Knowing Where Your Food Comes From is Fundamental – Shouldn’t the Same Apply to Herbs and Supplements?
Not so long ago, a majority of consumers held fast to images shared in grade school about farm animals grazing in lush pastures, and chickens scratching outdoors. We thought these settings were where our food was coming from. People today are awakening to the reality that most of our food is being produced in far less ecologically sound habitats, and that the way we are producing our food is impacting our health. We have all seen too many incidents of food allergies, food-borne illnesses, and questionable practices in the food industry to believe for a moment that labels and government guidelines can keep us safe. In fact, one reason victory gardens are regaining popularity is because we recognize that if you are growing food at home, you do know where your food came from. You know what chemicals, if any, were applied to your food. You also know how healthy your plants and soils were, and if you take our Microbial Analysis for Growers class, you even know how healthy the microbiome supporting your victory garden is!
But what about the vitamins and herbal supplements you are taking? Isn’t it just as important to know where they came from and how they were grown? Of course. We grow many of the medicinal herbs we use for that very reason. But like so many before us, we have observed that producing everything you eat and drink is next-to-impossible. So we do what we can, and buy what we must, trying to be selective about who we buy from.
Several years ago, we made the decision to purchase our supplements through direct marketing avenues. We liked the idea of reducing the number of middlemen who handled our products. With each step we could remove from the distribution chain, we also eliminated one more opportunity for improper storage, poor heating and cooling, or sheer negligence to reduce the quality of our products. We soon learned there was yet another benefit to buying supplements this way. We learned that in direct marketing organizations where distributors are compensated for telling others about the products, it is not uncommon to have tens- to hundreds- of-thousands of distributors asking questions about where and how the supplements are being manufactured. Although this can result in some partial truths, errors, and downright lies propagating on private blogs and web sites, it also forces the company itself to be very clear and very transparent about what they are doing. There are simply more eyes watching them then a retail manufacturer must deal with. Overall, I have found it much easier to learn where my processed foods, supplements, and skin care products come from in direct marketing than I ever experienced trying to learn about retail products.
Where do the herbs in LV’s nutrigenomic supplements come from?
Of course, we did not purchase from direct marketing distributors for long before we recognized that it simply made sense to join the companies we bought most regularly from. One of these, a company called LifeVantage, offers herbal formulas that activate genetic pathways that reduce oxidative stress and promote phase II detox. Since almost everyone we know is old enough, and has been exposed to enough environmental stress to experience some level of oxidative stress, I am often asked questions about the company and its products. Because people know that I am tuned into the deficiencies inherent in our food system, I also get asked a lot about the company’s quality control process, and where their herbs come from. Fortunately, LifeVantage has been quick to share this information. In fact, former Chief Science Officer, Shawn Talbott, details their quality control process in a short video (below). Here are the highlights:
- LifeVantage exceeds FDA requirements for identification testing (laboratory analyses used to demonstrate that the herbs are indeed what they say they are), microbial testing (analyses to ensure the absence of harmful microbes), and potency testing (analyses that demonstrate a batch of the product contains reported levels of bioactive compounds).
- Every lot of LifeVantage products is tested for heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and substances banned in sports by the World Anti-doping Agency. The final product is also tested. This is significant because the industry standard only requires that one in 5 or 10 lots be tested.
- Total supply chain management is practiced. This means all raw materials are audited (domestically and internationally), and every lot of finished product can be tracked to determine which lots of raw materials went into the product, and manufacturing, warehousing, and product fulfillment processes are audited.
Knowing how the herbs are evaluated is great. But I also wanted to know where they were grown. So I wrote to productquestions at lifevantage dot com to see what I could find out. Afterall, I’d been told by distributors in the field that they were organic, they were wildcrafted, and they may be grown in Utah. It is not surprising to hear different reports. Afterall, there are many different herbs and other raw materials that go into the ever-expanding list of dietary supplements, energy drinks, weight management, and skin care products the company offers. Since herbs are often the most potent when grown in their native habitat, having all the herbs grown in a single location would not make sense. Now, I do recognize that businesses can’t always disclose every detail about their operation without opening the door to unfair competition. I certainly don’t want to threaten the success of any business working to promote good health. But I do take these products, so I want to know (and share) as much as it is possible for me to know and share about their source. To my surprise, I was answered directly by Dr. Nathalie Chevreau, who is the company’s Sr. Vice President of Research and Development. According to Dr. Chevreau, some of the herbs are actually wild-crafted (this means they are collected from natural habitats). Others are organically cultivated. The herbs come from many countries, including Western Europe, US, South America, China, Japan, and India. Regardless of where they are grown, each batch is subjected to the quality assurance audits described above.
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Disclosures: Mary Lucero is affilliated with LifeVantage Corporation through End-O-Fite Enterprises LLC, which is an independent distributor of LifeVantage products. The insights expressed here do not represent the views of LifeVantage. Information presented is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease. Business information is not intended as career counseling or financial advise.