Know the Source
Where do your supplements come from?
By Karen Frye
Many years ago, when I first opened my natural food store, there were a handful of companies that produced vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements. It is amazing how many are in the industry today. There’s so much on the shelves to choose from that it can be confusing if you aren’t up on the background and standards of the manufacturers.
With the exploding popularity of supplements, some companies jumped into the business with dollar signs in mind — but that’s not true of everyone. A wonderful example is Gaia Herbs, located in the western part of North Carolina just outside Brevard.
Gaia Herbs is a Certified B Corporation. The B Corporation certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global nonprofit. The “B” stands for benefit. To become a B Corp the company must be totally transparent. The standard represents a company’s dedication to sustainability and social impact, with transparency in every aspect of production, accountability, and social and environmental performance. B Corps have elevated the standards in the supplement industry by redefining success with a focus beyond profit.
Every year Gaia Herbs hosts a farm tour, and this past August I had the chance to attend the event. It was a real learning experience to see the great lengths they go to in the production of their herbal supplements. The business started about 32 years ago. The farm is over 300 acres in the mountain hills. I was able to walk through the fields of herbs they use to produce a lot of extracts and formulas. There were acres of gingko and hawthorne trees; they handpick the leaves at peak harvest to ensure the most potent product. There were fields of nettles, echinacea flowers, astragalus and over 22 other species. They had over 200 beehives and monarch butterfly stations ensuring pollination. The farm team consists of dedicated folks committed to lessening the environmental impact and reducing the carbon footprint. They don’t allow any plastics on the farm.
After the farm tour and a delicious lunch of vegetables grown organically on the farm, we were invited to tour the laboratory and manufacturing facility. Gaia’s commitment to stringent manufacturing procedures is another reason they are respected by consumers who look for all the right things in their herbal support.
We talked with the scientists and engineers who rigorously test the raw materials grown (organically, of course) on-site, and also informed us which materials are sourced elsewhere. They screen for trace amounts of heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins, microbes and residual solvents, using only the cleanest materials in the formulations.
The manufacturing of the extracts and capsules uses clean extraction methods: water ethanol or CO2 supercritical extraction — never any hexane or solvents. Also, the herbs go through batch tests to ensure that the potency and quality meet Gaia’s high standards. In fact, you can trace the origin of the plants used in the purchased product by scanning a code on the label, giving you the background of the herb.
All supplements are not created equal. It may be in your best interest to get to know more about the company that’s producing them for you. It might make all the difference in your health. PS
Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Nature’s Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.