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QUALITY OF POPULAR HERBAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT FOUND TO VARY 
 
— Certain Types of St. John's Wort Supplements More Likely to Pass Testing — 

White Plains, NY — April 11, 2001 — ConsumerLab.com, an independent evaluator of dietary supplements and nutrition products, today released results of its Product Review of St. John's wort supplements. These supplements are popularly used to treat mild to moderate depression and to relieve depression-related anxiety. Twenty-one St. John's wort products were purchased and tested for levels of specific plant compounds speculated to be responsible for the herb's therapeutic effects, and cadmium, a known carcinogen and potential toxin that the St. John's wort plant selectively accumulates while growing. Neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency routinely tests St. John's wort products, or other supplements, for quality prior to sale. 

One-third of the 21 brands of St. John's wort did not pass testing for the following reasons (with several of the products failing for more than one reason): Four products had insufficient levels of the compound hypericin (ranging from 77% to 85% of the amount expected); one product had only 21.7% of the claimed amount of the compound hyperforin; and five products exceeded the review's limit for cadmium. Although the cadmium levels in these products alone would not pose a serious health risk, they represent avoidable sources of cadmium. There is a relatively small safety margin between normal exposure to cadmium and exposure that can cause harm.

Consumers have been advised to look for St. John's wort products that explicitly list hypericin or hyperforin content on their labels. While these are important chemical markers to look for in products, ConsumerLab.com did not find such claims to guarantee that products would meet their claims or pass testing. ConsumerLab.com found, however, that products most likely to pass claimed to be made from St. John's wort "flower" or "flower and leaves."   Products less likely to have passed were labeled to contain "aerial" portions of St. John's wort (a more general term that includes all above-ground parts, including stems) and were more likely to contain raw herb as an ingredient, as opposed to extract-only products.

Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com's President, commented, "Because the St. John's wort user is typically battling depression, it is particularly important that these products deliver what they claim. A switch to a lower quality product could result in lower efficacy, although the user might not suspect the product as the cause." 

The general findings are available at www.consumerlab.com. ConsumerLab.com's online subscribers can also access the complete list of CL Approved Quality Products and CL's ConsumerTipson buying and using St. John's wort. Similar information from ConsumerLab.com's recent Product Reviews of Asian and American ginseng, calcium, chondroitin, CoQ10, creatine, ginkgo biloba, glucosamine, multivitamins/multiminerals, SAM-e, saw palmetto, and vitamins C and E are also available. Other Product Reviews scheduled for release this year include Echinacea, soy isoflavones, valerian, MSM, and protein/energy bars. ConsumerLab.com's Buyer's Guide to Supplements is to be published in print later this year. To further assist consumers, ConsumerLab.com licenses its flask-shaped CL Seal of Approved Quality (see The CL Seal) to manufacturers for use on products that have passed its evaluations.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and headquartered in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from or interest in companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. Subscription to Consumerlab.com's Product Reviews is available online. Parties interested in purchasing comprehensive Product Review Technical Reports, licensing content, or requesting testing of additional products may contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at lisa.sabin@consumerlab.com.



 

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