Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Unregulated Nature of the Alternative Treatment Industry: Does The Label On The Outside Tell The Truth About What's Inside?

Posted by Christine Pack

Besides our general concerns about the New Age philosophies and beliefs that often undergird alternative/naturopathic/holistic treatments, we also have concerns that due to the unregulated nature of the alternative industry, these unregulated products (1) may not do what they claim to do, and (2) might not even be what they purport to be. From the article entitled The Truth About Nutrition Supplements (Fitness Magazine, Oct 2009):
"According to a 2002 Harris Poll, more than half of us believe that a government agency like the Food and Drug Administration is keeping a watchful eye on the $20 billion supplement industry......It's not. The federal regulators who would normally be all over poor-quality supplements had their hands tied by a piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The bill was intended to make dietary supplements -- including vitamins, minerals, and herbs -- more widely available by classifying them not as drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, but as foods. In practice, that means supplements not only don't have to do what they promise (such as protect against disease) but don't even have to be safe.........The results have been predictable: In 2004 alone, more than 24,000 "toxic exposures" to supplements were reported, while other research showed that some supplements contain potentially dangerous contaminants such as lead, mercury, pesticides, mold, and bacteria.........No wonder some consumer advocates say that this regulatory loophole has helped create a marketplace that fails to protect consumers from contaminated, adulterated and, in some cases, deadly supplements."
photo credit: veo_ via photopin cc
A recent program (Safety and Regulation of Dietary Supplements) on the secular radio station NPR (National Public Radio) also highlighted the growing concern among even the lost that the alternative treatment industry (which includes essential oils) is a largely unregulated arena. I highly recommend for anyone wanting to use, or already using, natural supplements to listen to this program. It was mentioned during the show that testing done by a group called Consumer Labs found that, on many occasions, what was on the outside label of bottles of natural/herbal supplements did NOT accurately portray what was contained within. The reason for this is because there are very few regulatory practices put into place for ensuring quality/accuracy in alternative/"natural"/herbal supplements. What this means is that a person can buy a bottle of an herbal supplement, and be getting something other than what is labeled on the front of the bottle. It could be 100% of the herb, could be 90/10 - herb/filler, or 10/90 - herb/filler, or could be all filler. Same thing with essential oils: a bottle labeled "100% Essential Oil" could be 100% of the oil you are expecting, OR, it could be comprised of 90% carrier oil (like linseed oil, almond oil or olive oil) with only 10% of the essential oil. Again.......it's an unregulated industry. (For more on this, please also read this New York Times article: Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem)

Just like there are sinful men involved in the FDA, sinful men who act selfishly and make wrong decisions, there are also sinful men involved in the alternative treatment industry. But the sinful men involved in the alternative treatment industry are entirely unregulated, meaning they do not have to meet any scientific or federal standards for the claims they make about their supplements. Both sides are flawed, but at least the FDA has some measure of accountability due to regulatory requirements.

I literally spent thousands on supplements during my decade as a New Ager without knowing that these herbal/natural supplements were (and still are) unregulated. And not only can the substance within not match up with the label, distributors of natural/herbal supplements are not held to the same standards that those in the pharmaceutical industry are held to, in terms of claiming benefits for a supplement that haven't been scientifically verified. And while the common belief is that herbals are only benign, and can only help (and never harm), this is not necessarily true. There is a reason why your doctor often asks you to list not only all medications you are taking, but also all over-the-counter vitamins, mineral and herbal supplements you are taking as well: some supplements can interfere with your prescribed medicines, and some can even work in tandem with your prescribed medicines to cause harm. For more on this, please see the following articles:
Dietary And Herbal Supplements Could Interfere With Prescription Drugs (Medical News Today) 
Herbal Supplements May Not Mix With Heart Medicines (Mayo Clinic) 
5 Risky Herbal Supplements: Even Though They're Natural, Some Herbal Supplements Can Be Dangerous (Web MD)
Warning: Herbal Supplements Don't Always Go Well With Heart Drugs (U.S. News and World Report)
Those selling essential oils (which we've talked about here and here and here) and herbs and other supplements shouldn't automatically get a pass because they are selling "natural" items. Herbs and oils are not somehow more holy than pharmaceuticals (and even though I get that there are problems with the pharmaceutical industry, including over-diagnosis of many medications, that's another topic for another day). The alternative treatment realm is an industry that makes profits in the billions. And yes, that's right up there with Big Pharma.


 General Resources 

Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem (The New York Times)

Wellness: The New Age Trojan Horse in Healthcare (Marcia Montenegro)

Hospitals: A New Dark Age? (Marcia Montenegro)

No Scientific Evidence For "Chi" or "Qi" (NYU Langone Medical Center)


Are We All Syncretists Now? A Conversation About Evangelical Christianity and Alternative Medicine with Historian Candy Gunther Brown
 (Dr. Al Mohler)


 The Value and Importance of Scientific Studies 

The Biblical Worldview Is The Foundation of Modern Science

The Scientific Method and Why It Matters


 Warnings About Homeopathy 



 Warnings About Alternative Treatments 

Alternative Medicine: A Mind Blowing Magical Mystery Tour
  (Online e-book exposing the unsubstantiated claims [both currently and historically] made about many "natural" remedies.....I highly recommend this eye-opening, FREE ebook)

The Truth About Nutritional Supplements (Fitness Magazine, 10-01-2009)

Safety and Regulation of Dietary Supplements (NPR radio interview, 7-16-2014)

Dietary And Herbal Supplements Could Interfere With Prescription Drugs (Medical News Today)

Herbal Supplements May Not Mix With Heart Medicines (Mayo Clinic)

5 Risky Herbal Supplements: Even Though They're Natural, Some Herbal Supplements Can Be Dangerous (Web MD)

Warning: Herbal Supplements Don't Always Go Well With Heart Drugs (U.S. News and World Report)


Severe liver damage from certain dietary aid supplements  (Examiner, links to archived New York Times article, 11-3-13)

Tapping: The Next Big Thing in Alternative Medicine
 (Sola Sisters)

Problems with Alternative Medicine
 (Marcia Montenegro)


 Warnings About Essential Oils 

The Christian and Essential Oils: A Few Thoughts [UPDATED] (Sola Sisters)

Essential Oils Revisited (Sola Sisters)

Aromatherapy: Biblical Path to Healing or Demonic Deception? (Chuck and Julie Cohen)

A Critique of David Stewart's Healing Oils of the Bible (Marcia Montenegro)

How To Use Essential Oils: A Step-By-Step Guide (satire, warning: some mild language)


 Warnings About Essential Oil Toxicity 


Essential Oil Safety: Documented Side Effects, Injuries, and Deaths from Essential Oil Ingestion (Hub Pages)

Eucalyptus Oil and Essential Oils Poisoning (The Royal Children's Hospital - Melbourne, AU)

Can Aromatherapy Oils Poison You? How Tiny Particles 'May Damage Liver and Kidneys' (Daily Mail, UK)

Hidden Dangers of Essential Oils: The Frightening Truth About Natural Remedies Such as Olbas Oil Which Can Cause Heart Problems, Convulsions and Eye Ulcers (Daily Mail, UK)

Danger for Cats: Essential Oils (Articulate Animals Blog)

Warning About Peppermint Oil Overdose (New York Times)

Shannon: Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed.

Toxic Effects of Essential Oils - Addresses Oils Taken Orally and Externally (The Research Pedia)


 Sola Sisters Facebook Wall Threads - Essential Oils 


Sola Sisters Facebook wall - February 23, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - April 24, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall -April 26, 2014
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - June 28, 2014 (general warning about essential oils) 
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - June 30, 2014 (critique of essential oils/YL by Chuck and Julie Cohen)
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - July 11, 2014 (should Christians partner with companies who market their products with unbiblical spiritual concepts?)
Sola Sisters Facebook wall - July 28, 2014 (discussion re: Sola Sisters' concerns about YL/alternative)

 John Ankerberg Resources and Articles