The Terrifying Truth About Herbal Supplements in Australia
What would you say if I told you the bottles of herbal supplements you swear give you more energy, boost your sleep or even help you lose weight, could be laced with harmful toxins and pesticides? Yep. Even if you bought them in Australia. In news likely to rattle even those devoted to natural supplements ("me"), a recent post on the ABC's website has effectively shone a light on the regulation of herbal products in Australia, and things don't look pretty.
According to the article, experts writing in the Medical Journal of Australia found that "some herbal remedies sold on the Australian market could contain chemicals, natural toxins, heavy metals or pesticides." The researchers also suggested the regulation of herbal products in Australia is "relatively lax", and, "the content and quality of drugs [is] not as tightly controlled as standard pharmaceuticals." The review's co-author, Ian Musgrave from the University of Adelaide, even went as far as to say: "A significant number of traditional herbal medicines do not comply with Australian regulations." Scary, no?
Among potential problems noted in the review were: Ingredients missing from listing labels or brand websites, inaccurate recordings of the concentration of ingredients, and even the illegal inclusion of traditional pharmaceuticals in order to deceptively boost the action of the "natural" product. Perhaps most worryingly of all, the study's lead author, professor Roger Byard of the University of Adelaide said that even herbal supplements that don't contain toxic ingredients could still cause severe health problems including kidney failure and liver damage. Just last year, the ABC reported on an Australian man who entered liver failure after taking a protein powder containing green tea extract and supplement with garcinia cambogia.
Before you bin every natural supplement you own, know this, the TGA stands behind it's regulatory processes. A spokeswoman quoted in the ABC post said: "Contrary to [the researchers'] statement that there is a lack of regulation in Australia for herbal products, Australia has an internationally well regarded regulatory system for all medicines, including herbal and other complementary medicines," she said. "Only ingredients that are known to be safe can be used in herbal medicines." Our thoughts? Only buy practitioner brands from trusted retailers. We're partial to BioCeuticals which you can buy at Priceline.