[img_assist|nid=193589|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=238]Sept. 14, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Questions about the safety and effectiveness of “natural” botanical supplements have been growing in recent years. The Wall Street Journal conducted an in-depth report on this rapidly expanding industry which raises questions about these popular “natural” remedies.
The botanical supplement industry, once a small niche, has grown into a major player with over $5 billion in sales in 2009. According to American Botanical Council, this is up 17% from 2004.
Despite this volcanic growth, there has been very few empirical studies conducted to support the claimed health benefits of these supplements. Not only are the health benefits unproven, many supplements have been shown to contain contaminants such as bacteria and lead. Additionally, many supplement providers have been accused of making false marketing claims.
Although many botanical supplements have not been proven to be effective, there also is not conclusive evidence disproving their effectiveness. Instead, a widespread lack of regulation and research has left a large information and credibility gap.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is required to test and approve pharmaceutical drugs, they do not have a Congressional mandate to do the same with botanical supplements. Small progress is being made with plans to begin requiring supplement manufacturers to follow quality manufacturing standards as of 2011. However, the FDA rarely conducts physical inspections of these manufacturing plants.