A Supplement's Journey: Why Quality Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs Matter 

clinical setting filling medicationsWhen winter hits in Chicago, many people consider taking vitamin D to make up for the lack of sunlight. Think twice, though, before heading into any old shop to pick up yours-because not all supplements are created equal.


The problem is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate supplements very tightly. In 2014, the organization cited 60% of supplement companies for violations. As a result, poor-quality supplements, which may contain contaminants, make it onto the market.


"You can't just buy from anyone because they don't have to tell you anything about ingredients used or their process," says Raby Institute Naturopath Kathy Chavez, ND. "There's a whole chain of production and many variables, and it's hard to know which solvents they used, where the supplement was stored, and for how long. Extensive testing is very expensive, and it's not required."


Making-and testing-a supplement

Some supplement companies take it upon themselves to test their products throughout the process. This is by far not the norm, but the Raby Institute makes it a point to carry supplements only from these companies. The companies implement rigorous quality control, testing raw ingredients before they even start making the supplement.


"The supplement companies we recommend at the Raby Institute verify ingredients, potency, and purity," Dr. Chavez explains. "They test for bacteria, yeast, and mold. They test for moisture, PCBs dioxins, heavy metals, residual solvents, and pesticides."


Once manufacturers start making the supplements, some companies, unfortunately, use binders, coatings, fillers, and lubricants to make the process less expensive and faster.


After the product is made, a quality company will test the supplement again for stability. They'll want to know that it won't turn rancid and that it can handle being transported and stored over long periods of time.


For Raby Institute Founder Theri Griego Raby, MD, ABHM, the decision to choose supplements from companies that thoroughly vet their products is easy. After all, she says, even though the tested products tend to cost more, the savings comes through in your health. "The most expensive supplement is the one that doesn't work," Dr. Raby says.


Dr. Chavez agrees. If you buy supplements without researching their production process, "You're spending money that may hurt you, rather than help you."


What to Watch For

Herbs, too, require research. For example, a company may offer turmeric. However, if the capsule is made from the leaves or stem, it won't have the same level of medicinal quality as turmeric supplements made from the plant's root, Dr. Chavez says.


"The company should say which part of the plant they're using and how they've standardized their process," she says.


If you purchase your supplements at the Raby Institute or via online apothecary ShopRaby.com, rest assured that you're getting quality products. Dr. Raby visits the manufacturers and makes sure they're testing throughout their production process.


If you're buying supplements outside of the Raby Institute, Dr. Chavez says to look for these certifications:

  • Non-GMO
  • USDA Organic
  • NSF-National Sanitation Foundation
  • GMP-Good Manufacturing Practice
  • TGA-Australian Government Therapeutic Goods Administration


Refer to this information when you're shopping for supplements, and share it with your friends in Chicago who may be in the market for vitamin D (or other supplements) this winter. 


"Without health, life is not life, life is lifeless."
- Ariphon the Sicyonian