Major national retailers are selling bullshit herbal supplements that don't actually contain the ingredients they promise on the bottle, the New York State attorney general's office alleged on Monday. That "gingko biloba" is actually a unique blend of powdered asparagus and deception.
The AG's office ordered tests on supplements from GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, and the results were disheartening: "[R]oughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels," the New York Times reports.
The attorney general sent cease-and-desist letters to the four companies, ordering them to take the deceptive products—which contained mostly fillers like powdered rice, a houseplant called dracaena, and the aforementioned asparagus—off of New York shelves.
Walgreens has agreed to pull the allegedly deceptive supplements nationwide, and Walmart and GNC both said they would take "appropriate" action.
The NYT's Well blog has a full list of useless pills to look out for, but here's the short version: Nobody's gingko biloba, ginseng or St. John's Wort is any good, garlic is only 50/50 in garlic pills (but it shows up in plenty of unrelated supplements), and Target had the only echinacea that contained echinacea (but still not in every sample).
The Times' Anahad O'Connor also runs down how we got here: Ancient Republican senator Orrin Hatch—lover of supplements and recipient of hundreds of thousands of the supplement industry's dollars—pushed a federal law back in 1994 that exempts them from FDA review. It's basically just the "honor system" (and now New York's Attorney General) keeping herbal pill manufacturers from pushing placebos made of peas and rice.
[Photo: AP Images]