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Study: Many herbal supplements contain no herbs

Tests of popular herbal supplements like echinacea and St. John's wort found that they were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by fillers like rice and weeds.

Herbal supplements 2013 11-04Enlarge
Tests of popular herbal supplements like echinacea and St. John's wort have found that they were often diluted -- or replaced entirely -- by fillers like rice and weeds. Pictured are food capsules in Forbach, eastern France. (JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images)

That echinacea you take to ward off colds may be missing a key ingredient — echinacea.

Tests of popular herbal supplements by Canadian researchers found that many were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by fillers like rice and weeds, according to a new study.

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In fact, a third of the 44 bottles tested contained no trace of herbs at all.

Two bottles of remedies labeled as St. John's wort, used by some to treat depression, contained none of the herb, according to the findings published in the journal BMC Medicine.

Pills in one bottle were filled with rice, while capsules in the other bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative, The New York Times reported.

One brand of echinacea contained an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes, nausea and flatulence.

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Consumer advocates and some industry representatives told The Times tighter regulations are needed.

"If you had a child who was sick and three out of 10 penicillin pills were fake, everybody would be up in arms," Dr. David A. Baker, whose study last year uncovered similar levels of fakery, told the newspaper. "But it’s OK to buy a supplement where three out of 10 pills are fake. I don’t understand it. Why does this industry get away with that?"

Last week, a new Food and Drug Administration report found bug parts and rat parts in about 12 percent of US spice imports.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/131104/study-many-herbal-supplements-contain-no-herbs