, such as the ingredients used to make the capsule and any fillers or binders (for more on unnecessary ingredients added to supplements, look here!)
Here is also where you’ll find a list of any major allergens contained in the supplement. These allergens are milk, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, eggs, fish, and shellfish.
Below the supplement facts, there are often other pieces of information to help you make purchasing decisions when comparing products.
Some of this is required information, and some we choose to share to help you use our products safely and effectively. This info includes:
By now, you should be a pro at reading herbal supplement tables, though always check with your practitioner if you have more questions!