How Potent is Your Supplement?
On the surface, some supplements might look like they have it all; a little bit of everything to cover all your needs, A to Z, head to toe. Trouble is, a little bit of everything isn’t going to cut it when you want results.
For a therapeutic effect, you need a therapeutic dose, and this is where the quality and quantity of those ingredients becomes important. You wouldn’t take 1/4 of painkiller for migraine, so why would you ingest only a fraction of the vitamins, minerals or herbs you might need?
When it comes to natural ingredients, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether a product is the real deal or not. Herbs can be sourced and extracted from excellent farms and with trusted methods, or they can be procured cheaply and produced with questionable practices.
Similarly, a mineral compound may be cheap and poorly absorbed or a little dearer and well absorbed, and without a full understanding of nutritional chemistry or herbal medicine, how on earth are you to know what’s good and what’s masquerading as healthful?
Marketing is a clever thing, but a quick online search should give you a general idea of reviews and company reputation. It’s also well worth checking if their claims are backed by science, and any good company should be able to reference studies for their ingredients.
Enough of the good stuff
Having a quality ingredient is important, but having enough of it to make a difference to your health is equally essential.
As an example, let’s use vitamin B5; a key ingredient in acne treatments. Studies show that for effectiveness against acne, a minimum dose of 10mg per day is recommended. SkinB5 Extra Strength Acne Control Vitamins contain 500mg of B5 per tablet; well above the guidelines for therapeutic effects. The maximum dosage of 4 tablets a day equals 2000mg or 2g, this high dose being designed to get acne under control, while a lower dose might be used to maintain clear skin once the initial issue has been resolved.
How to identify good quality
While it’s time-consuming to have to research every supplement, don’t assume that every company has done the work for you. Any decent supplement should at least have a listing of ingredients on their website, along with the reasoning for those ingredients.
A quick online search should also provide a rough indication of what a decent dose might be, or at the very least, what the recommended daily dose is. Look for independent reviews, recommendations, and above all use your common sense.
Companies which resemble pyramid sales schemes or the like are best avoided, as their interests tend to be the bottom dollar, which supports marketing but doesn’t guarantee a quality product.
Another good indication of brand reputation is whether it is available on retail shelves. Continuous in-store presence may be a sign that consumers are happy to keep purchasing this item, and that experienced buyers have chosen to stock it, above other lower quality products.
If in doubt, contact the company directly or ask your health care professional, pharmacist, a good naturopath or nutritionist for guidance. A reputable company will be happy to answer any queries you have and a health professional with nutritional or herbal medicine training will be best equipped to advise you on whether a supplement is appropriate for your needs.
Mem Davis is a naturopath, writer, and food lover. She loves feeling healthy and strong, and is a proud vegan nutrition advocate. In her spare time she goes hiking, attends live music events and hangs out with her cuddly cat.
 Leung, L. (1997). A Stone That Kills Two Birds: How Pantothenic Acid Unveils the Mysteries of Acne Vulgaris and Obesity. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 12(2), pp.99-104.