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.