What’s in Your Supplements? Not Always What You Expect


A new controversy over supplements emerged on Feb. 2 when the New York State Attorney General’s office accused several major retail brands of false advertisement and fraud because the herbal supplements sold under the brand name did not contain the ingredients it claimed, but rather unlisted ingredients.

Authorities ran tests on several herbal supplements from Walgreens, Target, Walmart and GNC and found that of the tests done on St. John’s Wort, gingko biloba, saw palmetto, garlic, echinacea, valerian root and ginseng, the majority of the samples did not contain any traces of the advertised herb. Rather, many contained fillers like rice, dracaena, wild carrot, asparagus and other substances that could be harmful to people with allergies.

The agency has since sent cease and desist letters to the four retailers due to the failed tests.

To see a list of the products tested, click here.

From GNC, Herbal Plus brand:

Gingko Biloba:

  • No gingko biloba found
  • Did detect allium (garlic), rice, spruce and asparagus

St. John’s Wort

  • No St. John’s Wort found
  • Did detect allium (garlic), rice and dracaena (a tropical houseplant)


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

    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 (houseplant)


    • Contained garlic
    • One test identified no DNA


    • Most but not all tests detected Echinacea
    • One test identified rice

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