Health Supplements Review: GNC Herbal Plus, Target Up&Up, Walmart Spring Valley





Do the health supplements you buy really contain the ingredients they are advertised to contain? Maybe not! A health supplements review by the office of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has revealed that several supplements do not contain the plant species identified on the label. For this reason, the attorney general issued cease and desist letters to four stores selling these products — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

According to the NY Attorney General, the products in question are as follows:

General Nutrition Corporation (GNC): Six “Herbal Plus” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto. Purchased from four locations with representative stores in Binghamton, Harlem, Plattsburgh & Suffolk.

Only one supplement consistently tested for its labeled contents: Garlic. One bottle of Saw Palmetto tested positive for containing DNA from the saw palmetto plant, while three others did not. The remaining four supplement types yielded mixed results, but none revealed DNA from the labeled herb.

Of 120 DNA tests run on 24 bottles of the herbal products purchased, DNA matched label identification 22% of the time.

Contaminants identified included asparagus, rice, primrose, alfalfa/clover, spruce, ranuncula, houseplant, allium, legume, saw palmetto, and Echinacea.

Specific results, after testing, for the herbal supplements are as follows:


  • Gingko Biloba. Negative. No gingko biloba DNA was identified. The only DNA identified was allium (x5), “oryza”(x4)(commonly known as rice), spruce, and asparagaceae. Nine of the tests revealed no plant DNA whatsoever.
  • St. John’s Wort. Negative. No St. John’s Wort DNA was identified. Of the 20-tests performed, only three identified any DNA, and it included allium, oryza, and dracaena (tropical houseplant).
  • Ginseng: Negative. No ginseng DNA was identified. The testing yielded identification of oryza, dracaena, pinus strobus, wheat/grass, and citrus spp., with 15 of the tests identifying no genetic material at all.
  • Garlic: Positive. All 20 tests yielded DNA from allium.
  • Echinacea: Negative. Five tests identified oryza DNA, one other yielded the DNA of pinus or ranunculacae. Fourteen tests detected no plant DNA of any sort in the product labeled Echinacea.
  • Saw Palmetto: Qualified negative. Only 6 of 20 tests did identify the presence of saw palmetto, but the positive results were principally from one sample. The results did not replicate in the three other samples. One sample demonstrated no plant DNA, another revealed the presence of asparagaceae, and oryza, while a fourth was positive for DNA from the primrose family as well as saw palmetto.

Target Up & Up: Six “Up & Up” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Valerian Root, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto. Purchased from three locations with representative stores in Nassau County, Poughkeepsie, and Syracuse.

Three supplements showed nearly consistent presence of the labeled contents: Echinacea (with one sample identifying rice), Garlic, and Saw Palmetto. The remaining three supplements did not revealed DNA from the labeled herb.

Of 90 DNA tests run on 18 bottles of the herbal products purchased, DNA matched label identification 41% of the time.

Contaminants identified included allium, French bean, asparagus, pea, wild carrot and saw palmetto.

Specific results, after testing, for the herbal supplements are as follows:

  • Gingko Biloba. Negative. No gingko biloba DNA was identified. The only DNA identified was allium (x2), “oryza”(x2)(commonly known as rice), mung/French bean. Ten of the tests revealed no plant DNA whatsoever.
  • St. John’s Wort. Negative. No St. John’s Wort DNA was identified. Of the 15-tests performed, only three identified any DNA, and it included allium, oryza, and dracaena (tropical houseplant).
  • Garlic: Positive. Fourteen of fifteen tests yielded DNA from allium. One test identified no DNA.
  • Echinacea: Qualified Positive. Eleven of 15 tests identified Echinacea DNA, 3 tests located no genetic evidence of Echinacea, and 1 test identified oryza DNA.
  • Saw Palmetto: Qualified positive. Twelve of 15 tests identified the presence of saw palmetto, with 3 tests not identifying any genetic evidence of plant material of any type.
  • Valerian Root: Negative. No Valerian root DNA was identified.

Walgreens Finest Nutrition: Six “Finest Nutrition” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto. Purchased from three locations with representative stores in Brooklyn, Rochester and Watertown.

Only one supplement consistently tested for its labeled contents: Saw Palmetto. The remaining five supplements yielded mixed results, with one sample of garlic showing appropriate DNA. The other bottles yielded no DNA from the labeled herb.

Of the 90 DNA test run on 18 bottles of herbal products purchased, DNA matched label representation 18% of the time.

Contaminants identified included allium, rice, wheat, palm, daisy, and dracaena (houseplant).

Specific results for herbs which are supposed to be present in the product according to the product label is as follows:

  • Gingko Biloba. Negative. The only DNA identified was “oryza”, commonly known as rice. No gingko biloba DNA was identified.
  • St. John’s Wort. Negative. Of the 15-tests performed, only three identified any DNA, and it was not of St. John’s Wort. The DNA positively identified included allium, oryza, and dracaena (garlic, rice, tropical houseplant). No St. John’s Wort was identified in the product.
  • Ginseng: Negative. Fifteen tests yielded identification of allium (x2) and oryza (x6), but no genetic material from ginseng.
  • Garlic: Negative. Genetic material of palm, dracaena, wheat, and oryza was located, with only 1/15 of the tests identifying allium as present in the product. Ten of the 15-tests showed no identifiable genetic plant material.
  • Echinacea: Negative. The testing revealed 5-positive identification of allium, 5-positive findings of oryza, and one for DNA material originating in the daisy family. No DNA from Echinacea was identified.
  • Saw Palmetto: Positive. All fifteen tests yielded genetic material of the saw palmetto plant.

Walmart Spring Valley Herbal Supplements: Six “Spring Valley” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto. Purchased from three geographic locations with representative stores in Buffalo, Utica and Westchester.

None of the supplements tested consistently revealed DNA from the labeled herb. One bottle of garlic had a minimal showing of garlic DNA, as did one bottle of Saw Palmetto. All remaining bottles failed to produce DNA verifying the labeled herb.


Of the 90 DNA test run on 18 bottles of herbal products purchased, DNA matched label representation 4% of the time.

Contaminants identified included allium, pine, wheat/grass, rice mustard, citrus, dracaena (houseplant), and cassava (tropical tree root).

After the NY Attorney General’s health supplements review for the Spring Valley brand, here are the specific results for herbs which are supposed to be present in the product according to the product label is as follows:

  • Gingko Biloba. Negative. No gingko biloba DNA was identified. The only DNA identified was “oryza” (commonly known as rice) in 6 of the fifteen tests, with other tests identifying dracaena (a tropical houseplant), mustard, wheat, and radish. Four of the tests revealed no plant DNA whatsoever.
  • St. John’s Wort. Negative. No St. John’s Wort DNA was identified. Of the 15-tests performed, only four identified any DNA, and it included allium, oryza (x2), and cassava (garlic, rice, and a tropical root crop).
  • Ginseng: Negative. No ginseng DNA was identified. The testing yielded identification of oryza, dracaena, pinus strobus, wheat/grass, and citrus spp., with 10 of the tests identifying no genetic material at all.
  • Garlic: Qualified negative. While one of 15 tests did identify the presence of allium, it was clearly not predominate. The other tests identified oryza (x6), and pinus spp. Genetic material of palm, dracaena, wheat, and oryza was located, with only 1/15 of the tests identifying allium as present in the product. Ten of the 15tests showed no identifiable genetic plant material.
  • Echinacea: Negative. No plant genetic material of any sort was identified in the product labeled Echinacea.
  • Saw Palmetto: Qualified negative. Three of 15 tests did identify the presence of saw palmetto, but it did not predominate. Three tests identified allium DNA, and six other tests identified the presence of oryza. Four tests were unable to identify any botanic DNA in the samples.

Are we surprised that these products are not what they are claimed to be? Nah! In the words of our Aunt Marie, “Supplements, shuplements!” which is her way of saying “Eat healthy and you don’t need to buy no stupid supplements.”