Tests show supplements don't contain proper herbs

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Instead of the pricey dietary supplement pills you believe contain ginkgo biloba or echinacea, they could be filled with rice and other non-herbal plants.

The New York State Attorney General's Office released a report on supplements sold at Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and GNC stores in New York State. The same pills are sold in Arizona.

Lab tests of store brand St. John's Wort at all four stores found "...no St. Johns Wort DNA identified..." in the pills.

The same was true for tests of store brand ginkgo biloba pills. 

Walmart's echinacea had "...no echinacea DNA..." and "...no plant material..." or herbs at all. Its makeup was unclear.

"I wish it surprised me, but it doesn't," Dr. Alan Christianson, a naturopathic doctor in Scottsdale, told 3TV.

"The generics unfortunately are often selected based on cost of raw materials, not on purity," he added.

Dr. Christianson, the author of four books including the recent New York Times Bestseller  "The Adrenal Reset Diet," blames the problem on the pill manufacturers, looking to pinch pennies.

"It's troubling on a lot of levels. These are not expensive herbs. They're not the things that cost huge amounts for the raw materials," Dr. Christianson said.

The tests found rice, tropical plants, mustard, wheat, and radish in Walmart's ginkgo biloba.

The ingredients found will neither help nor hurt the person taking the pills, in most cases.

Many of Walmart's labels say their pills contain no gluten, yeast, wheat, or milk. However, some of the NYS tests found wheat in supplement pills, like garlic.

"Many people are gluten sensitive. For some, it's literally life of death. Even small amounts can cause breathing problems and hospitalizations for them, so that's certainly serious," Dr. Christianson said.

He hopes the study leads to more transparency, and encourages the stores to question their manufacturers.

Read the entire findings from the New York State Attorney General's Office here.

ConsumerLab.com is a website which tests supplements and brands for purity.