Should Massachusetts Follow New York’s Lead When It Comes To Supplements?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

Supplements have been under fire for some time, and now New York state is doing something about it. Finally.

State authorities there conducted tests on herbal supplements at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart—four trusted national retailers—and found that four out of five of the products did not contain one smidgen of the herbs listed on the label. Zip. Zilch.

But this is nothing new. In 2013, researchers at Harvard found major problems with pills sold at GNC. With this latest finding in the unregulated supplement industry, the New York State Attorney General sent cease-and-desist letters to all four retailers. The AG wants to know exactly “how they verify the ingredients in their herbal supplements.”

The discrepancies on the labels were not just on the more crazy sounding “super fat burn” kind of products. The tests showed that pills labeled as “medicinal herbs” were stuffed with cheap fillers such as powdered rice, asparagus, and ground up houseplants.

According to the New York Times, here are some of the more surprising findings:

From GNC, Herbal Plus brand:


No ginseng found; Did detect rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus


No echinacea found; Did detect rice in some samples

From Target, Up & Up brand:

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found; Found garlic, rice, and mung/French bean

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found; Found garlic, rice, and dracaena (a houseplant)

From Walgreens, Finest Nutrition brand:

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found; Detected garlic, rice and dracaena


No garlic found; Detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice

From Walmart, Spring Valley brand:

Gingko Biloba

No gingko biloba found; Found rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat and radish

St. John’s Wort

No St. John’s Wort found; Detected garlic, rice and cassava

The most laughable part about all of this is that items called “garlic” actually contained no garlic. Yet products that were not supposed to contain garlic were filled with it.

Massachusetts should follow New York’s lead and investigate the retailers here. All four have locations in our state, and there’s no doubt the supplements—and what’s in them—are exactly the same. Next time you find yourself near the vitamin aisle, save your money and walk directly to the produce section. This way, you’ll get your herbs naturally, as nature really intended.