by Kristin Henningsen
Choosing a new supplement is not for the faint of heart. There’s always some new hot product out there that promises to increase your energy, improve your sex life and maybe even do your laundry (I’d definitely buy that one!). Whether you’re scrolling online or walking down the supplement aisle, the options are overwhelming. That vegan multivitamin you wanted to reduce stress? Well, you need it right about now.
With so many options and price points today, it’s hard to know what the best-quality supplement for your money is. As an herbalist in the industry for the past 15 years, even I get overwhelmed when I wander into the supplement section. Here are my tried and true strategies for finding a plant-based vitamin that is worth my time and my money.
Do Your Homework
To find a product that lives up to its promises, we need to do some research. Is it promising more energy and focus? Better sleep? Maybe stress reduction? These are tall orders, but the ingredient label doesn’t lie. The first place to start is there. What ingredients are listed, what’s the dosage, and do they actually have the benefits the manufacturer is promising? Not sure? Check out this resource as well as some of the references listed to double-check. Note the uses and the therapeutic dosages, and then compare them to the label.
Having one or two go-to websites or books is a great way to make sure the ingredients are on point, as is being familiar with a few ingredients. For example, for energy and focus, I look for Bacopa, Rhodiola, Lion’s Mane, B Vitamins, or CBD. And for stress or sleep support, I might use Valerian, skullcap, passionflower, Ashwagandha, Hops, or CBD.
It’s a common misconception that supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (aka the FDA). The reality is that the safety and effectiveness of supplements are determined by the manufacturer. The FDA only steps in if there are adverse effects reported. So how is a consumer to know that what’s on the ingredient label is actually in the product and safe to ingest? The GMPs.
GMPs stands for good manufacturing practices. These essentially tell you whether the product is being formulated, manufactured, stored, and labeled ethically, and is determined by an unbiased third party. If you see third-party tested or a GMP label on a supplement, you can trust that it is a quality brand.
Additives, Fillers, GMOs, Oh My!
If you’re paying for an expensive supplement, why pay for additives and fillers? Not only do they lower the overall dosage of the ingredients you want, but they also have the potential to trigger inflammation in the body. If you see magnesium stearate or stearic acid, gelatin, titanium dioxide, or dicalcium phosphate, then choose a different product. These ingredients have no nutritional value or are poorly absorbed by the body, and they are often derived from animals fed GMO corn. Definitely not vegan friendly.
Check the label for Non-GMO, Vegan, and TRU-ID stamps as a quick way to spot an additive-free supplement.
Ancient Solutions to Modern Problems
All this research and label dissecting takes precious time. So when I find a supplement that meets the above requirements, like the plant-based supplements from FOCL, I usually stick with it. If one of a manufacturer’s products meets my criteria, it’s a good bet their other products do, as well. Take some time to navigate around a brand's website, read reviews, and try a product for yourself. If you’re happy with the results, then look no further.
Kristin Henningsen MS, RH (AHG), RYT, is a clinical herbalist and educator who first fell in love with plants in the Southwestern desert. She’s passionate about bringing plant medicine back to the people, integrating Western herbalism, TCM and Ayurvedic practices to empower folks in their healthcare. Currently, she serves as faculty and clinician for the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, and faculty for several university programs.