Supplement Quality: What’s Really in Your Supplements?

smiling woman holding pill of high supplement quality

Supplement Quality: Do You Know What you are Taking?

At Forces of Nature, we take the greatest care to source out only the purest, best and highest quality supplements to recommend to our patients.  Did you know that supplement companies are not required to test for mold residue, heavy metals, pesticides or solvents? Few companies do.  Even fewer use good quality labs or have the expertise to properly do this kind of testing with their in-house labs.

What Does “Best By” Really Mean?

Did you know that as long as they don’t use the words “expiration date” on the label, a company is not required to make sure their product is stable until the “best by” date? Most companies simply make this date up. Almost no one actually does the testing and so many products won’t actually say “expiration date”.

Does It Really Contain What It Says it Does?

Another problem is that companies are only required to test 1-4 components of a multi-ingredient product?  Therefore, this means that in a product with 15 ingredients, you are really only assured that 1-4 of them are actually there.

Supplement Quality According to Health Canada

In Canada, Health Canada requires natural health products (NHP’s) to have a natural product number (NPN).  The application process is lengthy, but the main information the manufacturer has to provide is:

  1. For each medicinal ingredient of the natural health product:

(i) its proper name and its common name,

(ii) its quantity per dosage unit,

(iii) its potency, if a representation relating to its potency is to be shown on any label of the natural health product,

(iv) a description of its source material, and

(v) a statement indicating whether it is synthetically manufactured;

2. A qualitative list of the non-medicinal ingredients that are proposed for the natural health product and for each ingredient listed, a statement that indicates the purpose of the ingredient.

3. Each brand name under which the natural health product is proposed to be sold;

4. The recommended conditions of use for the natural health product;

5. Information that supports the safety and efficacy of the natural health product when it is used in accordance with the recommended conditions of use;

6. The text of each label that is proposed to be used in conjunction with the natural health product;

7. A copy of the specifications to which the natural health product will comply

None of these requirements obligates the company to test for aflatoxins (mold residue), heavy metals, pesticides or solvents.

The Importance of Seeing a Naturopath

Does your supplement brand test their herbs for heavy metals, pesticides, solvent residues or active ingredients at the expiration date?  Our naturopathic doctors are supplement quality experts and only recommend brands that meet the highest standards for purity, freshness, efficacy, and potency.


Shim WB, et al. The occurrence of aflatoxins in herbal medicine distributed in South Korea. J Food Prot. 2012 Nov;75(11):1991-9. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-190.

Genuis SJ, et al. Toxic element contamination of natural health products and pharmaceutical preparations. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49676. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049676.

Want to read more?  There’s a great graphic on the Thorne Research website here.