Buyer beware: not all ginseng supplements created equal

July 18, 2000 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Buyer beware: not all ginseng supplements created equal

Out of 22 brands of ginseng supplements recently evaluated by a U.S. company ( eight were found to contain high levels of specific pesticides, some of which also contained significant levels of lead. In addition, three of the eight contaminated products did not meet standards for their ginseng content, as did five other products. is a privately held company based in White Plains, New Jersey, which independently tests dietary supplements sold in the U.S.
The Ginseng Product Review focused on two related types of ginseng: American and Asian (typically labeled as Asian, Chinese, Korean, or Panax ginseng). Products were tested for their levels of ginsenosides (key markers for the quality of ginseng) and for potential contamination with the heavy metals lead, cadmium and arsenic and the pesticides hexachlorobenzene, quintozene, and lindane. Hexachlorobenzene is a probable human carcinogen and has been banned from most food crop uses throughout the world. Quintozene and lindane are potential carcinogens that may also be toxic to various organs and are not generally allowed for use on food products in the U.S. Contamination with the pesticides hexachlorobenzene and/or quintozene was found in eight of twelve products labeled to contain "Korean Ginseng" but was not found among the other ginseng products tested. None of the products tested contained unacceptable levels of the heavy metals arsenic or cadmium, nor of the pesticide lindane.
The ginseng products* that passed the testing are as follows:

  • Celestial Seasonings Ginseng (Asian)

  • Centrum Herbals Ginseng (Asian)

  • Ginsana (Asian) by Pharmaton Natural Health Products

  • NaturaLife Ultra Active Ginseng (Korean)

  • One A Day Energy Formula (American)

  • PharmAssure Standardized Korean Ginseng

  • Root to Health American Ginseng

  • Walgreens Finest Gin-Zing Concentrate tests popular supplements sold in the U.S. and therefore many of these products will not be available in Canada. Of the acceptable products, Ginsana is available in both in Canada and the U.S. (as well as internationally).

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