Seals of approval


Finding quality herbs and supplements

Check the label of your herbal product or dietary supplement. You might find a "seal of approval" or "quality seal" that's supposed to prove the product has passed independent testing. But a seal does not necessarily guarantee a safe and effective product.

What a seal really means

The U.S. government does not regulate dietary supplements the way it regulates prescription drugs. Manufacturers do not need to prove that their herbal products and supplements are safe or effective — or even that the product contains what it says on the label.

To help buyers feel safer about their products, some manufacturers use independent organizations — including, U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP), and the National Sanitation Foundation International — to test their products and give a seal of approval.

When choosing a product with a seal of approval, remember:

  • Seals can't tell you whether a product is safe or effective for treating your condition. The seals only verify that the product includes the ingredients listed on the label.
  • Products may be retested over time to make sure they still pass the approval process. But some are never retested and continue to display the seal, even though the product may have changed.

Products without seals

Products without a seal aren't always a bad choice. Getting a product tested is expensive, and some manufacturers choose not to go through that process.

However, a product without a seal of approval might also mean it failed testing. Manufacturers don't have to put anything on the label to let you know that a product didn't pass the test.

Visit the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database® to get up-to-date information about product safety, medication interactions, and more.

Reviewed by: Paul Millea, MD, October, 2015

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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