Gather around girls, ghosts, and ghouls — today were venturing to the dark side of the wellness world to celebrate the spookiest week of the year.
Because, if you ask us, there’s nothing scarier than the costumes we see cheap vitamins and bunk supplements skulking around in!
If our exposé on how environmental toxins affect your health wasn’t enough to make you sleep with one eye open, this post surely will be. From the wretched origins of your favorite vitamins to the horrifying truth about herbal supplements, we’re pulling all the marketing machinations from their crypts and into the light.
Grab a trusted safety blanket and read on!
In This Article:
- Meet the mega-corporations that own your favorite supplement brands
- Learn what the organic label on vitamins really means
- Herbal supplements: safe or not?
The Illusion of Free Choice
Did you already know that strolling down the supplement aisle of your local health foods store was akin to walking through a haunted house of mirrors?
If not, don’t blame yourself. Most of us modern consumers are fooled by the myriad of names, logos, brand colors, and mission statements into thinking that there are scads of supplement companies to choose from.
The frightening reality of the matter is that just 14 mega corporations own all the hundreds of vitamin brands you see on the shelf. It’s true — corporations like Nestle and Clorox, dressed up as Pure Encapsulations and Rainbow Light Vitamins, are the villainous faces unmasked by us meddling kids.
The supplement industry was valued at roughly 163.9 billion just last year, so it’s no surprise that these profit-driven global syndicates want a piece of the pie. For wellness seekers, though, that means the shopping process isn’t so sweet.
Choosing a pure, potent supplement isn’t about picking the brands with green labels any more.
In order to find the vitamins and nutrients that are what they say they are, consumers need to deep-dive the ethics of their chosen companies — preferably before handing over their hard-earned cash.
The Organic Standards Graveyard
Shining out like a beacon, the USDA Organic Seal has become something like a lighthouse for health-conscious folks across the country. Since the late 90’s, savvy shoppers have sought brands that carry this illustrious label, under the presumption that organic means…organic.
Unfortunately, that’s not really the case.
The NOSB, or National Organic Standards Board, which was created to oversee the regulations hasn’t actually reduced the number of synthetic chemicals permitted in so-called organic foods and supplements — they’ve increased it.
“More than 250 non-organic substances are now allowed in organic foods, up from 77 in 2002.”Dr. Neal Smoller
And we have the corporations that moonlight as board members for the NOSB to thank for that!
Companies like Whole Foods Market and General Mills have used their voting rights to push for more chemicals — and even herbicides — to be allowed in organic foods and products in order to protect their financial investments in the supplement industry.
Strict manufacturing standards and safety regulations result in higher testing and production costs and, subsequently, lower profits. Translation: It’s cheaper and easier to cut corners.
So don’t be fooled by this clever disguise! Instead, scrutinize organic products as carefully as you would non-organic.
In some cases, buying a supplement from a small, trusted brand might be safer than buying one with the organic seal and a million-dollar marketing plan.
The Herbal Anti-Heroes
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the natural health industry’s dark underbelly is that, in it, there’s been a highly profitable, highly polarizing dichotomy created.
Natural vs. synthetic, traditional vs. modern, herbal vs. pharmaceutical, us vs. them, hero vs. villain. It’s a prolific and profitable sales tactic known as oppositional marketing or oppositional brand loyalty.
In essence: If we’re the kind of people inclined to choose natural products, we must hate all forms of modern, non-traditional medicine. If we’re the kind of people who prefer allopathic medicine, we must forsake all forms of herbal or holistic healing interventions.
No nuance allowed.
So herbs are, depending on which side you fall on, seen as either miracle cure-alls with no negative side effects or useless, overhyped hippie junk. The truth, gang, lies somewhere in between these contrasting beliefs.
Let’s break it down into fun-sized bites:
- YES, herbal compounds have been used as food and medicine throughout the history of human civilization. If you’re alive today, it’s because your ancestors ate plants, drank teas, and prepared extracts of herbal compounds to recover from illnesses.
- NO, not every so-called superfood herb is what it seems to be. Modern research is still struggling to validate the historical claims of many herbs — the necessary funding and interest in the scientific community are lacking.
- YES, there are herbs and herbal extracts with benefits that have been scientifically proven through rigorous testing and clinical research. It’s not all bunk and to claim such is to teeter into anti-science territory.
- NO, herbal products and supplements aren’t inherently healthier than non-herbal products or synthetic vitamins. Some have contraindications with medications while others can be addictive. All plants, like humans, are only as “healthy” as the environments around them. Even herbal allies like ashwagandha and ginkgo can contain horrifying amounts of heavy metals from the toxic soils in which they grow.
Our main issue with herbal supplements is not a matter of their efficacy or importance — it’s that most supplement companies don’t test the raw materials they receive from suppliers. This means that herbal products, like other supplements and vitamins, can be dyed, duped, or disguised by any number of masked manufacturing practices.
The turmeric capsules you bought for their lovely, vibrant color, for example, might be shining gold due to malachite yellow, a coppery dye additive that’s also a banned substance.
So heavy metals can leech into your herbal products from the soil, solvents during the extraction process, and dyes or additives during production. By the time it reaches your eager hands, your herbal supplement might be more trick than treat.
Seeing Through the Nefariousness of “Natural” Products
Okay, so maybe this blog won’t keep you up at night like Friday the 13th or Hereditary will, but the lack of choice, education, and regulations in the supplement sphere is pretty scary, no?
That’s why our whole jam here at Woodstock Vitamins is facing our fears head-on — looking behind the curtain of slick branding to reveal the phonies for what they are.
Because you shouldn’t have to traverse this haunted house of health products alone! Explore our other myth-busting manifestos or hop on a free Counterside Consult for direct guidance. Our supplement strategists and holistic wellness experts promise not to tease you if you jump or squeal at the marketing tactics that go bump in the night.